Were it not for plaques on the wall that tout the spanking new Morning Glory model home's "green" features, the model would scarcely look much different than a lot of other model homes in Florida.

Yet packed within Shea Homes' Morning Glory model's walls, windows, attic, duct work, electrical system, and appliances is about $13,500 worth of extras designed to make the house tread more lightly on the environment and tug less on the energy budget. Still, "There is no up-charge for it," says Jeff Gersh, area vice president for Shea Homes in Florida. "We really wanted to show off what we could do here."

Shea has decided to make "green" homes standard–not an option with a price tag–in what it calls its active lifestyle communities, including its Trilogy developments. The Morning Glory is one of five new model homes in Shea's first Florida community–Victoria Gardens, an active adult development in DeLand, between Daytona Beach and Orlando, that Shea bought from The St. Joe Co. in 2007. And it's among the first to be built under the Shea Certified Green program, which calls for homes that exceed current industry benchmarks and reduce the carbon footprints of the homes by 20 to 29 percent.

Early returns on the strategy are satisfying. Gersh says Shea has sold six houses in Victoria Gardens in the month following its grand opening. The builder reports that 1,000 people came to the community's grand opening in early February. Says Gersh, "We didn't anticipate the crush of people that we got. We are still working through appointments with those people." Since the green features are standard on all the homes, he says it is difficult to tell how much the green features work as a driver. But he says prospects get excited when they find out things like double-paned windows are standard.

A benchmark the new Shea homes will be built to exceed is the Environments for Living's certified green rating. "The Environments for Living program was a great start for us," says Rick Andreen, president of Shea's active lifestyle communities, in a press release. "It opened our eyes. Then we quickly realized that new, higher standards were needed if we are truly going to make a difference. And making a difference is what drives us."

Shea Homes' focus on older buyers as prime prospects for the company's green home initiatives appears to be well-placed. Shea execs point to a recent survey commissioned by the California Energy Commission that says that retirees and buyers 65 and older are three times more likely than other age groups to desire a home with energy saving appliances and energy efficient building methods. Including environmentally sound features as standard rather than an up-charge option also appears to be the preferred choice among buyers. The survey states they were the most likely to say they are interested in it because it will save them money as opposed to saving the environment.

Among the most visible green features Shea is marketing in DeLand are bathroom lights hooked up to motion detectors that turn on when you walk into the room and turn off after you leave. Other features are passive, working quietly behind the scenes.

While the home's large windows–which extend far closer to the floor than typical windows–seem to be an energy-inefficient choice, all windows are double-paned and low-e. Additionally, increased glazing equates to more natural light, which cuts down on lighting requirements.

The home's insulation is green-fiber recycled, the appliances are all Energy Star rated, and the air conditioning is highly efficient; solar power drives the attic fans, closets have fans designed to draw out fumes from dry-cleaning, and the garages are outfitted with electric-vehicle charging stations.

Prices for Shea's Florida green homes range from $209,990 to $340,000 for between 1,430 and 2,105 square feet. The homes are expected to save 20 percent more energy and natural resources than conventionally built non-green homes and may exceed the International Energy Code by 30 percent. Annual energy savings are expected to be approximately $200 a year, says Gersh.

The 20,000 green homes Shea expects to build over the next 10 years are expected to conserve the equivalent of 8.66 million gallons of gasoline, 77,000 gallons of oil, and 6,380 acres of carbon-reducing forest land.

"Our goal, from last quarter forward, is to build every Trilogy home to be more eco-friendly and more energy wise and efficient than those built by any other national builder," Andreen says. "We intend to deliver this superior product without an astronomical premium."

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.