A group of local homebuilders are seeing green in a new energy-efficient neighborhood planned for Rock Hill.
Rock Hill developer The Warren Norman Co., along with homebuilders Sloan Adams, Castlestone 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 also will make strides toward "green" building by incorporating recycled materials and earth-friendly measures in common areas. It's one of only a handful in South Carolina.
"People are getting concerned about what we'll have for the future," developer David Norman said. "It's good for the environment. And if it doesn't cost too much to do it, then why wouldn't you?"
The development, called Walker's Ridge, is another piece of evidence in the growing national trend for consumers to "go green," a common buzzword related to protecting the environment, and for entrepreneurs to capitalize on the market.
The builders are hosting an open house at the site from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Rod Trump, director of York Technical College's Energy Resource Center, expects prospective homeowners to increasingly demand energy-efficient homes and green building practices in the future.
"In the past five years, if a developer could throw it up, no matter how it was built, they could sell it," Trump said. "That's changing. ... Everyone talks about going green. And as energy becomes more expensive, homeowners are going to be looking for this kind of thing."
Trump and his students will play a role in Walker's Ridge by inspecting each home during its construction. Special equipment the college recently purchased with a federal grant will test the homes for airtightness. Interior wall insulation and how ductwork is sealed also will be inspected by the college, acting as a third-party inspector. On average, Trump said the homes will be at least 20 percent more efficient than the latest federal standards and up to twice as efficient as the typical existing home.
Because of the airtightness, the homes also will foster a cleaner inside environment, a plus for people suffering from asthma, Trump said.
Bo Ziegler, owner of Sloan Adams, said each of the builders have learned green building practices from the Earth Craft organization, a group that promotes green building. Ziegler said in addition to energy efficiency, some of the homes will feature countertops made from recycled material, wood from sustainable forests and permeable pavement that reduces water runoff.
"We've got to find ways to conserve," Ziegler said. "We've changed the way we frame to allow us to insulate every corner of the house."
He said building the green houses will cost the builder about $8,000 to $15,000 more to erect a typical home in Walker's Ridge. The 1,800- to 3,000-square-foot homes will begin at about $300,000. But Ziegler said with the energy savings, healthier air environment and the growing push among consumers to go green, he doesn't expect interested buyers to shy away.
"This is the right time," he said about building the environmentally-friendly homes. "It's on the forefront of everyone's mind right now."
Not everything about the neighborhood will please environmentalists.
Norman said most of the home sites were cleared of trees and underbrush because the terrain didn't allow for saving them. The roads have been paved with typical methods. The development doesn't incorporate shopping and public transit, as many environmentalists prefer in green neighborhoods.
However, with its location off the Cherry Road corridor, Walker's Ridge isn't adding to suburban sprawl typical on the outskirts of Rock Hill, either. Norman said about 30 percent of the 55 acres will be green space with walking trails along a creek. Stone found on the property has been crushed and reused, and cleared trees have been recycled into mulch for use in the neighborhood.
"A lot of the green elements come from being more careful," Trump said. "It just makes sense."
You don't have to build a new house to be earth-friendly. Here's a few tips for going green wherever you live.
• Seal and replace: Check your windows and doorways for airtightness. You might need to seal cracks and gaps. You may also consider replacing older, single-pane glass windows with new, energy-efficient models. Install weather-stripping around doorways.
• Save water: Only run your washing machine or dishwasher when it's full. Use a shower with a low-flow shower head instead of taking baths. And use commercial car washes that recycle water instead of the hose at home.
• Unplug: Many electronic devices, such as phone chargers, TVs and stereos that continue to use energy even after being turned off. To save on your power bill, start unplugging these devices when not in use.
• Start a compost: Instead of throwing away food scraps, start a compost in your backyard. It reduces litter sent to a landfill and will give you free fertilizer.