Home, Green Home
Creates Sustainable and Easily Maintainable
Residences Along the Emerald Coast
The sights and sounds of new home construction have long been familiar
to the residents and frequent visitors of the Emerald Coast. But more
recently – with developers hammering out residential neighborhoods
featuring a focus on environmentally friendly building practices – there
is a growing interest in the area’s next generation of neighborhoods.
“A lot of people see these new developments and just want to take a look
and see what they’re all about. Once they find out, they are blown
away,” says Realtor Sherry Carter, the broker for the Town of
Prominence, a new “green-sensitive” community along Scenic Highway 30-A.
Carter gives prospective clients an up-close look at what “building
green” is all about. Built along a wharf at water’s edge, the Town of
Prominence complements the Old America theme with a New England-style
village green, but also offers Southern coastal influences such as wide,
welcoming porches. The water feature will play an important role in the
community, allowing residents to take small boats out for entertainment,
but more importantly, providing an eco-friendly system to cool the air
in the nearby retail space.
The first phase of Prominence includes row homes that line the wharf.
Carter is quick to point out that in place of traditional wooden
framework, crews are using insulated concrete forms (ICF). These
relatively inexpensive materials provide insulation, strength and
durability. Unlike wood, ICF is resistant to termites, mold and water
damage and is fire-resistant, which allows for longer use, saving trees
and reducing reconstruction waste.
Homes and commercial space at Prominence use geothermal heating and
cooling. Hydro-Temp earth-coupled heat pumps use the Earth’s heat to
warm homes during the winter and pull heat from the homes during the
“This town is 10 years ahead of its time because the developer wanted to
build the absolutely best product for the environment,” Carter says.
The Town of Prominence was founded by Tommy Henry, a developer who has
been building homes in the Florida Panhandle for more than 30 years. In
2003, Henry snatched up the last large plot of land for mixed use in the
area and decided to follow many environmental practices that are more
popular in other parts of the country – a trend that is catching on all
along the Emerald Coast.
Keeping Cool at Alys Beach
Just east of Prominence along Highway 30-A is the striking architecture
of Alys Beach. Its brilliant white structures rise up like sandcastles
against the blue sky. The community is master-planned by Duany
Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), which more than 20 years ago designed the
Emerald Coast’s traditional-neighborhood sensation, Seaside.
DPZ was hired by developer EBSCO Gulf Coast Development Inc. to design a
community that would be both attractive and respectful to the
environment. DPZ hired award-winning architect Doug Farr to consult on
the design. Farr, president of Farr Associates and an expert in
eco-friendly urbanism and architecture, recently published “Sustainable
Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature,” a book that lays out long-term
solutions for built environments.
Farr used his extensive knowledge of planned communities to build a
better development at Alys Beach. He utilized geothermal heating and
cooling, reducing not only the noise level created by traditional air
conditioners and heaters but also energy consumption – a measure that
produces cost savings for the homeowners.
The construction at Alys Beach includes energy-efficient Eco-Block, a
brand of ICF such as the product used in Prominence. It was deemed a far
more durable product in a climate susceptible to forest fires,
hurricanes and salty sea breezes.
For the exterior design, Farr and the DPZ architects found inspiration
from the homes of Bermuda and the family courtyards of Antigua and
Guatemala. Thus, Alys Beach is designed with whitewashed masonry and
stucco walls with concrete-tile roofs that stand as a stark contrast to
most other homes in neighboring beachside communities.
The white palette of Alys Beach not only looks stunning, it also keeps
the interior of the homes cooler in hot temperatures. This
energy-efficient design element also makes the entire neighborhood
considerably cooler – a tremendous plus for a traditional neighborhood
development that promotes walking and biking.
Parks, courtyards and conservation areas are plentiful along the Alys
Beach community, and particular care is taken when selecting plants for
the landscape. Low-maintenance native plants abound, especially those
that are drought-tolerant, saving water, and pest-resistant, reducing
the need for chemicals.
To ensure that all aspects of environmental conditions are monitored and
built to the Green Home Designation Standard laid out by the Florida
Green Building Coalition, Alys Beach hired a full-time environmental
“My job is to make Alys Beach the environmentally best it can be,” says
The investment has paid off for Alys Beach. It is the first officially
“fortified community” in the world certified by the Institute for
Business & Home Safety, an organization that advocates improved
construction, maintenance and preparation practices in an effort to
reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other
“The Panhandle has been very slow to embrace green building, but it is
beginning to catch on,” says Stephanie Cook, executive director of the
Florida Green Building Coalition, headquartered in Tallahassee. The
coalition is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to improving the built
environment by providing a statewide building program with environmental
and economic benefits. The organization offers guidelines for
certifications on green home standards, green development standards,
green high-rise standards, green local government standards for cities
and counties, and green commercial building standards.
