When Mike and Dona Pohl put a contract on a Somerset home under construction—within just days of being introduced to Alys Beach by a friend—they weren’t thinking about green, sustainable building practices or owning a home that epitomizes an environmentally friendly way of life. They just knew they loved the community, the beauty of the design, and the luxurious amenities. The Pohls especially loved that their lot sat neatly between Caliza Pool and Zuma, the new, state-of-the-art fitness center set to open early next year.
As it turned out, though, their home—even in Alys Beach, a town where employing sustainable building practices has been part of its mission from the very beginning—may have set a new standard in green building.
Pattie Glenn, who started her company, GreenSmart, Inc., in 1999 in part to provide consulting for green building certification, says the majority of homes built by Alys Beach Construction meet the standard for a platinum rating, the highest rating given by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC). But with the Pohls’ home, she noticed that Culley Blackstock, a superintendent with Alys Beach Construction, was going above and beyond to score even higher on the FGBC Green Home Designation Standard. “All of these homes show an extended commitment to green building, but Blackstock said, ‘I want to go the extra mile.’ So his willingness to scrutinize every point proved beyond exemplary, a commitment they’ve met in this house.”
Blackstock says it was a team effort starting with the project manager on the Pohl residence, David Lamon, as well as other Alys Beach Construction teammates, the architect, the subcontractors, and Glenn. “We’re learning a lot more on every build to make them better, stronger, greener, and more efficient,” he says. “I think with this project, we had a collaboration of what everybody’s been building upon, and now it got to the point where…if we do it all together, we can blow this thing out of the park.”
Architect Jason Dunham of Jason R. Dunham Architecture & Urban Design, who designed the Pohls’ home, says this project stands out for an effort on everyone’s part to employ a combination of the founding green principles of Alys Beach that are embedded in its code. A lot of those principles, he says, represent a return to classic building methods that for years builders had gotten away from. “Alys Beach, the designers and the architects, tend to be more interested in what we call the ‘original’ green building,” Dunham says. To begin with, it means building with concrete and stucco, creating thick masonry walls that help insulate houses from the summer heat and reduce cooling costs. The Pohls have a courtyard home, which allows for more windows and doors opening out into the open center to allow more natural light into the house and create better air flow. In addition, Dunham designed a two-story porch in the courtyard that runs the full length, allowing every room downstairs to open up to the porch, so people can relax under the shade of the porch above it. The upstairs bedrooms open out to its own ample porch area high enough to provide a view of the town.
“All the building materials are natural materials that have been around forever— wood, concrete, and stucco,” Dunham adds. “You can get them locally, and any craftsman can work with them, so you don’t need machines to produce, install, or repair them. That makes it sustainable because you don’t have to replace as many pieces over the lifespan of the home. And when you build things to last with timeless design that people love, you have a home that lasts. A house that doesn’t get torn down is the most sustainable building.”
All of that helps build the foundation for sustainability that has remained a core principle of the town planners and the community itself. On top of that, in the Pohls’ home—which officially received its platinum certificate back in February—Blackstock included a number of new products and technologies to make the home as energy efficient as possible. These included an air conditioning system with 18 SEER performance, MERV 8 green filters that improve air circulation, stainless steel hoses that are more efficient, high-efficiency regulators for controlling the stove and gas grills, or even simple, indoor access to the valve that cuts off the water—which Blackstock says will be compatible with new technologies coming out that alert homeowners of a leaky faucet and let them shut it off remotely from their smart phone.
Glenn adds that the swimming-pool contractor even made a point of installing the first-known Energy Star-rated swimming pool pump and motor. “It’s the first of its kind,” she says, “so much so that the rating doesn’t even have a blank for it. I submitted it for innovative points, because it’s a huge thing. That’s what it takes—an exemplary commitment by the whole team, working together to achieve the highest good.” So far the home has received the highest score for a luxury home in the state of Florida for 2018, well above what’s required to meet platinum certification.
It’s a high honor, and any publicity that comes from it will likely inspire builders throughout the region to learn from the project and embrace high standards in green building. But she adds that its green features also have a lot of added value for the homeowner. “My company, GreenSmart, says that a certified green home saves you money, energy, health, water, and planet Earth,” Glenn says. “And green building can be every bit as luxurious as any competitive design. There need not be any compromise in design, satisfaction, joy, and peace, to strike a timeless chord in you in living in this home. And then it’s validated by lower energy bills and the peace of mind that people have knowing there’s been an extra special attention given to those things that are kind to our Earth.”