Distressed NC Building Heads to Foreclosure – Green Elements to Blame?

The layout for Greenbridge, a green project in distress (Photo:


This is a very interesting story. I have been following the slow decline of Chapel Hill’s Greenbridge for some time now. It now appears that the financing arm that once championed the project, is pulling out. Is green building to blame?

Greenbridge is a 97 unit condominium, with some added commercial space, located in Chapel Hill, NC. The building process began in April 2008 and sales began in November 2010. The project is now roughly $1.6 Million over budget.


Greenbridge has been a beacon of green building progression – and Bank of America was happy to get involved. In 2008, the bank’s President even cited Greenbridge as an example of BOA’s commitment to green building. The Greenbrige website says that the building is “energy conscious,” citing “Ultra high performance window glass, allergen-purified central air, Toto dual flush toilets, Low VOC paints, LED recessed lighting by CREE and Grohe water-saving fixtures.” The building also boasts solar thermal, automated lighting, shade and audio control, and a living roof. BOA had to be impressed, right?


Well, it appears that BOA got sick of the rising costs and pulled the plug on funding. A number of costly delays and decision-making blunders caused costs to rise uncontrollably. BOA’s decision to pull the plug on funding caused the inevitable payment dispute trickle down effect. First the general contractor doesn’t get paid, and then all the subcontractors. This causes a lien-filing frenzy that casts a dark shadow over the building.


Once the liens are filed, it is very difficult to find buyers. Financing organizations are less likely to get involved and consumers want no part in the fight. In 2009 and 2010, Seattle saw its wondrous Escala Condominium go through the same type of problems. A depressed real estate market and a myriad of payment disputes between builders were a bad taste to consumers.


But, the real question is whether green building tools were to blame? I say no. Though I was not involved in the building process, I see no reason to place blame on the installation of efficient energy systems. Chapel Hill is blessed with a number of highly-qualified green builders and accessible green technology. The green building process is not an alien procedure and it does not, in itself, lend to delay. In fact, the designers for this building are well-qualified and experienced green building designers. The budget was planned with this procedure in mind.


More likely, a distressed real estate market caused poor decision-making that added overhead, time and expense. Any project can be riddled with cost overruns and unexpected delays. The kay for builders is to foresee these problems, plan accordingly and prevent contractor disputes. The lien frenzy can shut down just about any project.  Hopefully, this one will bounce back.



3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    Great thoughts Doug. What this shows, at the very least, is the necessity for carefully planning at the beginning of such a project. Without it, the “Green” elements can cause issues, particularly if qualified folks are not involved from the start.
    Christopher G. Hill´s last blog post ..Value Added Design – Go Green

  2. 2

    I was tangentially involved in the Greenbridge project during the contract phase. You are correct in saying the builder and designer team were experienced players. One item that may have contributed to their financial woes is the impact such a tall building had on the town itself. Chapel Hill does not have tall buildinges, and the Greenbridge project soars over the skyline. It is also just on the edge of the Northside neighorbhood, a historically black neighborhood which was very distressed about such a tall buiding being built. I know that the developers had to have multiple meetings and PR efforts to assure the neighbors that the building would not be a blight. I am only speculating, but those meetings etc probably started the delay process and cost increases.

  3. 3

    Thanks, Chris and Melissa. Great to hear from both of you.

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