Green Projects in Down Economy

Green Projects in Down Economy NEW YORK, NY - Brad Liljequist, the project manager overseeing the development of several so-called zero-net energy homes — that is, super-efficient homes promising to consume less energy than they generate through solar power and other means — recalled with chagrin a groundbreaking ceremony for a project in Issaquah, Wash., last fall. It was, Mr. Liljequist said, "the day the Dow dropped 800 points."

As the credit freeze tightened its grip on the economy, the market for green construction — at least in some respects — remained strong overall, according to the U.S. Green Building Council and insurers of green construction projects.

Just last month, General Electric announced its own plans to develop a portfolio of net-zero energy homes by 2015.

Still, as fewer and fewer banks proved willing to lend money for upfront construction costs, many smaller green builders have been forced to find new ways to see their projects through to completion.


Mr. Liljequist's zHome project, for example — 10 town houses that cut energy use by using ultra-efficient design, arrays of photovoltaic panels, and ground-source heat pumps — is now relying on a strategy of preselling homes, and refocusing its marketing strategy on home buyers interested in living an ultra-green lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest.

(The developers are listing three of the homes this week, with a full sales roll-out expected after Labor Day.)

"The core for us is that we're going where the residential market is going," Mr. Liljequist said, "changing from an orientation toward speculative development, to people paying forward for what they want."

The developers have also forged partnerships with the local utility, Puget Sound Energy, as well as the city of Issaquah, which donated the land.

The developer of the much larger Geos Neighborhood project in Arvada, Colo., meanwhile, also watched the market drop as he unveiled his ambitious plan for 250 ultra-efficient homes in a mixed-use neighborhood.

To keep Geos on track, the project's developer, Norbert Klebl, said he has secured a group of angel investors to finance the infrastructure of roads, sewers, and power lines. He also anticipates preselling the units.

And both developers said they remain optimistic about consumer interest, given the volatility of fuel costs and a growing market for empty-nesters looking to downsize.

"There's no doubt that it's harder to sell than a year or so ago," Mr. Liljequist said, "but we believe there's a growing pool of people interested in investing in this kind of home because it's so innovative and different."
Source: Green, Inc.

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