A group of Rock Hill developers, homebuilders and students and professors from York Technical College are betting that homebuyers will pay extra for an environmentally advanced house. We hope they win that bet.
For many years, environ-mental advances of all kinds were considered a drag on the profit margin. While products that were kind to the environment might be socially responsible, it was assumed they also would be more expensive.
But the cost of fuel and energy, the increasing shortage of natural resources such as water and the health hazards posed by pollution have altered that equation. Fluorescent lights, whose initial cost is more expensive than incandescent lights, save money and energy over the long haul.
Thoroughly insulating a home, which is expensive to do, nonetheless saves money and improves comfort over the long haul. And now, more and more developers are incorporating that same philosophy into overall home construction.
Rock Hill developer The Warren Norman Co., along with homebuilders Sloan Adams, Castletone Homes, J.W. Neal Construction and York Technical College, are ready to begin construction on a 75-home neighborhood off Ebinport Road that will exceed the federal government's highest energy efficiency rating. The development, called Walker's Ridge, will be one of only a few like it in the state.
All the homes will be insulated from top to bottom. Students from York Tech will do periodic energy inspections using special equipment the college recently bought using a federal grant to ensure that the homes are tightly sealed.
Recycled materials and wood from sustainable forests will be used for countertops and other features in the homes. Permeable pavement will help capture rain water and prevent runoff. Green common areas will be included in the neighborhood's design.
One unfortunate note: Developers said they had to clear cut the site because terrain didn't allow for saving trees and bushes. In any project, preserving trees, especially old-growth trees, should be a priority.
The expense of building more environmentally friendly homes will add up to $15,000 to the cost of the home to the consumer. But energy savings eventually will help owners recoup some or all of that cost.
And, they'll be living in a home with a healthier air environment and one that doesn't tax the environment as much as conventional homes.
Ultimately, we hope, the move toward green construction will be viewed not just as a way to help reduce global warming but also as a new economic engine. It should produce new job and development opportunities for homebuilders, construction workers and suppliers of green materials.
Walker's Ridge may be the start of something big.