Green Community and Solar Homes Honor Gardener

They are rare in the South: green home builders/real estate developers. Hopefully we’ll see more of them in the future. This is a great start!

Here are some excerpts from an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Link: Residences a new definition for green community | ajc.com.

Weatherford Place in Roswell [GA] is not your usual residential community under construction.

For one thing, there are no Dumpsters on the site. There’s no need because nearly all the excess construction waste is put back to use.

From top to bottom, inside and out, Weatherford Place is developing a new definition for a green residential community. It eventually will have eight homes on 1.6 acres of land bordering Crossville Creek.

The three visionaries behind the development call it a "solar community of net-zero energy homes," built to the greenest building standards. They call their home designs EcoCraft: designed and built to nature’s code.

"This is the first of its kind," says Simone du Boise, an architect specializing in environmental design. "There’s not another neighborhood like this."

Each home is designed to a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) level and the entire development will be platinum LEED —- the first in the United States, according to business partner Dan Downey.

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But it’s the solar power that really sets the development apart.

"Think of each one of these homes as a little power plant," du Boise says. She explains that the solar energy generated immediately gets put on the power grid. Georgia Power credits each home for the power it generates, and du Boise says design specifications show that each home will generate more power than it needs —- which is how they become net-zero energy homes.

"This home will use two-thirds less energy than the typical home," Downey says. "We are using the heat generated from the solar panels to heat the water."

One house, already purchased by an investor, has been built as a model for how the other seven homes will work. Attention was given to every detail: the location of the windows, the wood used, the carpet, the paint, the fixtures (both light and plumbing), the 1,880 gallon cistern placed underground to capture rainwater, and even a manually-operated dumbwaiter to help move groceries, meals, laundry, suitcases and other stuff from floor to floor. The list is endless.

The third visionary behind Weatherford is designer Denise Donahue. She has integrated the project’s themes and philosophy at every level.

For example, there was a "ground blessing" instead of a groundbreaking, held on the summer solstice last summer —- the day with the most light.

The first part of the development was to restore one-third of the land to green space. Workers also stabilized the embankment next to Crossville Creek to prevent runoff of dirt and containments.

Other features include a community gazebo, a back-up generator for the neighborhood in case all the power goes out and a garden overlooking the creek.

Each home will be a living laboratory, equipped with monitors and sensors to track how environmentally friendly these homes will be. Developers are partnering with Georgia Power and Kennesaw State University to collect information for energy management and efficiency studies.

Donahue, du Boise and Downey are nontraditional in another way. Their company is called Cadmus Construction, but it actually is a one-stop shop of architectural design, landscape, construction and development.

"We take ownership of doing everything to ensure the integrity of the project," Donahue says. "We don’t think the world needs another developer or builder or general contractor or even another architect. We think the world needs environmental stewards."

These homes are on the market for about $750,000 each and have 2,500 to 3,900 square feet if a homeowner desires a finished basement. According to Downey, the first home already has been appraised at $1 million.

"We are trying to prove that you can profitably build a state-of-the-art green home and sell it at market price," Downey says.

"We really do believe we can do these homes for the low-income, affordable homes so people don’t have to make a choice of heat or eat," du Boise adds.

"We’d like to start a non-profit organization to do affordable homes," says Donahue, looking to the future.

The project is named after Louis Weatherford, who originally owned the property. He was a gardener/farmer who annually would recycle seeds from vegetables and fruit he grew.

Every homeowner will receive a bag of seeds from Weatherford’s garden to continue the cycle of life. The gazebo is in memory of Weatherford’s late wife, Cora, who had always wanted one. It’s built partly with wood from the barn that used to be on the property.

Donahue says every homeowner automatically will become lifetime members of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (she’s on its board).

Clearly, du Boise, Donahue and Downey have put their hearts and souls into this project. As du Boise said: "Right now, we have put everything we have into this."

Donahue says Weatherford Place is the culmination of their careers.

"When you believe in something, you risk everything," Donahue says. "This is the beginning of a movement. It’s about making something good happen in the world."

For more information, go to www.weatherfordplace.com.

Pervious Concrete – Sustainable Construction

Pervious concrete allows rain to soak into the ground instead of running off. This helps break the flood and drought cycles that plague so many areas these days. Water that seeps into the ground slowly runs out into streams and springs slowly, which provides much more consistent moisture for plants and animals.

Link: Pervious, Porous Concrete Pavement Environmental & Green Benefits.

Pervious concrete pavement systems provide a valuable stormwater management tool under the requirements of the EPA Storm Water Phase II Final Rule. Phase II regulations provide programs and practices to help control the amount of contaminants in our waterways. Impervious pavements– particularly parking lots– collect oil, anti-freeze, and other automobile fluids that can be washed into streams, lakes, and oceans when it rains.

By capturing the first flush of rainfall and allowing it to percolate into the ground, soil chemistry and biology can then “treat” the polluted water naturally. Thus, stormwater retention areas may be reduced or eliminated, allowing increased land use. Furthermore, by collecting rainfall and allowing it to infiltrate, groundwater and aquifer recharge is increased, peak water flow through drainage channels is reduced, and flooding is minimized. In fact, the EPA named pervious pavements as a BMP for stormwater pollution prevention because they allow fluids to percolate into the soil.

Another important factor leading to renewed interest in pervious concrete is an increasing emphasis on sustainable construction. Because of its benefits in controlling stormwater runoff and pollution prevention, pervious concrete has the potential to help earn a credit point in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System (Sustainable Sites Credit 6.1), increasing the chance to obtain LEED project certification.

The light color of concrete pavements absorbs less heat from solar radiation than darker pavements, and the relatively open pore structure of pervious concrete stores less heat, helping to lower heat island effects in urban areas.

Trees planted in parking lots and city sidewalks offer shade and produce a cooling effect in the area, further reducing heat island effects. Pervious concrete pavement is ideal for protecting trees in a paved environment (many plants have difficulty growing in areas covered by impervious pavements, sidewalks and landscaping, because air and water have difficulty getting to the roots). Pervious concrete pavements or sidewalks allow adjacent trees to receive more air and water and still permit full use of the pavement (see Figure 2b). Pervious concrete provides a solution for landscapers and architects who wish to use greenery in parking lots and paved urban areas.

Although high-traffic pavements are not a typical use for pervious concrete, concrete surfaces can also improve safety during rainstorms by eliminating ponding (and glare at night), spraying, and the risk of hydroplaning.