AT 4,000 SQUARE FEET, THE NATIONAL Homebuilder Mainstream Greenhome looks like any other house in its Raleigh, N.C., subdivision. Underneath the brick, though, is the first house in the country to be built using an existing plan in a typical neighborhood while following the NAHB's Model Green Home Building guidelines.

The house is a demonstration project of Raleigh-based Cherokee Investment Partners, the nation's largest brownfield developer, and is designed to showcase green practices, concepts, and features in five categories: site and landscaping, energy efficiency, water efficiency, material efficiency, and indoor air quality. The company hired architect William McDonough of Charlottesville, Va., known worldwide for his passion for ecologically sensitive design, to review the plans and the construction processes. The federal Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) has provided technical assistance on the house.

“One thing that frequently occurs is that people can't find [the house] when they're looking right at it [because it looks just like a traditional house],” says Jonathan Philips, senior director of Cherokee Investment Partners, who now lives in the house with his wife and four children. “That's one of the greatest compliments.”

Using half the fossil fuel and water of a conventional home, the house also has been built to facilitate the recycling or reuse of up to 90 percent of organic waste on the site through built-in recycling bins and on-site composting, and retains 95 percent of its stormwater on site for reuse. Rainwater will be stored in an underground cistern for reuse in toilets, laundry, irrigation, and a green hot tub. Three-fourths of the construction waste was recycled, and 95 percent of the products used have low or no volatile organic compounds, which impact indoor air quality. In addition, Raleigh-based builder Corban Homes used regionally produced materials to reduce fuel consumption and transportation costs.

The site itself also is ecologically friendly. The home's landscaping will be certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat Program, and the North Carolina Botanical Gardens plans to use it as a satellite exhibit on native vegetation for the public.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Raleigh, NC, Charlottesville, VA.