I met a self-described tree-hugger last week. Personally, I never use that term anymore, much preferring “green” or “environmentally friendly” or “sustainable.” Yet this young adult, a friend of my daughter, proclaims her sensibilities proudly. She wears organic clothing, drinks organic tea, drives a hybrid and recycles.
Tree-hugger, she is.
Being green, though, is even bigger than what one wears or drinks. I just finished reading a new book by Martin Melaver, “Living Above the Store” (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008), and it puts tree-hugging in a whole new light.
Author Melaver, also CEO and VP of Savannah, Ga.-based real estate company Melaver, runs a sustainable company with a sustainable mission. The third-generation family-owned developer has Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification down to a science, with a total of eight LEED-certified projects (including the first LEED-certified McDonald’s in the world) and another 29 LEED projects in the development pipeline, a LEED-accredited management team and a goal of becoming a vertically integrated, truly sustainable real estate company.
In his book, Melaver says his goal is to provide a road map for creating green-minded businesses. That is, he lays out a strategy directed toward businesses that want to have a favorable impact on their communities and the world.
Lofty goal, I’d say, but it would appear that Melaver has the credentials to deliver. In building his own company, he said he tries to ensure that profit takes a backseat to “its capacity to provide meaning and purpose, for those who work for it as well as for the larger community.”
To do that, he preaches five principles: Recovery, which entails discarding what has long been accepted and instead creating a business environment built on challenge; Restraint, recognizing limits to growth; Synthesis, taking individual values and integrating then into a holistic vision; Covenantal action, a kind of “covenant” between the land and the community; and Congruence, which links the efforts of business to activities occurring in government, academia and the nonprofit world.
The latter interested me the most. The very idea that a developer would actively propone that it should be accountable to the community in which it plans to build is pretty novel. With all the groans and curses associated with the entitlement process, here’s someone who thinks there should be a renewed covenant between business and society.
In a recent interview, Melaver said, “It is my hope that … we will move from BAUhouse -- or business as usual -- to NAUhouse, nature as usual. In real estate, this might mean moving from, say, developing properties with standard building practices to building with LEED standards and then eventually constructing living buildings that mimic natural strategies. And that movement calls for business -- among the other sectors of society -- to be ever better stewards and trustees of both our lands and our communities.”
“Living Above the Store” isn’t about building a vertical project in which residential sits above the retail, per se, but it IS about community and sustainability and social responsibility. For more information, send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll arrange to have details sent to you.