Greening the market 

New residential real estate firm launches first LEED-certified housing project

Residential builders have created the suburbs of today by cranking out vinyl villages with stick frame construction and petroleum-based carpets. But what if home construction got a whole lot greener?

The people behind Casa Verde LLC, a new Indy-based residential real estate development company, want to make green design … ordinary. A no-brainer. Easy on the eye, and within easy reach.

Last week the Casa Verde team turned the first shovelful of soil for three single-family, energy efficient homes in King Park, launching the first LEED-certified residential project in Indianapolis. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a set of benchmarks used to calculate eco-friendly design and construction.

Each King Park home, with prices starting in the $280s, will feature tankless water heaters, soy-based insulation, bamboo flooring, countertops of recycled material, eco-friendly Patcraft carpet — with energy bills estimated at half the cost of a conventional home of comparable size, and none of the allergy-inducing materials used in conventional new homes.

Just east of Fall Creek Place, King Park is bordered by 16th and 22nd streets between Central and College. With its mix of historic homes, rental properties, razed lots and rehabs in process, King Park seemed to the Casa Verde partners a perfect site for a paradigm shift.

“We want to change the way housing is built by showing developers, home builders, lenders and homeowners that green design is marketable, profitable and good for you, too,” says David Kadlec, one of five Casa Verde partners.

While Chicago’s mayor boasts a green roof on City Hall, and Boulder, Colo., requires green building for all new construction, Hoosiers tend to bristle at top-down decrees — and nobody wants to sacrifice quality of life to be green.

“Green is not going to happen because there are rules from the city or the zoning board; it will happen because consumers demand it, from the bottom up,” says Century 21 realtor Joe Shoemaker, another Casa Verde partner.

Casa Verde is betting that once builders see the consumer demand for efficient, healthy homes, they’ll let go of the belief that green is too expensive. Or just for the rich. After working with the King Park Area Development Corporation, Casa Verde wants to partner with other CDCs to develop affordable green housing for senior citizens.

Casa Verde is right on time, according to Allison Wells Gritton, director of environmental affairs for the Mayor’s Office. “By building these LEED certified homes and making sustainability and the environment a priority, Casa Verde is exemplifying the type of business practices the city hopes to encourage through the Indy GreenPrint efforts,” she said.

The idea for Casa Verde was born in Joe Shoemaker’s kitchen one year ago. In his work in real estate sales, Shoemaker received more and more inquiries about environmentally-friendly construction and neighborhoods. Much of the demand was coming from people relocating from places like Minnesota, Chicago and L.A., frustrated by their inability to find homes in Indy built with greener principles.

“I said I wanted to build a green residential community, but wondered if it was too costly,” Shoemaker says.

Reid Litwack, who owns two businesses that supply steel to Ryland Homes and other large-scale home builders, said, “Never say never.” Litwack called David Kadlec, a design consultant and community project developer. Soon, Michael Greven — former director of construction for Mansur Real Estate Services, and a player in the successful redevelopment of Fall Creek Place — was on board. Michael Sanders, an executive coach with an MBA, joined the Casa Verde team based on his interest in wellness.

So while local architecture firms beef up their LEED-certified staff, the mayor touts the GreenPrint plan and more and more consumers experiment with greener living, Casa Verde’s ambitions prove that “sustainable, green development is here to stay,“ as Greven puts it. “It doesn’t need to be complicated. Just smart.”

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