DEVELOPMENT COMPANY Green Build It is at it again with its latest endeavor – in Norfolk at 439 W. 30th St. The ecofriendly home, where company co-owner John Porter, 31, currently resides, hopes to earn LEED certification, an honor among environmentally conscious homeowners and builders.

If the home is certified through the program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, co-owners Porter and Lucas Doan will have two such awards under their belts. Their first ecofriendly home, on 1434 Lead Street in Norfolk, was the company’s first LEED victory.

The LEED award is no small feat. Certification can take six months or more. The rigorous process includes extensive paperwork (pictures, receipts, and plans to reduce energy and prevent environmental damage), as well as third-party verification that standards have been met.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification is held by only 13 homes in Virginia. Porter is hoping his 30th Street home will be number 14.

“We hope regionally to become trendsetters,” Porter said. “We’re trying to encourage buyers to go green, and know that it doesn’t have to be more expensive.”

Green Build It is aiming to be an affordable option for the environmentally conscious consumer.

Doan, 30, said the idea behind the company was to fill a gap felt by consumers like themselves.

“The concept came up out of our own research,” Doan said, “where we’d like to see ourselves moving in the next couple of years. We were somewhat disappointed with what was available and shocked by the prices.”

The Virginia Tech alumnus studied engineering and economics, and now works as an engineer for the Navy. Throughout his travels with the military, he’d “always been interested in seeing what attracts people to certain cities.” This, in turn, spawned his interest in urban planning and development.

While the co-owners share a passion for creative design and energy-efficient living, Porter explained that their future ventures will have a targeted consumer. He doesn’t expect green building to overrun the local market anytime soon.

“We don’t imagine that this will become a predominant trend,” Porter said. “There is a demographic that has been underserved. We see it as an evolution of the way people live.”

All the major features of the house are finished, but there’s still work being done. The three-bedroom/three-bathroom, 1,672-square-foot home has a garage that leads to Porter’s permeable driveway system, specially designed to reduce storm- water runoff. Some of the house’s other green features include insulated hot water pipes throughout, dual flush toilets, compact fluorescent lighting fixtures and a hybrid electric water heater that uses 62 percent less energy than standard heaters. Everything in the home is run by electricity.

Porter explained the concept behind the light shelves or double-paned windows in his main living area.

“The [glass pane] on the outside doubles as a shading device and light shelf, so light bounces farther into the house,” he said. “We rarely have lights on during the day.”

The only operable windows are on the southwest and northeast sides of the house, to maximize cross ventilation. This reduces the number of days he has to operate his air-conditioning units. High ceilings and numerous windows help to open up the residence and make it appear larger.

Although it’s not for sale, it could sell for about $250,000, Porter said. He also said that the neighboring house, which he also has under contract, would run in the $230,000 range. The Lead Street home, not far from Norfolk State University, is in the $180,000 range.

Cost of construction for the 30th Street home was around $190,000. Next time around, construction costs should shrink due to additional money-saving tactics they’ve learned along the way, Porter said.

Since its start in early 2009, Green Build It has done more than 20 renovations and constructed these two Norfolk homes, which have garnered statewide interest.

Porter, a Virginia Beach native, grew up around the industry. His father, Don Porter, who has worked in development over the years, invested both his time and money in the new company.

Right now, Green Build It is regrouping to prepare for future endeavors, Porter said.

“Our goal is to become a larger green company – definitely targeted toward infill projects,” he said. Infill developments are projects that focus on improvements or new construction in pre-existing developments or neighborhoods.

Although Green Build It has stopped working on smaller projects in order to regroup and focus on future expansions, the company intends to stay in the region. The co- owners have downsized until they are ready to work on more projects, and during this time Doan is devoting much of his time to his work with the Nav y.

New to the team is real estate agent Lin Miller of Nancy Chandler Associates. Miller, who’s known the co-owners for a couple of years, will come on board for subsequent projects. The co-owners want to build more LEED-certified homes.

“Their plan now is to be doing [projects] in Park Place, but certainly with plans of going outside that neighborhood,” Miller said. He has been in real estate for 21 years, and believes that green building can become more prevalent in the market.

“I think it’s just catching on,” he said.

Many homebuyers are concerned with affordability but Green Build It is invested in making sure ecofriendly residences are economically attainable.

Green Build It’s future projects will depend on the market, Miller said, adding that he believes a growing awareness of ecofriendly living may increase the demand for green building.

“If you look at the number of people buying hybrid cars now, it’s gone up – and I think the same thing is going to happen with this,” Miller said. “I think people are going to build smarter, and consumers are going to love it.”

Porter said he felt as though the company was breaking new ground with its environmental fo cus.

“We really had to create a precedent,” he said. “Getting to this point was a hard thing. It was hard for people to imagine this for consumers. Now, we could have sold this [home] 25 times, liter ally. ”

Green initiatives in the area are affecting the community’s perception of the green living trend. Rebekah Burke, site leader of the Hampton Roads Green Building Council, talked about current efforts and some events in store.

“We do a lot of learning series events – a once-a-month meeting that we organize and make as low-cost as possible, to keep it available to everybody,” Burke said.

The Hampton Roads council has been a full chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council since the spring of 2007. Those who don’t belong to the national council pay a $5 fee for educational sessions, while members enter free.

In June, the HRGBC will have a consultant talk about Virginia’s legislation initiatives for greener living. (See www.hrgbc.org for det ails.) One of its events, the “Green in the Military” series, drew nearly 500 people recently.

When asked what developments like Green Build It homes will accomplish in the Hampton Roads community, Burke said that greening efforts have become more widespread, and even regulated and required, in commercial buildings over the years.

As for this trend infiltrating homebuyer demand, she said there is growth.

“Residents are always interested in what they can do in their own backyard,” Burke said. nib

By Danielle Walker
danielle.walker@insidebiz.com

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