ActiveWest Builders LLC, a Coeur d'Alene-based construction and development company, says it has applied green-building concepts beyond individual homes to encompass an entire neighborhood.
The company's 80-home Meadow Ranch subdivision in northwest Coeur d'Alene became certified late last month under the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) neighborhood development program, says Sharon Cunningham, ActiveWest's marketing director.
Meadow Ranch, valued at more than $20 million, is on nearly 12 acres of land just west of a retail center anchored by a Fred Meyer Inc. outlet. The subdivision is being developed in two phases, and ActiveWest is marketing the development to "active adults" aged 55 and older, Cunningham says.
When fully developed, the first phase will have 50 residential units in a combination of townhomes and single-family dwellings. Cunningham says 19 of the homes in the first phase are built, and six are under construction. ActiveWest also has applied for building permits for four single-family detached homes and two townhouse units.
The homes in the first phase range from 800-square-foot townhouses to two-story houses with 2,200 square feet of living space, and prices range from $139,000 to $335,000.
Cunningham says ActiveWest plans to begin work this spring on the second phase, which will have 30 single-family, detached homes with 1,250 to 2,200 square feet of living space, with prices starting at about $200,000. The second phase also will include a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse.
ActiveWest President Dennis Cunningham, Sharon Cunningham's husband, says the company has incorporated the use of low-impact, recycled, and locally produced construction materials, among its sustainability goals.
Much of the lumber used in framing the homes, for example, was milled within 150 miles of Coeur d'Alene, and the sidewalk concrete was made with a significant amount of re-used materials, he says.
The largest structure in Meadow Ranch is a 1940s-era barn, a community icon that ActiveWest has restored to harken back to the property's history as a dairy farm, Cunningham says. The company currently is using the barn to store equipment and supplies, he says.
While homes there are compact in design and clustered together to conserve resources and reduce infrastructure needs, the neighborhood design emphasizes mixed uses, open space, and walking paths, Cunningham says.
The development is landscaped with drought-tolerant vegetation, and all homes are equipped with drip-irrigation systems. "Water bills are pretty low here," he says.
Meadow Ranch has community vegetable gardens in which residents last summer grew and harvested tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peas, green beans, peppers, cucumbers, and squash.
"The garden boxes were very popular," Cunningham says. The homeowners also enjoyed their first apple crop from the community orchard near the barn, and some residents didn't have to buy produce during the peak of the vegetable-growing season, he says.
The development also has a community compost area that residents tend.
Also, in an effort to conserve resources, the developer worked with the local power provider, Kootenai Electric Cooperative, to procure and install street lights that use less electricity and emit less light into the night sky than conventional lighting, Cunningham says.
"We paid extra to use streetlights that meet LEED criteria," he says.
The LEED program is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit developer of standardized green-building ratings.
Meadow Ranch was one of five Idaho projects accepted into the Council's LEED neighborhood development pilot program, and it's the second in the state to complete the certification process, the Council's Idaho chapter says. LEED certification provides third-party verification that a development's location and design meet accepted high levels of environmentally responsible, sustainable development, the chapter says.
Cunningham estimates that the green measures he employs add about 6 percent to the development's construction costs, a differential he expects will become narrower as conventional standards go greener.
"Energy codes are changing," he says. "City codes are requiring more efficiency and inspections."
Cunningham says Meadow Ranch scored highly as a neighborhood development under the LEED location-and-linkages criteria, Cunningham says.
"Many services are within walking distance," he says. "Residents can walk, bike, or take public transportation to reach retailers, schools, and fitness and medical facilities."
Sharon Cunningham says most of buyers there are Kootenai County residents who are looking for smaller homes requiring low maintenance and in close proximity to services.
"Buyers tend to be drawn to the idea of energy efficiency and cost savings associated with that," she adds. "Some are more into social aspects and looking beyond themselves. They do like the fact that they aren't hitting the roads and polluting the atmosphere."
In addition to the neighborhood rating, the completed homes each have earned LEED ratings of gold or platinumthe two highest levels of such ratings for individual structures, she says.
The homes are highly insulated with sustainable materials, such as recycled newsprint, Dennis Cunningham says.
Each home has a radiant-heat system, in which hot water circulates through a closed-loop conduit network built into the floors, he says. A natural gas-fired, dual water-tank system in each home warms both the radiant-heat network and tap water.
The radiant-heat system is more energy efficient than conventional forced-air central heating, which requires more space for a duct system, Cunningham says.
The homes there also are equipped with Energy Star-rated kitchen appliances, he says.
Cunningham founded ActiveWest in Coeur d'Alene about 10 years ago, having come from Carlsbad, Calif., with a background in landscape architecture and urban land-use planning. The company has six employees, including the Cunninghams, and occupies about 1,400 square feet of office space at 424 E. Sherman.
The LEED neighborhood development program now is beyond pilot stage, and hundreds of developers and project owners across the country are seeking the neighborhood certification, Cunningham says.
Liberty Lake-based Greenstone Corp. has applied for LEED neighborhood-development designation in Kendall Yards, where the developer is incorporating many green-building and sustainable-design principles, says Jason Wheaton, Greenstone's president.
Greenstone also participated in the LEED neighborhood development pilot program in part of its River District mixed-use development in Liberty Lake, Wheaton says.
He says LEED standards are increasing as conventional standards, including energy codes, become more stringent.
"So, it's a moving target," Wheaton says.
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