Going Green: Builders, developers and homebuyers seek sustainable, earth-friendly environments

The term, “green living” is part of our cultural dialect.

Being conscious of how our environment affects our health, future and the generations to come isn’t just a lofty concept as it once was a decade or so ago. It is a reality that many are living or striving to incorporate into their lives. That environment includes our homes.

Eco-friendly materials, carbon footprint reduction, energy-conscious systems – builders are heeding the call and buyers are ready for it.

“Green Building is about building an efficient home that not only conserves energy but also provides a healthier environment to live in,” said Will Jenkinson, Broker in Charge of Carolina One New Homes. “Over the past decade, by working with builders, I’ve watched the evolution of ‘green building’ in our local market.”

Jenkinson said he’s personally embraced greener living by consuming less energy in his home. “Over the past year, I’ve conditioned my crawl space and spray foamed insulation in my attic. Not only have I saved over $100 a month in energy bills, I have provided a healthier home with better air quality for my family.”

Jenkinson noted that tankless hot water heaters were rare a decade ago, but now they’re becoming standard, as well as using spray foam installation, Low-E windows (low-emissivity that minimizes the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light that comes in and have a thin coating that reflects heat) and in some cases, solar panels in the construction of new homes.

According to an article on PDH Academy, a website for contractor education, “a building that is environmentally friendly is going to have a higher retail value than one that is not…” The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system that contractors and builders go by in order to designate a building or home as LEED certified. It encompasses the exterior and interior design and construction, building operation and maintenance, neighborhood development and city development. Going above and beyond in terms of water and energy conservation, preservation of resources, use of materials and superior indoor environmental quality is also part of being LEED certified.

According to PDH, green building is a “solid foundation on which the ideas of conservation in construction can be built.” Green building is the foundation of LEED ratings. LEED ratings change and evolve as builders and contractors learn more about conservation and how using certain materials are better for the planet.

Kiawah Island and Indigo Park

“The homes in Indigo Park, just beyond Kiawah’s second gate, are the country’s only enclave of luxury green homes,” said B.J. D’Elia of Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty. “Each is LEED certified.”

Dyal Compass, a New York based real estate development team partnered with Cumulus Architects, Christopher Rose Architects and Kiawah Island builder Royal Indigo Construction to develop a neighborhood of 16 lots and four models of luxury home plans to choose from. There’s also a 3-acre park that residents enjoy.

“The homes, priced from $1.895 to $3.195 million are designed to be in harmony with Mother Nature,” D’Elia said. “Each is fueled by geothermal energy, using the most earth friendly building materials and leaves the landscape in its natural state.”

According to D’Elia, the most recent LEED research shows that geothermal healing and cooling uses 18-39 percent less energy per floor area than conventional heating and cooling.

Leaving properties in their “natural state” also saves residents time as there’s zero landscaping costs. “Maintenance-free living is what attracts buyers to Indigo Park, especially for second home buyers who’d rather play golf, tennis or spend time at the beach than work around the house,” he said.

The developers and builders ensured that the landscape within the neighborhood worked in conjunction with its natural habitat to reduce flooding – the gardens hold water and the concrete driveways let water seep through.

The homes’ roofs are metal and windows are impact rated for the Lowcountry’s sometimes volatile weather. The exteriors, constructed of NuCedar require no painting and have a quarter century guarantee.

There are green communities across the country, but none “as luxurious,” D’Elia noted. The 2018 HGTV dream home was featured here and was the show’s first dream home ever to be platinum LEED-certified.

LEED is the as best as-it-gets standard for green living, with homes that resist mildew, use low VOC paints and use sustainable materials such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. FSC Wood only comes from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental and social benefits. Closed cell spray insulation used in the homes at Indigo Park reduces moisture infiltration and improves indoor air quality.

“Sustainable building is already the standard in many large cities,” D’Elia said. “Builders will increasingly be turning to sustainable, earth-friendly materials and techniques.”

New Leaf Builders – Sovereign Still, Oak Terrace Preserve and Sea Island Hamlet

“Charleston Living” Magazine selected New Leaf Builders as the “Best of the Best Reader’s Choice” in 2017 in the Home Building Category. The company, located on Johns Island, with a “focus on responsible building standards,” was founded in 2010. New Leaf builds custom and semi-custom homes throughout the Lowcountry. They work with local contractors and artisans, selecting crews based on a homebuyer’s needs.

“We’re locally rooted so we value innovation, collaboration, integrity and quality craftsmanship in everything we create, said Adam Baslow, Owner of New Leaf. “Our core purpose is to enhance people’s lives by giving them better and safer places to create memories with their loved ones.”

Baslow’s vision and mission for the organization is evident in many of New Leaf’s projects and builds in various neighborhoods.

Sovereign Still, an intimate neighborhood on James Island, has homes that range in price from the mid $700-$800,000. There are 10 homes on large lots that range from 2,800 to 3,800 square feet. Using the most current and energy-efficient systems and appliances and cement plank exteriors, the homes on are the site of an old whiskey still discovered on the property.

“We like to start our homes off with a higher level of green offerings,” Baslow said. “We use low flow plumbing fixtures, low VOC paints, radiant barrier roof sheathing, gas appliances and tankless water heaters as a standard.”

Baslow stated they often also try to incorporate elements with the help of Mother Nature such as utilizing any roof and surface runoff as part of their landscape plan to minimize water usage, in terms of irrigation.

