Case Study #1: Green for the Mainstream
Design and location – that’s what has drawn buyers to this new development located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood. Bancroft Green is the first green residential effort from developer Seibert Properties, LLC, which has taken a unique approach to the green residential market. These five row homes contain innovative green features such as closed-loop geothermal wells, green roofs and energy star appliances. But when asked what was driving sales the developer told us that it comes down the basics – creating a well-designed home in a desirable neighborhood. Traditional homebuyers are just beginning to appreciate the green features and the cost savings these features will bring, but the focus remains on the quality of the construction, the design elements of the home and of course, location, location, location.
Location is critical, and the Graduate Hospital area of Center City Philadelphia that Seibert Properties has selected is a quickly developing neighborhood with room for growth in South Philly. While Bancroft Green appears to be at the top of the market for now with homes listing for $570,000-$598,000, there have been recent sales in the neighborhood for conventional homes for over $500,000. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the approach taken with Bancroft Green is the fact that the houses do not scream: “I am a Green Home – Look at Me I Stand Out!” And while there is a definitely a segment of the market that thrives on advertising their environmental virtues (like the many owners of Toyota Priuses whose unique design clearly communicates the owner’s dedication to green), it seems that many home buyers are not willing to invest in a home that is out of synch with the surrounding neighborhood.
And, if you ask us, it’s with good reason. A home that is trendy today could easily become outdated and a poor investment in fifteen years. There is little fear that red brick will ever be out of style in South Philly, regardless of whether “green” is a fad or here to stay. Bancroft Green strikes a key balance between traditional, high-end construction and sustainable design with a strong focus on value. Green features were not incorporated in the design merely for the sake of being green. Rather, each green feature provides a cost or lifestyle benefit to the owner. Seibert Properties is planning to further enhance that value of by submitting the next phase of construction for LEED certification.
When Bancroft Green was initially designed, LEED for Homes was not yet in existence and Seibert Properties made the decision not to pursue LEED for New Construction. In hindsight, however, the developer realized that Bancroft Green as designed would likely have achieved certification and now recognizes the value LEED creates by serving as a short hand way to communicate the sustainability of their homes and as a form of social currency and pride for potential buyers.
The first phase of Bancroft Green uses modular pre-fabricated design, but as the developer will tell you, if you think pre-fabrication means faster and cheaper think again. Unlike sticks and bricks construction, modular pre-fabrication requires that all design decisions be made up front, before the factory manufactures the home. This means that every aspect of the home must be thought out well in advance of the shovel hitting the ground and there is little to no room for corrections once construction begins. Bancroft Green was Seibert Properties’ first experience with pre-fabrication and they intend to incorporate the lessons learned in the next phase of construction. For example, the angle of the green roof over the master bedroom will be graded less steeply, allowing for easier installation of the planting materials and for the installation of operating windows on both the east and west facing walls near the high master bedroom ceiling. When opened, these windows will create a passive ventilation system that will reduce the need for air conditioning.
We look forward to seeing what Seibert Properties does next as they continue to refine their design and construction techniques in the development of green residential properties.