Green Development That Pays Off

Designing and constructing a housing development that is not only environmentally-friendly — but also meets the requirements of the ICC  700 National Green Building Standard — doesn’t have to be at the cost of profits and may even enhance the bottom line for a builder.

In a webinar produced by NAHB, Tom Kopf, principal with DTJ Design, Inc., laid out objectives that will not only create a green community, but one that will rise above the competition and will be long-lasting and sustainable for its residents.

Before beginning design, for a builder to fully embrace the idea of green development, Kopf recommends avoiding detrimental environmental impacts where possible, and when not possible, minimizing the unavoidable impacts and mitigating for those impacts that do occur. He then gave nine objectives that will create a community that will “wow” future buyers.

Preserving the essential site character is first and foremost on his list. “What made you fall in love with it in the first place?” Kopf asked. “If you destroy that in developing the site, you’ve missed out on this great connection that you could have with the potential buyers.”

Consider a variety of housing types and price ranges. By doing this, you not only create a dynamic and diverse community, it makes for a more stable and sustainable community that will be more immune to changes in local industries and jobs as they fluctuate with the economy.

Respect the site and context of your project. “Think beyond the boundary lines of your site when thinking about community design and development,” Kopf said. Make sure the community fits in with the greater scope of the area in which you are developing.

People have different interests so providing a variety of open spaces and amenities will appeal to a larger buyer pool. Go beyond the standard golf course. One size does not fit all. “Consider creating communities that will last a long time that allow people to age in place,” Kopf said. “The amenities should match all of the different life cycles your buyers are looking for.”

Be sure to balance vehicular and pedestrian traffic. By providing different transportation modes, including bike and pedestrian lanes in addition to roadways, it gives the residents a chance to get out and enjoy their community and connect with their neighbors.

Continuing on the trend of connection, create a heart or core to the community. Giving them a place to go, such as a community center or shopping center, will make their community more of a home rather than just a place to live.

Allow for evolution of the community. Kopf added that “most of the codes written at the behest of planning staff and city councils only preserve a community for a slice in time. Neighborhoods should be able to evolve to meet the changing needs of the community over the long-haul.”

It goes without saying that the community should be economically viable to the municipalities where they are located.

Along with creating walkways and a heart of a community to connect neighbors, be sure to create opportunities for the events in people’s lives. People need to feel like they belong. “This is called soft programming or soft infrastructure that brings people together,” he said.

While the above achieves great community planning, don’t forget about making it green.

Managing storm water, saving vegetation and creating wildlife management, isn’t done in addition to the objectives listed above, but should be inter-related.

By reducing clearing, you can minimize low disturbance which can reduce development costs. Saving existing vegetation means you won’t have to re-plant as much or re-landscape. Enhancing water filtration will help minimize erosion which helps manage storm water and provide clean water, which is definitely a green development objective.

An added benefit of doing this is being able to communicate to planning staff and city planners how all of these objectives work together to create a viable and environmentally-friendly community. Development — which will benefit the city or town in increased tax revenue— can be achieved while also being able to avoid environmentally-sensitive areas, manage storm water and provide clean water while also being able to provide housing for all types of the city’s residents.

If these objectives are achieved, everyone wins.