When given the option to build green, will Buyers take it?

My bet is that they will. As more local builders such as Barry Meade, Church Hill and Stonehaus build green, the question soon will not be, “is this house green?” It will be, “Why don’t you build green?”

Don’t underestimate the power of both the market and shame, as well as Buyers’ focus on resale value. A house regarded as being green today will likely be more valuable when buyers go to sell.

Referencing the Belvedere development in Charlottesville

Each of Belvedere’s houses will be Energy Star and Earthcraft certified – recognitions of a home’s energy efficiency and sustainability.

Moreover, the development will include an organic farm, a dog park, a village green and amphitheater, grassy parks, a storm water park, a system of biking and hiking trails and the preservation of a flood plain and more than 40 percent of the site’s green space, trees and vegetation.
..
The project also will incorporate wind- and solar-powered multi-family buildings and commercial structures, as well as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings in the project’s civic core.

Now, if only they would provide effective public transport …

Soon it may be time to change the MLS to reflect the green aspects of building. As Buyers demand LEED certified homes, shouldn’t the MLS be able to adapt? Currently, the best way to search for green homes is to search the public remarks for either “Earthcraft” or “Energy Star,” neither of which is wholly effective.

Note: I have added this Daily Progress article to to this blog’s Press Page.

Update 5/1/2007C-Ville has a good article on Belvedere’s green features.
Update 5/1/2007 #2This is the Belvedere project’s website.
Update 5/1/2007 #3Cvillenews has a story, which is sure to lead to a lively discussion.

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21 Comments

  1. Waldo Jaquith April 30, 2007 at 12:48

    My wife and I visited several houses during the last Parade of Homes. One that we visited was newly-completed, created by a well-known local builder who suddenly claims to be all about energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly construction. I was puzzled by the house’s design. It was built facing east, and the front of the house was covered in windows. But the entire south wall of the house had just two windows. (As is standard with “my neighbors can go to hell” suburban development, the windows were entirely unadorned.) The house sat in the middle of a field and the property line, if I understood the markings properly, was a good distance away from the house.

    Before we left, my wife and I talked to the representative there, who turned out to be one of the primaries at this developer. I asked him why they decided to face the house away from the sun, and to completely close off the side of the house that would allow the structure to be warmed by the sun. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds before admitting that he had no idea of what I was talking about. I explained that all of the windows left the homeowner looking out to see asphalt and did nothing to heat the house in the winter with the sun’s energy, and asked why they would construct a house without taking the simple step of orienting it w/r/t the sun’s rays. He said that he simply didn’t know anything about all that, and then got real quiet.

    It wasn’t but a couple of months until this company was touting themselves as the area’s go-to builder for environmentally-friendly construction.

    Feh.

  2. Jim Duncan April 30, 2007 at 19:52

    Waldo –

    I know of which company you speak. My understanding is that they recognized the trends and then checked out their houses. With a few minor modifications, they made them “fit” the criteria. No real new knowledge was used or has been gained, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction. (seriously)

    My bet is that you know far, far more about how to build in an energy-efficient way than most builders.

  3. TrvlnMn April 30, 2007 at 20:17

    Builders shouldn’t be allowed to design homes. They just keep churning out variations on the same old cookie cutter designs they’ve built over and over again. If I were to buy new construction- I would hope I could afford an architect so that it was done right.

  4. Chris Schooley, Stonehaus April 30, 2007 at 23:01

    Jim — Thanks for linking to the writeup on our project, Belvedere. A couple of points of clarification on where we stand on the “Green Scale.” We are requiring our two builders to begin this development with a minimum standard of Earthcraft, but we will be watching closely the LEED for Homes program as it progresses past the pilot stage. We have submitted for LEED-ND and hope to be selected for the pilot program in May. This is a 7-year project, we will have to constantly reevaluate our progress for sustainability as the industry evolves.

    Solar orientation is certainly one of the most important elements to any sustainable building. The problem is that in a New Urbanist layout, a preferable layout to achieve single-family home density in an infill condition…does not lend itself to solar orientation on a house by house basis because of narrow lot dimensions. We will require our builders on corner lots to address the south facing facades but not on interior lots where homes will only be 9′ apart.

    On our public buildings, the office buildings have been redesigned by NYC/DC architect Mancini Duffy to be narrow and to achieve optimum solar orientation. We have also hired nationally renowned (and local) green architects Hays+Ewing to design our Town Hall.

    There was a type-o in the article, we are not currently planning on implementing “solar power” to our buildings, but solar orientation when applicable. We are examining select-purchase wind power such as Whole Foods uses for our public buildings, but the writer got a little excited in his wording. One day, solar and wind power will be achievable for every building, but that day is not here yet.

    FYI, TrvlMn, local architects Stoneking/von Storch will be designing homes for Church Hill, the team that was used for the successful Village Place product. Hauser Homes is using national architect Bloodgood Sharp Buster, designer of the New American Home 2007 seen at the International Builders Show in Oralando in February (and Bulder magazine, January). All new housing product is being designed for Belvedere.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. The article today in the DP was a PR piece, but this is what we believe and welcome the discourse to continue to improve our process.

