Franklin, Tenn., near Nashville, is known for its educated and high-income citizenry, a hotbed of achievers. So when the principals at Akamai Construction decided to develop and build a 263-home, mixed-type community on 51 acres there, they cleverly combined the sophistication of their target market with the rising concern over energy prices and general interest in eco-friendliness that such buyers typically possess. “What drives their buying decision is a superior product,” says Akamai principal Don Shepherd. “They are excellent stewards of their investments and look for efficiency and performance.”
From that demographic profile, Shepherd, along with business partner Ken Choate, mapped out the community, called Creekstone, to encompass 113 single-family homes, 42 townhouses, and 108 condominium units—all of which they plan to build to a Gold rating under the NAHB’s National Green Building Certification Program. “The NAHB is gaining ground [on the LEED for Homes rating system] because of how they administer the program,” says Shepherd. He and Choate will evaluate the ANSI-approved National Green Building Standard and rating system for the multifamily section once that program is established.
Going with the NAHB certification program, among more specific standards from the DOE, Energy Star, and a utility provider, not only helped the company deliver high-performance homes but also kept administration costs in check while Akamai spent a slight premium to build them. “To get to this level, you have to invest a little extra,” says Shepherd, though he and Choate also saved some by acting as their own builder.
That being said, the company was careful not to spend its way out of the market. “Our strategy was not to get more than $10 a square foot more than the competition,” says Shepherd, noting that homes at Creekstone—which opened for sales in mid-October 2008—are base-priced from $259,000 to $665,000 across all types.
To achieve its high standard of building performance, Akamai invested in advanced 2x6 framing methods, insulated corners and headers, sealed crawl spaces, and a reflective housewrap that also protects against moisture and air infiltration, among a menu of energy- and resource-efficient features per the program checklist.
To sell that package, which can only be upgraded with optional eco-features including solar panels, geothermal heat pump systems, and ultra-low-flow showerheads, Creekstone’s single-family model features an educational center in its garage that educates potential buyers on the company’s commitment to green building. “They enter the educational center first, before walking the model,” says Shepherd. Once inside the home, buyers can then experience the features firsthand.
Already, Creekstone has generated enviable sales traffic, averaging about 25 visits a week, and recently started four spec homes to boost its marketing efforts. Shepherd says the homes’ indoor air quality features (“no new-house smell”), air and moisture mitigation, and expectation of energy and maintenance savings resonate most with prospects. “We’ve raised the bar in this community,” he says. “Green has allowed us to deliver on consumer needs better than the competition.”