Downtown Salt Lake City is becoming one of the most environmentally friendly places to live in the state, according to city leaders and real estate developers.
"Residential is the hot thing right now (downtown)," said Downtown Alliance economic-development manager Carla Wiese. "The green building movement is really big right now."
Various developers are targeting downtown and the nearby areas as locations to construct trendy condominium and townhouse projects, many of which will be "green" and energy-efficient. Information about many of those projects was on display at the Downtown Alliance's annual meeting Thursday at the Marriott hotel on West Temple Street.
"A lot of these buildings have white membrane roofs or green roofs to cut down on the heat in the city, using glass that conserves energy and lighting that uses less energy," said Angela Carlson with Radi8 Condos, located on 300 South.
Rich Wamsgans with Marmalade and Rowhaus, two other residential eco-projects located on 300 West and West Temple respectively, said many developers are choosing to build with renewable resources such as recycled concrete rather than granite for countertops and more man-made products that reduce the amount of overall environmental impact.
Since taking office, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has been an ardent supporter of conservation and improved environmental policies. The Salt Lake City Council last year passed an ordinance requiring new buildings that use city money to be environmentally friendly.
The ordinance requires city-funded buildings of at least 10,000 square feet to become certified by the U.S. Green Building Council under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Buildings earn points toward LEED certification for elements that improve conservation, sustainability, water and energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality.
"Although it costs a little bit more up front, with the energy savings there is about a seven-year payback" to recoup the initial added investment, said Salt Lake City environmental programs manager Vicki Bennett.
Anderson has said he would like to see the city offer an incentive for privately funded buildings to meet LEED standards. Incentives could include an expedited permit-approval process or reduced fees.
Since the city has embarked on its sustainability initiative, local architect and engineering firms have picked up on the idea, Bennett said. The city also is encouraging green development in both the commercial and residential sectors.
"We've tried to lead by example," said Bennett. "We're making sure we meet those requirements, and we try to educate."
Building green isn't cheap, however, usually costing about 20 percent more than typical construction.
"People that live downtown really want to live downtown, and they find a way to make it work," said LouAnn Lakis, a sales agent with real estate brokerage Urban Utah.
Lakis said urban dwellers tend to enjoy a less complicated lifestyle that doesn't include long commutes or lots of yard work. She added they are willing to sacrifice some of the amenities of suburban living such as larger homes and bigger lots for the simplicity of city life that allows them to enjoy the attributes of an active urban community.
Wiese said as more businesses relocate to Salt Lake City, they bring new workers who often want to live near where they work, as they have in many big cities around the nation."They're bringing in people who are coming from urban areas and who are used to living in an urban environment," she said. "We also are seeing a lot of baby boomers and empty nesters who don't want to take care of their house anymore, who want to travel, and a condominium is great because they know when they're gone, their place is safe and their lawn won't be overgrown" when they return.