One aspect of building green that caused some early resistance from
builders and homeowners is the added expense, which is reflected in the
selling price, Cook says. However, eco-friendly construction can save
hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in insurance and utility costs. For
example, monthly electric expenses for a conventional 3,200-square-foot
home are approximately $280, compared to $73 per month for a home
constructed with energy-efficient materials.
Another big payoff with building a green home comes years down the line,
when maintenance costs ring in far less than with traditionally built
homes, says Wagley of Alys Beach.
“Durability is a very green thing,” he says.
In late 2004, shortly after Dean Trevelino and his wife, Amanda, moved
into a ranch-style house in Atlanta, Hurricane Ivan plowed through the
state, dumping heavy rains and flooding their home. Eleven days later,
as the Trevelinos began to clean out the mud and debris left behind by
the receding waters, Hurricane Jeanne rolled up the Gulf Coast and
flooded the home again.
The experience was devastating to the couple.
“The idea of building and owning a home anywhere near ‘real’ water
seemed a bit absurd to me,” Dean Trevelino says. But shortly after the
hurricanes hit, he had a change of heart while vacationing along the
“I saw Alys Beach rising out of the ground, and it was (like) nothing I
had seen before,” he says. The clean, striking architecture attracted
him at first. But what convinced him to build his own vacation home
there was the careful attention the community paid to sustainability –
building homes not only to withstand violent storms such as the ones
that had destroyed his home in Atlanta, but also to last for decades
with very little maintenance.
“That’s one thing about losing a house,” says Trevelino, whose
environmentally sound house at Alys Beach was completed in the spring.
“When you’re faced with something like that, you make sure you do it
right the next time.”
Weimarener Puppies for sale in Destin Florida
Sailing Charters in Destin
Home to 10 of Florida's more than 100 Clean Marinas and Boatyards we're convinced the Emerald Coast is the best kept sailing secret in the world.
The Sand Hill Lakes Mitigation Bank Offers a Unique, Low-Impact Hunting
and Deep Sea Fishing Program
Tranquil ponds mirror flared cypress trunks, great egrets, rare
white-top pitcher plants and purple pickerel weed on a once-private
fishing ranch near the Washington County community of Greenhead.
Red-winged blackbirds soar and bees buzz among yellow St. John’s worth
blossoms in these ecologically rich backwoods purchased by the Northwest
Florida Water Management District to offset wetlands lost to nearby
growth. There is not a house or office building, not a traffic light or
blaring horn to break the serene sand hill lakes scene.
Here, on 2,155 acres sporting lunker bass, reclusive alligators and
snowy egrets, the water management district has received state and
federal permits to operate the Sand Hill Lakes Mitigation Bank – and to
restore the ecology of the Pine Log Creek headwaters, a tributary of the
Choctawhatchee River. District groundwater studies also show sinkholes
and solution ponds likely recharging the Floridan Aquifer springs of
Econfina Creek. For this reason, the refuge of 25 listed plant and
animal species, located near State Road 77, has been added to the
42,000-acre Econfina Creek Water Management Area.
The Sand Hill Lakes Mitigation Bank once was a private fishing ranch of
the late Fitzhugh Carter, a Vernon High School teacher and principal. He
ditched, dammed and connected numerous natural lakes, ponds and sloughs
for optimal fishing – activities that if approved today would require
extensive permitting and mitigation.
“I recall exactly where I was in the ponds when I hooked a 7-pound bass;
I was 15,” remembers William “Bill” Cleckley, now director of the water
management district’s Division of Land Management and Acquisition. “My
father had discovered these lakes connected with Pine Log Creek before I
was born, while he was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base in 1948.”
Cleckley returned after college to run a hand-built sawmill that cut
pond cypress for six bridges across various canals. A two-room school
and Dykes Mill once stood on the property, but an archaeological survey
funded by the Northwest Florida Water Management District located only
remains of Eleanor Dykes’ home near the school site.
As housing developments sprang up nearby, Cleckley hoped to protect the
lakes and creek he and his father had enjoyed. His opportunity came when
the Carters offered the tract to the water management district, which
eventually acquired it for $4.3 million. The Florida Department of
Environmental Protection issued a state permit for the mitigation bank
in September 2005, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a federal
permit in May 2006.
In addition to protecting area lakes and waterways, the property will be
opened for limited public recreation with a special opportunity fishing
program that Cleckley organized in stakeholder meetings with the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and interested anglers,
boaters, hunters and adjoining landowners. Together, they designed a
low-impact fishing and hunting program. The program permits up to 10
anglers to schedule fishing by reservation and 10 more anglers to check
in without reservations at an FWC check station on Leisure Lake Road
near Greenhead. Fishing and hunting will continue as long as ecological
integrity and restoration efforts are not compromised.