One Home At A Time
Florida builder sets benchmark for sustainable building with new production home.
by Robert Nieminen
South Floridians who cringe at the sight of yet another gated community being developed over what used to be habitat to the state's native plant and animal species can breathe a sigh of relief. The homebuilding industry may finally be opening its eyes to the possibilities and promise of green building—thanks in large part to WCI Communities, Inc., a leading builder of highly amenitized lifestyle communities.
WCI is the first homebuilder to have a residential community certified as an Audubon International Gold Signature Sustainable Development and has developed Florida's first green production home, dubbed "Geni G" for Generation Green, that has been certified by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) as the state's greenest home—an effort that may push the industry to follow suit.
Developing a sustainable living community and inventing a green production home may be earth-friendly, but WCI has had to go against the grain to promote green in an industry where many developers discount the idea. "We're pushing this initiative because we expect it to be profitable, but more importantly, because we know it's the right way to conduct business," said Al Hoffman, WCI's chief executive officer. "Customers aren't automatically thinking green— so WCI wants to explain the value it has to offer to their families and the environment."
Evergrene, a 364-acre development in Palm Beach Gardens that is home to WCI's Geni G, is one of two WCI communities certified by Audubon. WCI broke ground on Evergrene in March 2002, with a vision of building an innovative community where residents live in harmony with the environment. Geni G is the community's—and the state's—greenest home that serves as a model of the possibilities of sustainable design.
The 1,555-square-foot home has pushed the envelope on environmental options with everything from carpet made from recycled plastic bottles to an energy efficient heating and cooling system that experts say will cut energy bills in half. In fact, the Geni G outscored every green custom home ever built based on the Florida Green Building Coalition's statewide green building checklist for builders, which rates homes based on their energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water conservation and quality and environmental impact. In all, Geni G features more than $75,000 in green building options, including touchless water faucets that encourage water conservation, a fiber optic lighting system that allows one light bulb to do the work of six to save on energy costs, and flooring made from bamboo, a natural plant that is as durable as hardwood but renews itself much faster.
Green features extend throughout the entire home, both inside and out, including:
* Landscaping: all of the landscaping consists of native plants suited to the amount of rainfall, drainage and soil quality on the site, and is certified by the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program.
* Driveway: the driveway is constructed of porous pavers that allow clean water to be absorbed into the ground rather than becoming runoff that may pick up harmful pollutants that damage water quality.
* Walls: the first floor walls in the home are insulated concrete forms; a layer of poured concrete sandwiched between foam that provides energy efficiency, superior noise insulation and wind resistance.
* Attic: Icynene foam insulation sprayed along the underside of the roof and attic space encloses and insulates the entire attic for greater energy efficiency.
* Rain Barrel Collection System: the rain barrel system collects and stores rainwater for use in future landscape irrigation.
* Air conditioning: the air conditioning system uses Puron® as a coolant which does not destroy the Earth's protective ozone layer, unlike chloroflurocarbons like Freon.
* Paints: the walls are finished with Sherwin-Williams Harmony paints, which do not contain VOCs that compromise indoor air quality.
* Carpeting: the Alladin carpeting system by Mohawk is made from recycled plastic soda bottles, but has the soft touch and feel of conventional carpeting.
* Marmoleum flooring: easy to maintain and containing anti-static properties that repel mold and bacteria, Forbo's Marmoleum is also completely biodegradable at the end of its useful life.
* Air filter system: the air cleaning system uses an ultra-violet light which reduces dust, germs, mold and bacteria.
* Windows: The Andersen windows are insulated to keep the cool air inside and the Florida heat and humidity outside.
WCI considers Geni G to be a concept home designed to give buyers the chance to touch and feel the latest in green building technology. All of the home's green options will be available for buyers of homes in WCI's sustainable communities, which the company believes is a growing trend among consumers. According to a survey conducted by WCI and the Florida Energy Extension Service at the University of Florida, consumers are starting to think green.
A majority of respondents (87 percent) said they would pay more for green home features if they recouped their expenses within five years, for example, with lower electric bills.
Thanks to homes like the Geni G, perhaps more builders, architects and designers will start thinking green as well. "We believe these sustainable communities are just the beginning," said Audubon International president and CEO Ronald G. Dodson. "WCI is clearly leading the way for individuals and builders to drive change and help protect our natural resources—one person . . . one home . . . one community . . . one industry at a time."