Big George Ventures LLC is designing a residential development on about 100 acres in north Douglas County with an eco-friendly twist. In addition to energy-saving features, the homes will be individually tailored to each site, considering everything from the prevailing winds to the amount of sun.
Architect Dennis Freitas of Design Management Services lauded the company for its efforts.
"For me, this is an incredible project," he said. "People should be more aware of sustainable architecture. It isn't more expensive in the long run. Costs for sustainable buildings are only about 2-3 percent higher and the payback will come in the first few years, not 10."
Big George is taking a proactive role that is not limited to just green techniques, Freitas said.
"Most builders look at environmental considerations after the design is complete," he said. "He is the first developer who has come to us interested in looking at a more holistic approach."
Freitas has researched building systems and studied sustainable architecture for years. It costs more to work through a project like this but ultimately, he hopes that the consciousness of people here will be raised, he said.
"These principles can work in the whole valley," Freitas said.
Working on a project like this requires detailed research, taking into consideration every aspect of the development, but it's time Freitas is more than glad to put in, he said.
"When we get involved in projects like this, it isn't for financial reasons," he said.
The homes will be placed on the site based on environmental factors, like prevailing winds. The depth of overhangs will be engineered with respect to the sun, to maximize energy efficiency.
Technologies available now can mean "zero-energy," homes that turn the power meters backward, but those systems can also be very expensive. To keep the homes affordable, structure and product costs will be considered, he said.
Big George is also considering automation and universal design, a concept that allows retrofitting as families grow and lifestyles change, Freitas said.
Plans for the development, which will be located just south of the Carson City/Douglas County border, are still on the drawing board. They include open space, walking and biking trails and a bridge across one steep ravine on the property. No timeline has been set for the project, Freitas said.
"We have plenty of work to do on the regulatory side before we have any definitive timelines," he said.
Big George Ventures LLC purchased the Bureau of Land Management property in north Douglas County east of Highway 395 near the Carson City/Douglas County line last October.
The company was formed by Raymond Sidney a few months ago. Since that time, he has donated $1.6 million to Douglas County High School for a new all-weather track and football field.
Originally from Connecticut, Sidney graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. He continued his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his doctorate in mathematics in 1995.
He took a position with Google that year. One of the early employees, he was able to retire when the company went public in 2004.
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Resources for the project
Architect Dennis Freitas said a number of resources are being tapped for this development, including the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, a joint effort between Congress and the building industry.
The philosophy includes strategies to reduce time spent in traffic, increase the supply of affordable housing and rein in urban sprawl. The organization supports regional planning for open space, appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing.
California's energy efficiency standards and Energy Star, a government-backed program that promotes energy efficiency, are two other resources being tapped for this development, Freitas said.
California energy efficiency standards have saved more than $56 billion in electricity and natural gas costs since 1978 and are expected to save an additional $23 billion by 2013, according to that state's Web site.
Energy Star products spared the environment greenhouse gas emissions equal to those from 23 million cars in greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, according to their Web site.
Another source is EarthCraft House. A partnership between government and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders of Atlanta, Ga., the principles serve as a blueprints to reduce utility bills and protect the environment.