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Aside from worrying about the increasing costs of fossil fuels there is another problem that plagues this planet. The continuous use of fossil fuels is creating significant amounts of air pollutants. Cities will soon become uninhabitable if nothing is done to curb dependence non-renewable and carbon emitting fuels.
While pollution is an urgent concern and scientists are working hard to develop renewable sources of energy that produce zero emissions, others are thinking of other types of solutions. One of which is to develop green communities. This means that communities will be established based on the goal of reducing carbon footprint and at the same time for people to live in a healthy environment free from unwanted pollutants that can negatively affect people’s health.
This study will take a closer look at two communities established in the United States that claimed to be a green community. It will be determined at the end if indeed these communities are practicing the ideals of building an environmentally friendly community or if they are simply doing so because there is a great demand for this kind of living space.
There are two reasons why there is a need for green communities or eco-friendly houses. The first reason is to devise strategies to lessen dependence on fossil fuels. The second reason is to create communities with minimal carbon footprint and this means reduction of carbon dioxide gases released to the atmosphere. This is easier said than done, especially in societies that cannot live without cars, computers, TV, freezers, and other modern appliances that require a great deal of energy to run 365 days a year.
This is why there is a demand for green communities. Those who are well aware of the need to take care of the environment, especially those who are well-educated are the people who will pay a premium to be given the chance to live in this type of communities. Aside from that those who are knowledgeable about this issue are the same people that can afford to pay more for something that is more exotic.
Therefore, contractors and builders are racing against time to supply this demand because they realize the profitability of this type of ventures. It is therefore important to know if there is way to find out if a project is truly a green community or it is just made to appear as an eco-friendly community for the sake of profits. Thus, it is important to understand that the most ideal green community must exhibit the following features:
It is not sufficient to green just the building. The concept of green building needs to extend beyond the four corners of a structure, and a building should not be considered to be green unless it is location – and transportation – efficient, as well as resource- efficient.
Among other things, green building should contribute to reduced land conversion through more compact development and greater emphasis on infill and redevelopment of existing buildings and communities. It also should decrease greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and energy consumption by reducing driving – ideally by being located in a mixed use, walkable community served by transit (Pollard, 2009, p.137).
It has to be pointed out that this is the ideal green community and thus it would be a challenge to find one. This level of commitment to building green communities perhaps exist only in a few cities all over the world. Nevertheless, it is important to take a look at some examples of a green community and determine how close these examples are compared to the ideal community described by Pollard.
Del Sur Green Community
The first green community that will be examined is located in San Diego, California. It is called the Del Sur Green Community (Green Eco Community, 2009, p.1). The company that built this community said that it is just 20 miles from downtown San Diego. The reason why it is called a green community is based on the fact that it builders were conscious about recycling and conservation techniques from the beginning of the construction process. Wastes were recycled and used somewhere else.
As a result the community was recognized as of the “America’s Greenest” by “the The National Association of Home Builders and it also won five awards including Sustainable community of the year as well as the Recycler of the Year by the City of San Diego Environmental Services Department in 2007” (Green Eco Community, 2009, p.1).
Del Sur has a certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and this is due to the fact that at least “20% of Del Sur’s homes incorporate solar power with many neighborhoods installing solar in as many as 40% of homes” (Green Eco Community, 2009, p.1).
Del Sur saves on water because landscapers used drought-resistant plants in almost half of their landscaping needs. In addition the community also utilized low toxin paints and glues. The builders also complied with the mandatory scheme of recycling and conservation that forced them to reuse 92% of materials that was supposed to be headed to the landfill.
Del Sur will be compared to another developing community that is also marketed as a green community. This one is located in Asheville, North Carolina and it is called the Altura. The builders said that it is a mere eight minutes away from the downtown area. However, it is far from major cities like Charlotte and Atlanta that it requires at least two hours travel to reach the said destination.
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In the company’ official website there is a logo of a green leaf suggesting that this project is all about healthy living and caring for the environment. Thus, the builders asserted that it is a nice place for people who wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. They also remarked that the residents will feel close to nature and that they can be assured of a sustainable philosophy that permeates their construction process. At first glance it seems that Altur is indeed an example of a green community but there is no hard evidence to prove that claim.
Using the standard given by Pollard it is clear that it is difficult to achieve perfection. Even the Del Sur community does not receive extraordinary high marks if one will use the standards of Pollard. Nevertheless, what was accomplished in Del Sur is nothing short of amazing if compared to other construction sites. It is rare to find a company that mandates recycling and conservation schemes that forced builders to re-use 92 percent of materials and waste that was designated for the landfill. This has a major environmental impact.
Del Sur’s water conservation strategies should also be admired and finally the use of solar energy to power for as at least 20% of the houses is also impressive. However, the only problem with Del Sur is that it is 20 miles from the nearest city. If this is a sub-urban enclave then this means that the residents had to drive a long way home. According to Pollard this is not an acceptable feature of a purely green community. Furthermore, the property is not mixed used and there are no stores that are accessible simply by walking.
Nevertheless, this is way better than what was featured in Altura. It seems that the company that handled Altura were only interested in marketing their property as a green community but has no commitment to use standards that will make it a real green community. There is no evidence of recycling and water conservation. The only thing that they have in terms of an eco-friendly feature is the construction of houses far away from the city and therefore near trees, mountains etc.
It takes a lot to be considered a green community. Pollard’s standard is one of the best way to understand what is required for a project to be considered a green community. In this regard it can be argued that Del Sur is one example of how a builder has tried to create something that is gentle on the environment and one that is sustainable. There a few problems but it way better compared to Altura. The other community cannot show any feature that will make it a worthy example of a green community.
Farrell, P., 2009. Climate Change Action in Connecticut. Journal of Environmental Law. 27, 281-291
Green Eco Community. Del Sur Green Community. [online]. Web.
Pollard, T., 2009. Building Greener Communities: Smarter Growth and Green Building. Virginia Environmental Law Journal. 27, 125-145
Schmidt, C., 2008. Bringing Green Homes within Reach. Environmental Health Perspectives, 8, 248-250.