With a look to the future, the Tucson Association of Realtors (TAR) has taken several progressive steps forward to inject “sustainability” into the housing and real estate industry. Through technology and common sense, TAR wants to raise awareness, help educate and change the way our community thinks about development.

Along those lines, we have launched an ambitious program for 2015: “Sustainability: The Next Step in Real Estate.”

Our initiative has four key objectives, to:

  • Educate the development industry and general community about sustainability.
  • Encourage more sustainability in the built environment.
  • Promote the environmental and financial benefits to the industry and community.
  • Lead by example.

In basic terms, sustainability meets our current ecological needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is more than a trendy buzzword and more than a focus on the depletion of resources.

Sustainability has three interrelated core values: the environment, economy and people. Many trade-offs are in play to balance the three, and there is no perfect solution. To maintain our community’s quality of life, each core value is needed.

Sustainability requires action, and our association is willing to lead by demonstrating some common-sense practices.

Green retrofit, education

TAR started at its headquarters last year with an outside-in approach. The site at 2445 N. Tucson Blvd. has a 15,000-square-foot building with 53,000 square feet of paved parking.

To reflect heat to reduce the building’s air-conditioning needs, $20,000 was invested to white-coat the roof.

Then, we supported Tucson Mayor Rothschild’s Urban Forestry Working Group. TAR participated in that project, which evolved into the successful 10,000 Trees Campaign.

In our parking lot, TAR planted native desert, low-water landscaping. This green retrofit was done as a $9,600 public demonstration project that included free classes, part of our effort to create a more ecologically minded community.

This investment will literally grow over time to provide shade and help clean the air. And since pavement, building and concrete materials retain heat, the white roof/green landscape combination will reduce the urban heat island effect.

In partnership with the University of Arizona, TAR recently awarded a $50,000 scholarship to help forge our community’s future real estate leaders. Through the College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture, research and teaching will focus on the best practices related to sustainability, economic resilience, financial feasibility, social responsibility and design excellence.

These forward-thinking topics match our association’s long-term vision for housing.

Water and lighting

With the help of Watershed Management, TAR installed a rainwater harvesting system that features a 2,825-gallon storage tank. This $11,000 project demonstrates simple technology: how to collect, store and recycle rainwater for irrigation.

Water is a high-value resource, as we get only 10-12 inches of rain per year. This tactic can be cost-effective for certain homeowners wanting to reduce their watering bills.

Moving inside, Tucson Electric Power did a complete energy audit of our site. Lights were found to be the primary opportunity for significant energy savings so all lighting — in and out — was replaced with energy-efficient products and related upgrades.

Through TEP incentive programs, $15,000 in improvements were made at a cost of only $3,858 to our association. The estimated energy savings are $4,600 per year.

As our community continues to grow, new development and the maintenance of existing homes will put more pressure on our natural, human and construction resources.

To balance sustainability’s three core values, more proven green building practices must be implemented and encouraged today to sustain our quality of life. Through our 4,800 members, TAR is working in earnest to lead that effort.

Nicole Brule-Fisher, 2015 president of TAR, was the region’s first EcoBroker. She serves on the national Realtors Land Use Property Rights & Environmental Committee. Contact her at nicolebf@aol.com