True Sustainability

The Builder Concept Home 2010 was never intended to solve all of the housing industry’s ills, but instead provide an example of one solution that we think addresses several issues facing builders today and in the future … regardless of economic conditions, but especially so now.

It is also not a house that is meant to stand alone. Designer Marianne Cusato has devised a series of New Economy homes in the same vein to enable builders and developers to create entire neighborhoods. And not just of housing, but within mixed-use communities that connect neighbors with each other and with various services within walking distance of their homes.

If you look at the most successful communities these days (and by successful, I mean those that are selling well, even in this economy), you tend to notice that they aspire to a higher concept of sustainability … that is, a legitimate and conscious connection to the surrounding community, a leveraging and sharing of services, and a diversity of housing types and designs in a desirable comfortable, and safe setting.

These are not high ideals or unattainable goals. Like good housing design, they simply require a commitment to basic tenets and a little extra time and effort to execute them. A project in Bend, Ore., called NorthWest Crossing (www.northwestcrossing.com), comes to mind as the quintessential example of what I mean: The developer commissioned a comprehensive and detailed tree survey of the 483-acre parcel to accommodate mature pine trees on the property. The resulting master plan weaves streets and parks through these stands and homes are designed within and around them—to the point where some roof lines are altered—to preserve the trees and create the appearance (and allure) of a mature neighborhood.

Beyond that specific effort, NorthWest Crossing eschews a few arterials and multiple cul-de-sacs for several feeder streets into the main boulevards of Bend, connecting it to the city and its services; its small commercial component also sits on a main street of town, accessible by all residents, not just the community’s homeowners.

The result is a neighborhood within Bend instead of a separate, isolated subdivision … which the developer credits in large part for the success of NorthWest Crossing, specifically 54 sales in 2009 (the most in three years and 16 of them spec homes) and a local market share that is more than triple what it was in 2006.

In its way, as an individual home, The Builder Concept Home 2010 is equally sustainable … even after you strip away its wealth of resource- and energy-efficient features and building methods. Here are some reasons why:

  • As a two-story home, it appeals to young couples and families as a more substantial investment. And yet, it provides an adaptability—specifically the main level suite—to accommodate almost every lifestyle stage and need. This house allows a typical young couple to raise a family and become empty nesters without having to move to another house; they can even accommodate a renter, a bounce-back child, or an elderly (yet still independent) parent, if need be.
  • With its simple forms and thoughtful design, the house is easy and cost-effective to build (even more so in volume), and yet offers timeless and valuable features, such as the generous front and side porches and a signature single gable. In turn, money saved on construction can be spent to upgrade the finishes or simply to lower the price—whichever helps it sell and boost the builder’s margin.
  • Livability and comfort are high priorities for buyers, but are two of the most difficult qualities to articulate; owners really only know how a house lives and whether it’s comfortable after they move in. But design professionals know how to deliver it. In this house, the high, flat ceilings (9 or 10 feet), long sightlines through the public spaces, windows on all sides (to extend sightlines and deliver even daylight and solar gain), the usable porches, and pockets of privacy add up to a livable and comfortable environment that owners won’t want to leave.

Sustainability isn’t just about a checklist of recycled-content finishes or low-VOC coatings. It’s about creating homes and neighborhoods that people want to preserve, protect, and maintain. The Builder Concept Home 2010 was “built” to show builders and consumers that those concepts are not only possible, but also affordable and marketable.

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1 comments to “True Sustainability”

  1. Lenny Muegge says:

    As a Newbie, I am always browsing online for articles that can aid me. Thank you

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