  5. Jim Duncan May 1, 2007 at 07:51

    Chris –

    Thank you for visiting and commenting. Furthering this type of conversations is one of the reasons this blog exists.

    That you are designing new housing for this development is likely to be a dramatic improvement in and of itself.

    As I have written for some time, we have to start somewhere and hopefully now that the market has slowed, all builders will take the time to innovate for a change.

    Thank you for helping to initiate these needed changes.

    One additional question – are you going to be incorporating Universal Design concepts at all? Our area suffers from a dearth of housing for those seeking one-level living.

  6. Waldo Jaquith May 1, 2007 at 09:17

    I’m glad to see your comment, Chris. I was preparing to write a story on cvillenews.com in which I intended to offer a $100 bet that there’s no way, no how that this development would included houses with active solar components. Seems I would have been right. 🙂 But, as you point out, that’s hardly your fault.

  7. Chris Schooley, Stonehaus May 1, 2007 at 09:42

    Jim — We have looked at Universal Design concepts and we will continue to investigate opportunities for UD at a house by house scale.

    However, components of New Urbranist design hinder the application of UD. For instance, good streets often have the finished floor 2’+ above the sidewalk. Narrow lots also require multiple floors to reach market-acceptable square footage standards. And, even on a flat site (for Albemarle County), Belvedere will still have many lots with 6-10′ of fall between the front entrance and the alley-loaded garage.

    We appreciate the diversity that UD can bring to a neighborhood and will continue to find opportunties to include UD standards in our designs. For Belvedere, it will be difficult but later phases may offer a better opportunity.

    We have heard many times how popoular the Rivercrest product has been in the market and we are working on a new project on the corner of Rio Road and Penn Park that will include 20-30 first-floor living units as well as some age-oriented townhomes.

    Again, thanks for providing the medium for us to respond. We appreciate all the feedback we can get.

  8. Waldo Jaquith May 1, 2007 at 11:14

    My understanding is that they recognized the trends and then checked out their houses. With a few minor modifications, they made them “fit” the criteria. No real new knowledge was used or has been gained, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

    Well, hey, I’m glad they realized this. The basics of energy-efficient construction are hardly rocket science. Have a tight envelope, face south, build some solar mass into the floor, and size your overhangs correctly. None of that is particularly difficult, and LEED certification certainly won’t come of it, but it’ll save a lot of energy.

  9. Jim Duncan May 1, 2007 at 14:09

    Chris –

    Again, thank you for visiting and expanding on the DP article and this one.

    You have a great opportunity with this development to help set the standard locally and advance design and implementation significantly. I hope to see it come to fruition as planned. Thank you (I hope to sell some of them) 🙂

    As a side note, your comments are a clear demonstration of the power and value of blogging from a corporate level.

  10. Stormy May 1, 2007 at 14:36

    Are we talking about this Belvedere? Because I’d love to see them achieve Earthcraft/LEED status and still provide appropriate affordable housing.

    The residents might need to save money on utilities, because they’ll be burning a lot of gas as they wait a long time to turn out of the neighborhood onto E. Rio Road.

  11. Jim Duncan May 1, 2007 at 14:41

    Per C-ville:

    Prices for the EarthCraft-certified homes will range widely, from cottages in the low- to mid-$200s to single-family homes costing over $600,000.

    Chris – now that you have entered the fray – would you care to expand on the square footages (parden the pun) of these cottages and pricing?

  12. Waldo Jaquith May 1, 2007 at 14:57

    Clearly they’ve abandoned the notion of affordability that allowed them to gain approval by the BoS. $300,000 townhouses are by no measure “affordable.” I look bloody near psychic for having written:

    I look forward to seeing how the BoS and Stonehaus define “affordable.” If I were a betting man, I’d wager that I’m not likely to be able to afford one.

    Developers present a rosy picture to the BoS, get their development approved, and then axe the very features that got it approved. It’s constant, and it’s no accident.

  13. Jim Duncan May 1, 2007 at 15:01

    Waldo, do I detect a hint of cynicism? 🙂

  14. Chris Schooley, Stonehaus May 1, 2007 at 22:28

    Ahh, affordable housing, one of our favorite topics.

    Some quick facts on Belvedere’s work-force housing options:
    – The bulk of our affordable housing proffer was covered with over 100 “Carriage Houses”, or apartments above garages that will be rentable. The traditional mother-in-law flat will provide not only opportunities for the homeowner to have an apartment for a family member, college student living at home or outside renter, but the income from that rentable situation will help to pay the mortgage. This is a new idea for the market and was well received by the BOS.
    – Of course, Belvedere is also committed to a cash proffer for affordable housing.
    – We are building up to 250 apartment units, with rents similar to our Avemore product, which truly is representative of the workforce market.
    – We are actually experimenting with the “Cottage” units. They will be small units, around 1200 square feet and marketed in the low $200K’s. What we really like about this opportunity is the location — just down the street from the Town Center with its shops and amenities and adjacent to homes in the $600K’s. It only seems fair to provide an affordable option in the best location. If we have success, look for us to utilize this option in other locations in and outside of Belvedere.

