The Principal of Abney + Abney Green Solutions discusses how green building consulting can reduce waste and costs
Green Home Builder: Tell me about Abney + Abney Green Solutions and its philosophy. When was it established?
Kyle Abney: Abney + Abney Green Solutions began in 2008 with an “if you could do anything what would you do” conversation between my wife and I. The answer started as a dream, but today owning a successful green building consulting firm is our reality. We pride ourselves on being a family business that delivers an exceptional client experience by valuing integrity, personal relationships, and having fun along the way. We love what we do and hope it shows.
GBH: How did you get involved with the NGBS Green Advisory Board? Are you a member of any other green organizations?
KA: From a young age, I began volunteering to help build upon my skills and use them to benefit the greater community. So, when I was invited to join the NGBS Green Advisory Board I immediately accepted the opportunity to share my expertise in residential building science and sustainability in general. I’ve been a member since inception and consider it an honor to collaborate with like-minded professionals throughout the country.
In addition to NGBS, I currently serve as the president-elect of the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC), a non-profit dedicated to improving the built environment and addressing sustainability specific to Florida’s sensitive needs. Further, I have been involved with the US Green Building Council (USGBC) for more than 20 years since founding the nation’s first student chapter at University of Florida back in 2000 to most recently as vice-chair of the Florida chapter. In my local community, I am a board member and served seven years as board president of the Solar Energy Loan Fund (SELF), a non-profit focused on increasing access to energy improvement financing for homeowners in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
GBH: What are some key areas homebuilders should be aware of in the certifying process?
KA: A solid partnership with a third-party verifier is crucial to the certification process. The verifier’s role is to guide the design and construction teams by preparing a comprehensive list of requirements for the certification. In addition, the verifier is required to perform multiple site visits during construction to confirm the claimed green building elements during the design phase have been implemented and the project remains on track for certification.
By including a verifier early in the design process, costs from any surprise issues during the construction phase are greatly reduced. In my experience, when expectations of team members are understood early in the process, construction costs specific to achieving a certification are minimal.
GBH: Where do you see the future of green building?
KA: Today, buildings are the largest contributor to global warming. Across commercial and non-commercial buildings, this sector represents around 40% of both global energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) according to the Global Status Report released by IEA and UN Environment Program in 2020. With more than one-third of global energy consumption represented in buildings as well as the raw materials used in construction, increased builders and municipalities are realizing how much is to be gained by green building.
A growing number of municipalities in South Florida are mandating green building certifications of all future projects over a certain size. Further, some of the early adopters of mandatory green building ordinances/codes are now beginning to make them even more stringent by increasing the required level of certification and/or reducing the size threshold of projects it would apply to. For example, going from Silver to Gold and from 50,000 SF to 20,000 SF.
Beyond municipalities mandating green building certifications, the most recent trend that is only increasing with large investment firms is the need for Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting and the scoring they generate. Having certified green buildings in their portfolios only helps with their ESG efforts. Lenders are picking which projects they are going to invest in based on if they will be third-party green certified.
GBH: With the housing market soaring, are you still seeing a demand for green homes?
KA: Yes, absolutely. Our firm specializes in multifamily residential, and they now represent a considerable proportion of existing building stock in urban areas. As consumers are becoming more educated about the impact buildings have on their health, wealth and environment, the demand for sustainable, green-built multi-family homes only continues to grow. From energy and water efficiency, to recycling programs tenants can participate in, to healthier indoor spaces, multi-family developers are finding that it can be easy selling green.
GBH: Are there any upcoming or recently past green initiatives/projects that you are excited about?
KA: It’s always exciting to work with passionate clients that are not only dedicated to improving the way buildings are designed, constructed, and operated but also focused on making sure those buildings will benefit their communities. We recently completed work on Aloft Hotel in Delray Beach (FL) that achieved platinum certification and has received local and state recognition for its accomplishment.
An upcoming project that I’m particularly excited about is in Hollywood, Florida. Block 57 was the original site of the historic Hollywood Hotel and was designed as an oversized block that is now being reimagined as twin 35 story towers that will include over 850 residential units and close to 150,000 sq foot of office/retail space. The project will revitalize the existing downtown Hollywood area and create desirable, safe pedestrian space using high quality design.