Oak Terrace Preserve is a green, sustainable development in North Charleston. The 55-acre site has 370 homes and there are designated green spaces, 17 pocket parks and large oaks trees. The front streets of the neighborhood are pedestrian and bike friendly. Running and walking trails (made of recycled pliable rubber) circle the 50 plus acre community. Rain gardens and natural bio-swales control rainwater runoff and the homes are green certified, winning a Green Builder of the Year Award in 2008 and “Best New Neighborhood” by Charleston City Paper in 2009. New Leaf has built properties within the Phase 3 section of the neighborhood. Prices are in the mid-$300,000.

“Our buyers run the gamut as it relates to green building,” Baslow noted. “They range anywhere from being appreciative to a more thoughtful building approach that leads to lower utility bills and less wasteful, all the way up the ladder to being off the grid with solar panels, ICF houses and rainwater harvesting.”

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) homes are constructed of pre-made forms that fit together; the outside being flat sheets of foam and connected within a plastic framework. They are laced with rebar and filled with concrete. They are incredibly energy efficient and reportedly last a lifetime. Though typically more expensive to build than traditional construction, they are an excellent choice for areas prone to hurricanes. Rainwater harvesting refers to the collecting of run-off rainwater from a structure to store and use later. More and more homes are being built to accommodate these types of “green” practices.

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Sea Island Hamlet is one New Leaf’s newest townhome communities in Mount Pleasant. Beginning in the high $400,000, the “village” comprises 24 luxury townhomes constructed with New Leaf’s signature style of environmentally responsible building techniques. Their mindful landscaping includes pervious pavers and “environmentally sensitive” elements that enhance the natural setting around them. Located off Coleman Boulevard, all maintenance on the homes is included so yardwork and upkeep isn’t part of the lifestyle, but convenience most certainly is.

New Leaf is known for using some of the most energy efficient building materials and techniques available, and Baslow believes that energy-conscious building is here to stay.

“I see the future of green building being more of the norm and less of a buzzword,” he said. “The building and energy codes have forced this shift as a standard of building. Future owners of new construction will get a more energy efficient home as a standard.”

Homes by Dickerson – Nexton

“We committed to building green in 2009,” said Jonathan Bailey, Division President of Homes by Dickerson. “Nexton is really developing some of the construction standards and materials that we’ve been committed to doing and using for a long time now.”

Homes by Dickerson earned recognition as a 2018 National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Green Partner of Excellence and is a Best Green Home award winner. According to Home Innovation Research, they have the most single-family homes certified to the NGBS in the country. Building to these standards requires a minimum number of criteria in water efficiency, home site design, sustainable materials and indoor air quality. They have built energy-efficient homes in the Carolinas.

The large master-planned community of Nexton located in Summerville has businesses, schools, single-family homes, apartments, shopping and restaurants located within 4,000 acres. Homes by Dickerson, one of the large development’s builders, has homes ranging in size from 1,900 to 2,600 square feet and priced from the high $300,000 to the mid $400,000.

Bailey commented that the rating system to adhere to the community’s building standards match the Homes by Dickerson standards. “We take manual J calculations of the house size, the direction it faces, the number of windows inside – it’s all taken into consideration when we design our HVAC systems, on a house by house, lot by lot basis.”

Manual J calculations determine heating and cooling loads. Conducting a complex series of these calculations ensures that the absolute best HVAC is installed for a particular home.

In addition, Nexton requires builders to have their homes tested through an eco-select certification according to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) which is an efficiency rating for homes. The lower the number, the more energy efficient it is.

“Right now, a house built to a bare minimum code would score about a 100,” Bailey explained. “Our homes in Nexton are currently at a 57 HERS rating.”

Sustainable materials such as tankless hot water heaters, green certified carpet (low VOC emissions) made from recyclable materials, ceramic tile and sheetrock from recyclable materials and cement plant exteriors are part of their green-conscious, environmentally friendly toolbox.

“It has become the ‘trend’ to go green,” Bailey said. “But we wanted to be in front of that trend a decade ago and be the best stewards of our customer’s money and spend it as wisely as possible. Committing to green building and energy efficiency is the best way to do that. There are a lot of things we incorporate into our construction that you don’t necessarily see – they’re behind the walls as well.”

Over time, the extra cost spent to incorporate sustainable and energy-efficient construction pays off. The total cost of ownership of a green home is less and buyers won’t have to replace materials as much or at all, compared to less eco-friendly or energy-depleting construction.

What else can we expect, along with our earth-friendly environments?

“We’re beginning to incorporate automation in our Raleigh market,” said Bailey. “I see home automation being the next trend in home buying and building. Alexa, Google, those products that talk to your house – there are those types of products that speak specifically to your HVAC systems and can alert you to potential problems.”

Maybe we’ll name our green homes in the future and tell them, “Thanks, it’s not easy being green, but it’s better for the planet. Now, turn the A/C on please.”

Contact Brigitte Surette at bsurette@postandcourier.com.


Green Building Facts

• The American Institute of Architects (AIA) formed the Committee on the Environment in 1989.

• The EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy launched the ENERGY STAR program in 1992.

• The first green building program was introduced in Austin, Texas in 1992.

• The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was founded in 1993.

• The LEED rating system was revealed in 2000 and has become an international standard for environmentally sound and conscious building.

• In 2007, President Bush signed an executive order that included federal goals for sustainable design and high performance buildings in 2007.

• LEED is in 165 countries and territories.

• There are 2.2 million plus square feet of buildings LEED certified every day with more than 90,000 projects using LEED and it is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

Source: AGPOM and USGBC

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