    Affordable housing in general is a hot-button topic, but I will avoid a redundant discussion. This group seems bright and cognizant of local market conditions. Simple supply(see Atlanta, Charlotte as examples of where supply has created affordable options), demand (we wouldn’t be selling houses at $500K if nobody was buying them), growth area designation (high land price sets the equation that quickly determines the final home price), county regulations (how much does curb, gutter, and sidewalk actually cost?) and a market pretty much void of national builders are all factors that are evident yet pertinent.

    The end result is that the affordable housing problem is really representative of many of the things we love about Charlottesville. Strict growth area boundaries, one of the best places to live in America, a great group of local builders (the efficiencies of national builders can be astounding) are all factors that many of us wouldn’t want to give up. The end result: the development community needs to work with the localities to provide long term, creative solutions.

    By the way, I appreciate some of the cynicism displayed on this board. It’s not easy to believe that developers are going to do the right thing with decades of evidence to the contrary. But, Charlottesville is as progressive of a locale as there is in the country, and if developers (and builders) are going to evolve, it will happen here. However, due to the inherent critical nature of blogs, I will take my leave. I wanted to clarify our project and the mission of Stonehaus, but I do not intend to become retaliatory. I would respectively ask that your readers judge Stonehaus by what we say over the long term. Development moves at the pace of the Amazon, not the Colorado. It will take years, not months, to prove our mettle.

    A few clicks away, anyone can find my email. Please feel free to contact me, I welcome the opportunity to discuss more offline or in person.

    Please see the article in todays Cville Weekly for more information on Belvedere. Our website, belvedereneighborhood.com launches next week.

    Thanks.

  15. Chris Schooley, Stonehaus May 1, 2007 at 22:39

    Some quick facts on Belvedere’s work-force housing options:
    – The bulk of our affordable housing proffer was covered with over 100 “Carriage Houses”, or apartments above garages that will be rentable. The traditional mother-in-law flat will provide not only opportunities for the homeowner to have an apartment for a family member, college student living at home or outside renter, but the income from that rentable situation will help to pay the mortgage. This is a new idea for the market and was well received by the BOS.
    – Of course, Belvedere is also committed to a cash proffer for affordable housing.
    – We are building up to 250 apartment units, with rents similar to our Avemore product, which truly is representative of the workforce market.
    – We are actually experimenting with the “Cottage” units. They will be small units, around 1200 square feet and marketed in the low $200K’s. What we really like about this opportunity is the location – just down the street from the Town Center with its shops and amenities and adjacent to homes in the $600K’s. It only seems fair to provide an affordable option in the best location. If we have success, look for us to utilize this option in other locations in and outside of Belvedere.

  16. Jim Duncan May 2, 2007 at 07:28

    Chris –

    Thanks again for commenting. I apologize that your first affordable housing comment was caught in the spam filter.

    Regarding the “critical nature of blogs,” I assure you that that is not the case here, but I can understand your cynicism 🙂 .

    Affordable housing is a hot button issue – witness the success of this week’s Affordable Housing Conference. Builders are in the unique position of being perhaps the most prominent examples (and easiest targets) for the public’s scorn. That seems to come with the territory.

    The cottage concept is one that I have studied a little bit, and I do have real cynicism about it. In theory it makes a lot of sense; in reality I expect that those who are purchasing these units will more likely use them as “teen suites” or offices, guest houses, etc. Either way, I look forward to watching the development.

    Here is a hot-link of your new site – Belvedere Neighborhood.

    One further question, if you are still around – what road improvements to Rio Road have been proffered or proposed? (Besides the Meadow Creek Parkway, which hopefully will start to move dirt in the near future – it’s only been since 1925 that we’ve been trying to get it built)

    Again, thank you for participating in the discussion. My opinion is that by joining the conversation is beneficial to everyone involved.

  17. Aaron Doyle May 4, 2007 at 08:42

    Jim, this is a great dialogue on the trade-offs and challegnes of green building. There’s a development group in our area that recently annouced their plans to build a neighborhood of Earthcraft homes. Because land in Blacksburg (especially large parcels of land) are rare and very expensive, this development will be situated on a former farm just on the edge of the town limits. No public transportation and awkward pedestrian/bike access to town. When I saw the site plan, I was as surprised as Waldo was with the Belvedere plan, that only two of the 30+ house sites had an opportunity for southern orientation. That is one of the cheapest and most basic ways to to promote energy efficiency in the home! The developers had a similar response as Chris – unfortunately, in order to obtain the critical mass of homes to make the project profitable, the requisite small lots must be jammed in there AND the homes must adhere to setback requirements.

    I agree with you, Jim, we’re taking a step in the right direction. I’m glad to see Earthcraft, Energy Star, and LEED on builders’ radars. It’s hard for developers to take the risk and create a product that’s untested in the market. Like you, however, I believe “if you build it, they will come,” and I believe (hope) that eventually the slash-burn-and-build model will become obsolete.

    It’s easy for us to get impatient at the slow progress green building seems to be making in our areas, but it’s imperative that we remain on top of the debate to keep things moving along. Thanks for a great blog topic – this is a fabulous discussion!

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