Can We Go Green? Green Initiatives vs. Governing Docs

 As gasoline prices rise with increasing summer demand, building administrators'  attention has turned sharply to the cost of energy, and ways to trim fat from  their overall energy budgets.  

 Yet for the nation’s nearly 60 million condo dwellers, considering newer energy-saving options can  be a tricky proposition at best. While some condos and co-ops move rapidly to adopt the latest green technologies, many building communities,  still governed by documents drafted decades or even whole generations ago, may  be burdened with legal language that expressly prohibits them from making a  variety of environmentally-friendly updates.  

 Has your building gone green? And, if not, how green can you go?  

 “I think what you’re seeing is just the beginning of those types of questions arising for [condo]  associations,” says Mitchell Frumkin, president of Kipcon, Inc., a New Jersey-based  engineering and consulting firm that provides condo reserve and transition  studies. “As we go into the future, and people are looking more at the sustainable options  such as solar panels, you’re going to see more of that because it’s affecting the common elements of the community.”  

 But How Will It Look?

 Green usually sounds very appealing—at least in theory. The problems, experts note, arise from the unique legal  aspects of a condo community. In apartment buildings and similar forms of  high-density housing, property ownership is clearly defined through the  traditional landlord/tenant relationship. Not so with condo and co-op  properties, and many experienced managers can speak to the unusual ownership  questions that sometimes arise. A solar panel, for expample, would have to be  placed on the roof or walls of the building, in a limited common area which is  owned by the community or shareholders; or in an area owned by an individual  member; and it is up to the board to get everyone to agree to the installation.  

 Alan Goldberg, Esq., of the Chicago law firm of Arnstein & Lehr, LLP., explains that, "Condominium association boards certainly can, and  sometimes do, have architectural or construction approval committees, which  must approve any alterations to a unit and the limited common element areas  adjacent to and for the use of the unit owner. These restrictions are often  very limiting by nature, and a committee’s decision to permit modifications or additions can be quite subjective. An architectural control committee may not like the “look” of a solar panel installation either on an existing residence, or a row of  panels on the lot placed in the ground facing skyward."  


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  • Green technology tends to save more money in the long run, detispe being more expensive to begin with for example, motion-sensing light fixtures that only turn on when someone walks into a room are more expensive than regular lights, but after a few years the reduced power usage saves money. What examples of green energy are you looking at that are so cost-inefficient? Around here (Midwest) people have been installing windmills, which are quite green that have consistently proven profitable.