From Dean Dowd on May 20, 2008 in Green Remodeling
Located in Long Islands East End, one of the nations wealthiest zip codes, Hamptons Luxury Homes is recognized worldwide for creating homes that redefine luxury. According to Builder/Architect magazine, the Hamptons construction and renovation projects are valued at an impressive $3 million to $65 million, putting the word ultra in ultra luxury.
You may not think that dollars this big equate with green building, but thats far from the case. I recently spoke with the Hamptons CFO Frank Dalene, whos also the president of Telemark, Inc., the Hamptons primary operating subsidiary. According to Dalene, the luxury market is poised to lead the green building movement.
The Hamptons and Telemark have together formed the Hamptons Green Alliance to help find and distribute information required to build zero-energy and carbon-neutral homes. Dalene stresses that his company was involved in green building long before anyone called it green. It wasnt trendy 2 decades ago, but it was nonetheless a better way to construct a home. Heres more information from my interview with Dalene.
Luxury and Green Mesh
The nations wealthiest consumers consider the Hamptons one of the nations most prestigious and sought for markets. But are green building qualities part of what makes these homes so desirable? According to Dalene, wealthy consumers not only have the means to be responsible, they also want to be responsible.
In the luxury market, you have clients who can afford to go green and be leaders in green building, Dalene says.
This is because investing in green building elements with high up-front costs poses less of a problem for the luxury market than it does in middle or low-income housing. Examples include purchasing a renewable energy or geothermal system that costs a lot up front and has a payback period of over five years.
There are, however, numerous green building materials that are considered high end but can be used by homeowners of every income bracket. Dalene sites bamboo products and engineered lumber as two examples. At the same time, the word green can have numerous connotations. For instance, Dalene used Brazilian hardwood in one project, but traveled to Brazil in the process to photodocument sustainable harvestry. I would consider that being responsible, he says.
Hamptons Green Alliance
Defining green is part of what the Hamptons Green Alliance is all about.
We put this together because we found that people want to build green, but the information out there is too confusing. Everything has a green label, not everything is green. What we are doing through our industry and through the trades is we are sifting through the information and weeding out the products that may not be green or have potential problems down the road.
For instance, the Hamptons adopted the use of engineered lumber way back in the 80s because it took the pressure off of the old growth forest. Almost everything today is built with engineered lumber, and Dalene considers this a great accomplishment. However, the Hamptons Green Alliance works to remedy one of the unfortunate side effects of the material. Currently, fire departments refuse to enter a burning home built with engineered lumber because the floor gives way very quickly without warning signs, collapsing catastrophically. These are the kind of things that we dont find out until after a period of time. There are risks in adopting new materials and this is part of what the Hamptons Green Alliance researches.
Dalene also sits on a committee for the town of East Hampton. The committee is attempting to limit the size of homes through zoning.
Its been very controversial because nobody wants to put limitations on how big they can build. We think its responsible to look at the size of a home along with the different elements. I live in a small house yet I build very big houses.
One solution, along with building smaller, is to put as many green elements in a home as possible. Evidently, even in the luxury market, bigger does not mean better.
Green is Practical at Every Income Bracket
As a luxury home builder, Dalene considers himself very pragmatic and practical. He says 30 years ago, the Hamptons was already involved in active and passive solar, the concept of the envelope house, and the use of alternative building materials.
It made a lot of sense. A lot of alternative building materials lasted longer. In the Hamptons, we have issues with exterior products not performing over time due to the humidity in this region. We were embracing alternative wood materials to solve the problems of wood rotting. It was other reasons than having a green consciousness. Its better to construct a home that way.
As far as the luxury clientele goes, Dalene says theyre responding very well. Its not just to obtain certification that homeowners choose to go green, its to promote renewable and sustainable products that are practical and good for the future, too.
Photo Credit: Sustainable Vashon