Go Green! HGTV's Eco-Friendly Florida Home

A Port St. Lucie, Florida home gets the HGTV green treatment.

This "green" home, designed and built by HGTV, reaches back into coastal Florida's past for style while looking way ahead in terms of building materials and function. In keeping with the area's ambition of becoming the "Research Coast," the master-planned community of Tradition, in western Port St. Lucie, is hosting this project, which features both construction and design elements that are known to contribute to an energy-efficient, cleaner and even healthier living environment.

The 2,430-square-foot HGTV Green Home is a Spanish contemporary coastal Florida cottage that's not at all out of place with more traditionally built homes. "The HGTV Green Home is designed to demonstrate that you don't have to be extreme to be green," says Jack Thomasson, the HGTV Green Home house planner who has overseen construction of 12 out of the 13 HGTV Dream Homes. "Through thoughtful design and selection of products, the HGTV Green Home uses the latest building technology and easily attainable materials to create a beautiful, comfortable home that provides affordable examples for an audience passionate about making eco-friendly lifestyle decisions."

In keeping with that practicality, HGTV chose the Tradition development in Port St. Lucie, a boomtown coastal community that has gone from virtually nothing in 1960 to hitting 100,000 residents in 2003, the year it grabbed headlines with the nation’s fastest growth rate among large cities (100,000 or more population) between July 1, 2003, and July 1, 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city is just over an hour’s drive north from West Palm Beach and is near the center of the Treasure Coast area. Tradition Florida is the perfect community for an HGTV Green Home," Thomasson says. "We wanted to select a community that demonstrates that you can build green in an existing location with desirable amenities. Port St. Lucie is an established town that offers a warm climate and reasonable access to the Atlantic Ocean along with established shopping, schools and health care." The house is sited south to make the most of the light while keeping the heat out -- an important factor in sunny southern Florida. "The [HGTV Green Home] will have minimum sun exposure in the summer to keep the house cool and it is at an angle that in winter will provide lots of light without the heat," writes Marilyn Bauer, who has been following the construction of the home and blogging on it for HGTVpro.com.

The house incorporates some innovative elements, such as the Energy Star-rated roof and the solar tubes that bring light into the home. They have reflective panels that increase the light -- in the HGTV Green Home there are two in the double-doored master closet.

Bill Moore, of Legacy Contracting Solutions in Palm Beach, is responsible for those elements as well as for building the "vegetative roof" on the garage. "This roof will actually sprout plants to create energy," he notes.

This HGTV Green Home will register to receive a significant LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. LEED for Homes, a voluntary rating system, is a nationwide residential certification project of the U.S. Green Building Council. And this home is looking to achieve the highest level of green certification available, LEED Platinum. There are seven basic sustainability areas LEED covers that are being targeted: innovation and design, location and linkages, sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, awareness and education.

Here are details of some of the elements that make the home so green:

  • Hydroponic food source/vegetated roof -- Nothing is more sustainable than growing your own food, especially through a self-sufficient hydroponic system, which is approximately 100,000 times more water efficient than conventional farming. The HGTV Green Home has a small hydroponic garden and also a small herb garden as part of the rooftop system.
  • Rainwater harvesting -- The HGTV Green Home collects rainwater from the roof in rain barrels to be used for irrigation of the hydroponic garden and vegetated roof.
  • Permeable pavement -- Using permeable pavers on the driveway allows rainwater to seep into the ground naturally.
  • Drought-resistant landscape -- Tradition engaged the landscape architecture firm Krent Wieland Design to design the outdoors with native plants that are naturally drought tolerant. Limiting the turf around the house reduces the amount of time and money invested in maintenance and irrigation.
  • Energy efficiency -- The HGTV Green Home will use about 50 percent less power than a conventional home. Insulation is just one part of that. The wall system is ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms), which achieves three to four times the insulation R-values of a conventional wall.
  • Natural light tubular skylights -- They capture daylight and channel the light into the house, reducing or eliminating the need for conventional lighting on a sunny day. At night, the same skylights are equipped with compact fluorescent light kits and are used as standard light fixtures.
  • Solar power -- The home generates some of its own electricity with solar power and includes a photovoltaic system that provides about 40 percent of its required power.
  • Extensive recycling -- Construction waste has been separated and recycled to reduce by nearly 75 percent the volume of material going to the landfill. Flooring and tile, countertops, metal framing and synthetic drywall are just some of the materials made from recycled, and in some cases recyclable, sources. There are no tropical hardwoods that might endanger rainforests.

The home fits well with the futuristic theme of the budding biotechnology cluster in the Florida Center for Innovation at Tradition. The Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies has a new $40 million, 100,000-square-foot facility there. California-based Mann Research Center plans to build a $100 million, 400,000-square-foot life sciences complex next door to Torrey Pines, and Oregon Health and Science University's Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute has announced it will set up shop in the area.

"It's changing the face of the city of Port St. Lucie's history from being a bedroom community for West Palm Beach," Mayor Patricia Christensen told TCPalm.com. "We are truly going to be our own city with our own economic development to support us."

Looking more broadly, the Port St. Lucie hub links up well to Scripps Research Institute's Jupiter facility to the south and the biotech Burnham Institute's Orlando headquarters to the north.

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