Episode 11 | July 3, 2018
Meet Rance Clouse, CEO of Capsa Ventures, whose innovation is continuously raising the bar on sustainability in the building and development industry. He joins hosts Kyle Frazier and Whitney Torres in the Texas Energy Lab studio to talk about his latest mixed-use project in East Austin FOURTH&, where his passion for green building started, and what the future holds.
Building better buildings
Rance Clouse has been in the real estate industry for over 30 years, originally as a broker and then on the development side. His experience spans industrial, commercial, residential, and mixed-use projects. Throughout his career, he has come to recognize that innovation and sustainability are the future.
“I believe that the construction industry uses a lot of outdated means and methods and concepts for development,” says Rance. “We have enough technology and intellect in our world today that we should be building better buildings. That is the cornerstone concept of our company [Capsa Ventures].”
Innovation and sustainability go hand-in-hand
The purpose of innovation is to create value through new ideas or more efficient processes. Rance sees the same potential for more sustainable development.
After his daughter was born and he moved to Texas, he became interested in urban living and began to look at developments in a different way. “I didn’t want to be a me-too developer. I didn’t want to follow the crowd because that was the easy, convenient way to do it. I wanted us to move our efforts in a direction that was meaningful for our planet.”
He evaluates sustainability for his development projects in four key areas:
1. The box (the structure itself)
2. What goes inside the box (the components that use electricity, gas, water, etc.)
3. Energy used in the process (e.g. water heater generates heat, need AC to offset that heat)
4. Overall consumption of energy (e.g. solar PV)
Properly considering all four areas means planning the entire structure ahead of time and continuously looking to improve. “We upgrade our standards in every project we do every time,” says Rance.
As an example, one current trend for Capsa Ventures is replacing wood framing with light gauge steel. This approach has structural and process benefits:
An integrated approach
Both innovation and sustainability are most effective when they are viewed holistically. Each works best when considered from the beginning, integrated into every aspect of the project, embraced by the entire team, and focused on creating value at the macro level. thinking about the process as an integrated system, rather than a specific action or outcome.
Rance has found that to be true in real estate development, and he oversees a collection of companies that enable his team to approach building and project development in a coordinated, thoughtful, and strategic way. These companies are:
Appropriately, the word “capsa” comes from the Latin word for a cylindrical container for the scrolls of knowledge. Capsa Ventures is the origination point for the design concepts and intellectual property. Those ideas are brought to life through the remaining companies and even competitors. Rance believes that leadership includes welcoming the adoption of his ideas by others throughout the industry, with a goal to accelerate the “better buildings” future he imagines.
Rance also views the City of Austin as a partner in his projects rather than being a barrier. The water quality department and Austin Energy have “always been supportive of the ideas we’ve brought forward. A lot of our [Austin Energy Green Building program] ratings have been driven by innovation points.”
FOURTH& in East Austin
Capsa Ventures’ latest project is FOURTH&, a mixed-used property in East Austin that has several unique features.
Solar Panels: The FOURTH& development has 600 rooftop solar panels installed by Freedom Solar that provide 168 kilowatts (kW) of capacity. From the roof it looks like a single large array, but in fact the panels are connected by individual meters to each of the 400 individual residential condo units. Homeowners will be able to collect the federal tax credit for the system as well as the benefit of the renewable energy produced by their individual system. Rance says the solar photovoltaic system was designed produce 70-80% of each unit’s electricity usage, but because the building was designed so efficiently, many people will offset all their usage.
Energy Efficiency: The property’s energy efficiency measures include 100% LED lighting, Daikin variable speed air conditioning systems, low-e windows, Energy Star rated appliances, and the Syntheon ACCEL-E wall panel system with improved insulation.
Other Sustainability Features: The property also has water conservation features. Rain gardens not only keeps water onsite, they also use it to create a beautiful feature rather than having an unsightly retainer pond. Alternative transportation options include an EV charging station and easy access to transportation routes including light rail and bicycle routes.
Supporting Business Ownership: The office condominiums in the building are available to purchase rather than lease. That is important to Rance because “small and midsize companies don’t often have the opportunity to own their real estate, and they are really the backbone of the economy in the U.S.” The office condos are also solar-ready, with the conduits and capacity preinstalled. Given the difficulty and cost of retrofitting urban buildings for solar, that offers a benefit to small business owners who are interested in purchasing solar panels.
Capsa Ventures has more exciting projects in the works. Their plans include pure commercial development and a home building division that will be launching soon. “We’re expanding our disciplines and taking our capabilities and trying to take that across different product categories.”
Upcoming commercial projects include office, entertainment, and a hotel, ranging from a large-scale building project in South Texas to a Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex redevelopment.
A residential community is planned for later this year with 40 homes in northwest Austin, all of which will be highly energy efficient and will incorporate many of the xeriscaping and water conservation features found in FOURTH&. “Our goal on this particular project is to achieve at least a 4-star rating with Austin Energy for production homes,” which Rance notes would be a first of any production builder in Texas.
Stay tuned to see the future of buildings heading your way.
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