Brookside Development LLC recognized the challenge of cutting the cost of homebuilding, so instead increased affordability during homeownership
By Abby Pittman
Just 58 miles outside of New York City sits a quiet, old, mill town called Derby, Connecticut. Chock full of working class families, the town’s population has been struggling since the great recession to achieve the American Dream of purchasing a white picket fence house. Brookside Development offered them a solution.
“The state of Connecticut has been in a state of severe financial crisis since the great recession,” Mark J. Nuzzolo, Member of Brookside Development LLC, explained. “It still is. We decided that since we couldn’t significantly reduce our construction costs, we would change the equation from the cost of the home, to the cost of home ownership.”
This is a common problem for builders across the country – from some of the biggest builders such as Taylor Morrison, to smaller local builders as well – building affordable with rising construction costs is a challenge. Going green isn’t just the ethical thing to do, it is the economic thing to do. Construction costs are hard to deplete, especially with increasing lumber tariffs, but by creating a tighter building envelope, and reducing energy costs for homeowners, buyers still see a benefit and a more affordable house. “We used a hybrid insulation package to make a tight, well insulated home,” Nuzzolo responded. “We used high efficiency gas furnaces, tankless hot water heaters, a high efficiency air conditioner, LED lights, high efficiency fans and appliances, and a building integrated PV system.”
Singer Village surrounds the historic Singer House, once home to the granddaughter of Isaac Merritt Singer who founded of Singer Sewing Machines. Brookside Development purchased the land in 2011, in order to develop the rest of the Singer Estate while also preserving and enhancing the historic nature. Nuzzolo described, “The configuration of the lots minimizes soil disturbance and vehicular risks and provide solar opportunities. Energy efficient, architecturally significant homes will be nestled around the stone house creating a village feel, and the stone walls have been refurbished to create a visually appealing neighborhood.”
This development of eight new homes has been designed to meet National Green Building Standards. The first home constructed in the community earned a certification with the Zero Energy Ready Home program, which includes some of the toughest green standards in the country. The program has builders oblige to a host of energy, health, and durability requirements such as ENERGY STAR Certification, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor airPLUS program, and the hot water distribution requirements of the WaterSense program. The list of requirements continues with a checklist of “renewable-ready” solar power measures that ensure the home is solar-ready for the homeowner.
It is no easy feat to be green and get these certifications, and that is why the model home of Singer Village was honored with a 2013 Connecticut Zero Energy Challenge Award, sponsored by the state of Connecticut. The home was also a U.S. DOE Zero Energy Ready Home 2014 winner at the Housing Innovation Awards, and is the first project in Connecticut to receive a multi-star certification from the National Association of Home Builders.
“The initial challenge was to achieve Zoning and Wetlands approvals,” Nuzzolo explained in regards to building Singer Village. “The best part of the land was at the top of a knoll. The parcel had sufficient road frontage but traditional lots would have required significant cuts and the driveways would enter onto a busy street. Also, the best part of the land would be wasted. The solution was to subdivide the land into 5 lots with 100- foot frontages and three flag lots. Each lot would convey an easement to an Association, to which each lot owner would become a member, and would maintain the road.”
The land that Brookside Development was working with was the last of a 200-acre farm that was built by an Isaac Singer heir, who left behind a stone mansion, a pool built in a watercourse, a koi pond, and a multitude of dilapidated stone walls that had weathered the test of time. Brookside Development repurposed and recycled: “We saved the house, rebuilt the stone walls, converted the pool into a detention basin, and recycled the existing driveway,” Nuzzolo detailed. “We added rain gardens to each home site to accommodate the increased [storm water] runoff.”
Singer Village offers colonial, cape, and ranch architectural styles, and all homes have traditional elevations, large windows, walk-in pantries, kitchen islands, walk-in closets, coffered ceilings, landscaped lots with rain gardens, south facing roof lines to accommodate Solar PV, nine foot ceilings, and open floor plans – all essential for buyers. Because of the open floor plans and the sustainable aspect, and the energy savings that mitigated the extra cost of the new home, the buyer market was diverse.
Many builders struggle with sustainability, but the need for it is slowly but surely overwhelming the industry. It is only a matter of time before every home is sustainable, or even better – zero net energy. Green leaders such as Brookside Development, LLC, are LEED-ing the way to incorporating environmentally friendly designs into everyday development.
Abby Pittman is the Editor of Green Home Builder magazine. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.