SPARKLING GREEN: Good looks, convenience, and location will attract empty-nester buyers, but builder/developer Robert Thornton hopes that preserving natural features will help seal the deal.
Courtesy Silver Stock Properties SPARKLING GREEN: Good looks, convenience, and location will attract empty-nester buyers, but builder/developer Robert Thornton hopes that preserving natural features will help seal the deal.

Delaware’s new Super Green program sets a higher environmental bar for land use and infrastructure and will reward developers and builders who adhere to the voluntary standards with fast-tracked approvals that may shave two years off the average planned unit ­development application process.

Builder/developer Robert Thornton, who helped draft the policy, looks forward to applying the standards to the remaining phases of Silver Woods, an approved, 357-unit, 129-acre community in Ocean View, Del. He’s already made a commitment to green development by preserving trees and open space and providing nature trails instead of tennis courts, as well as building upper-end empty-nester homes to the current NAHB Model Green Building Guidelines and rating system.

“It’s value gained, not money lost,” he says of the likelihood that he’s sacrificing some parcels to gain faster approvals and also benefiting from larger, more desirable lots. “We may actually get a check at the closing table.”

Silver Woods is one of several green developments taking shape across the country. Thornton’s project, among the first out of the ground, is selling. Within the first nine months of the first 30-lot release, with house prices averaging in the $450,000s, he’s closed on eight homes and has contracts and reservations for eight more, generating about $4 million in revenue.

While the potential for sales in a tough housing market and achieving faster approvals are attractive enough, the benefits of going green beyond one or two houses in a community also include greater control of the parcel’s built and unbuilt environment, economies of scale for materials and labor, and a more distinct competitive advantage. “We’ll certainly be able to lower hard costs with the type of home and the volume we’re building,” says CJ Crowell, president of Green Light in Hereford, Ariz., the developer/builder of The Cliffs at ­Ramsey Canyon, a planned 140-unit townhome project near Tucson, Ariz.

CLEAR VALUE: Homes at Silver Woods don’t skimp on the finer things. “Green is just one item on the menu,” says builder Robert Thornton.
Courtesy Silver Stock Properties CLEAR VALUE: Homes at Silver Woods don’t skimp on the finer things. “Green is just one item on the menu,” says builder Robert Thornton.

Like Thornton, Crowell sees himself as a steward of the land he’s developing, leveraging the existing terrain of the parcel to create a natural rainwater collection system and develop an alternative, off-grid sewer treatment facility while preserving natural features.

Texas builder Don Ferrier, meanwhile, has never dipped his toe into land development, but he’s willing to get out of his custom home comfort zone for Rheudasil Farms, an eight-lot enclave in Flower Mound, Texas, near Fort Worth. “It will allow us to control the whole subdivision and create a neighborhood of people with the same eco-goals,” he says.

Ferrier is counting on his decades of green building experience and the landowner’s edict to build “deep green” homes on the parcel to achieve a steady sales and production pace for homes priced up to $550,000. He’ll build to the new National Green Building Standard and LEED for Homes rating system and have each home certified by the NAHB and the USGBC respectively to drive home the point.

He’ll also gain some cost and time efficiencies to reduce his investment burden and risk. “Vendors and trade partners love multiples, and we expect some volume pricing as a result,” he says.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Dallas, TX.