Building "green" may conjure up images of straw bales, adobe and geodesic domes.
But Scottsdale developers are lining up in droves to build environmentally sensitive homes that span the spectrum for the conservation-minded consumer.
There are plans for an entire subdivision, a hydrogenpowered house, a downtown loft project and a 12,000-square-foot solar-powered home. And there are more.
Already this year, the city has issued 23 permits and is reviewing at least 10 other applications for green projects — a figure officials say is on track to outpace the number of permits issued in each of the last five years.
Scottsdale has been a leader in such projects. The city was among the first five or six communities in the country to start a green building program, said Richard Morgan, green building manager for Austin, Texas, the first city in the country to establish such a program. There are about 25 such programs today, he said.
"All around the issue — from the public to the industry — people have begun to recognize there are some real advantages to this," Morgan said.
Green buildings are designed and built to minimize environmental impact and reduce energy consumption while contributing to the health of occupants.
Techniques include using native plants for water conservation and on-site electricity generation or using locally derived building materials to minimize environmental impact. They also can include recycled materials, orientation of the home to limit sun exposure and rainwater collection systems.
"It’s really about being responsible with our resources and how we use our energy and water," said Anthony Floyd, Scottsdale’s sustainable building manager.
More than 120 builders, architects and designers are enrolled in the city’s Green Building program. It started with 20 in 1998.
In exchange, builders receive faster plan review. Green builders can get permits within 15 days, while regular builders usually wait a month.
The city also publicizes environmentally sensitive builders through promotional materials and its Web site. And it issues a certificate builders can use as a selling point to green-minded buyers.
While Scottsdale is on a record pace for 2003, permits for 2004 will likely be the biggest surge so far.
DMB Associates is planning a 600-home environmentally friendly subdivision in its DC Ranch community. The company’s builders are scheduled to break ground in the first quarter of 2004.
Already recognized for preserving natural elements at DC Ranch, DMB executives said they thought a green subdivision was a logical next step. The company’s consumer research is pointing toward a green revolution. The idea appeals greatly to younger buyers, said Brent Herrington, DMB’s general manager of DC Ranch.
"We just plain and simple believe that this is what an increasing fraction of what the home-buying public wants and expects," he said. "There is just a significantly higher interest in environmentally sensitive development and in green building practices."
Other noteworthy green projects in the planning or building stages include:
• A privately built home that would be powered by hydrogen, complete with 2 feet of soil on the rooftops and devices to turn organic materials into methane and hydrogen gas.
• A Will Bruder-designed loft project in downtown Scottsdale that would feature decomposed granite driveways, xeriscaping, a rainwater collection system, minimized sun exposure and perforated-metal window coverings.
• A 12,000-square-foot solar-powered home — with an additional 8,000 square feet of balconies, sundecks, covered living areas and a garage — that would produce up to 19 kilowatts of energy. That would be enough energy to operate the house and dump some energy back into the regional power grid.
The home’s architect and owner/builder, David Hovey of Chicago-based Optima, said it’s unfortunate more builders haven’t embraced green building techniques.
"It requires a little more work on the part of the architect/developer," said Hovey, who has built several homes in Scottsdale’s exclusive Desert Mountain community. "As architects and real estate developers, part of our job is to push the envelope to educate and give people a vision of what is possible in the future."
As for the benefits to consumers, he said: "I think it’s a matter of education. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want it if they understand it."
Green Building permits issued for homes and commercial buildings in Scottsdale since the program was established:
• 1998 — 19
• 1999 — 32
• 2000 — 39
• 2001 — 39
• 2002 — 35
• 2003 — 23* * 10 additional projects under review