Despite their low cost, each house has super-thick, super-insulated walls and windows; energy-efficient appliances, lighting, plumbing, and heating and cooling; and composting out back.
County officials issued a request-for-proposal in September 2008, soliciting a team of architects, engineers and builders to design on the small site, covering 3.44 acres. Requirements included “green” building, universal design and affordability.
“We linked ‘green, universal design, affordable’ unconditionally in the RFP,” said Josh Feldmark, the county’s director of environmental sustainability. “We wanted to show it was possible to include all three. We insisted that none be sacrificed.”
Visual appeal was important, too. “We wanted the houses to be in a beautiful community so that the [negative] image people have of affordable and green homes is shattered,” he said.
The one-level Craftsman-style houses — slightly offset on the curving street — are characterized by clean lines and muted shades of yellow, olive and slate blue.
A front porch and ground-level entrance offer easy access to the living room. A side door leads from the driveway, carport and back yard into a generous-sized kitchen and dining area. The three spaces converge in a “great room,” which is the focal point of the home. A master bedroom and bathroom are in the front of the house; two additional bedrooms, another bathroom and a laundry closet are in back.
The neighborhood sits in a gentle rolling landscape in the midst of other small communities. Walls of trees and shrubs form natural boundaries.
The Hamel Green Construction team that won the contract and built the project proposed a curved road ending in a cul-de-sac for guest parking and neighbor get-togethers, offering an inherent sense of community.
“I like the children playing all around outside. That makes it safe,” said Tugba Tuncer, who lives with her husband, who is a teacher, and their baby girl in an olive-green house with a yellow door.
Rebecca Figliozzi, standing by her cobalt-blue house, said her children — Antonio, 13, and Asia, 6 — “started playing with the others right away when we got here.”
Adults are friendly, too. “Within three days of us moving in,” she said, “most of the families came to introduce themselves.”
“Sustainable living truly makes common sense,” said Bill Hawthorne, owner of WMH Sustainability Consultants in Alexandria. “If we want to leave a healthy planet and natural resources for the next generation and the generations to come, we have to do something about our lifestyle now.”
“People certainly know what energy efficiency means, and they know about insulation and heating and cooling systems,” said Prescott Gaylord, general manager of Hamel Green. “There is a perception that only middle- and upper-class buyers know about green building, but that’s not my experience.”