New Bradenton subdivision goes green in record way

Bradenton subdivision Mirabella to qualify for LEED status

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New Bradenton subdivision goes green in big way

BRADENTON -- When he broke ground in June on his new Bradenton subdivision, Mirabella at Village Green, Sarasota developer Marshall Gobuty's goal was to build 160 comfortable coach homes for 55-plus buyers.

That was before he discovered he could create -- by spending a few thousand dollars extra on each home -- one of the largest "green" single family community ever certified by the most recognizable label in sustainable construction.

Third-party certifiers for the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes designation confirmed last week Mirabella's homes qualify for the stringent green-building label. The subdivision along Village Green Parkway in West Bradenton has a good shot at a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Platinum label, a designation applied to the most energy-efficient and well-constructed buildings the USGBC certifies. At the least, they are expected to be certified at the LEED Gold level.

Gobuty says the certification is valuable for the sake of building a better subdivision and in marketing Mirabella.

"There's such a competitive market here with homebuilders everywhere," he said. "This makes us different. This makes us actually add value to the customer where they know they're getting something."

Gobuty estimates building the attached villa homes to LEED standards costs the equivalent of about 5 percent of the selling price. Homes at Mirabella start at $252,900. Certification for the first of the homes built in the neighborhood should arrive within a few weeks.

The LEED certification process provides a template for building to energy efficiency, environmental safety and sustainability standards typically exceeding those laid out in local building codes. According to the USGBC, more than 181,000 homes have been LEED certified. Local certifiers say Mirabella could be the largest collection of homes to reach the highest level of certification.

"We have been involved with many projects that started out but never ever saw fruition," said Dennis Stroer, owner of Venice-based Calcs-Plus, a LEED-certifying company documenting Mirabella's characteristics. "This will be the first one of this size that actually looks like it's going to happen."

LEED's seal of approval means the 40 homes already purchased in the 42-acre Mirabella will use 40 percent less energy than those built to local energy codes. Joe Jannopoulo, whose Synergy Building Corp. is handling Mirabella, said the homes will also have cleaner indoor air, be quieter and more comfortable.

Jannopoulo, a custom homebuilder who doesn't typically build tracts of identical homes like those at Mirabella, took on the challenge of qualifying for LEED with Gobuty because he said it's time green building technology used in bigger, more expensive homes trickles down into the affordable home market. Mirabella homes measure about 1,500 square feet.

"What made it more possible is techniques we're using here are techniques I've been using as standard," he said.

LEED-ceterified home features include energy-efficient windows, Energy Star-qualified appliances, heat-blocking foam insulation along exterior walls, and bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to keep air in well-sealed homes fresh. Attics are so well insulated they are typically about the same temperature as interior rooms.

USGBC certification takes factors outside the home into account such as drought-tolerant landscaping and use of irrigation systems that sense rainfall. Mirabella gained additional certification points for being built on an old golf course in the middle of an existing suburban neighborhood. Infill development is valued by the USGBC because it does not contribute to urban sprawl.

Mirabella's homes also get credit for being constructed with as little material waste as possible, Jannopoulo says. Construction materials left over after one home is built are moved to be used on the next one. Almost all job-site waste is recycled.

Don Veihman recently moved into the Mirabella community with his wife, Barbara. The 59-year-old home inspector was at the job site every day his home was under construction. He inspects about 740 homes each year. The workmanship and materials in his own home, he says, are rare to find in a house priced under $400,000.

"You feel like the house is tight on the inside," Veihman said. "It's going to be better on my a/c bills in the summer months and better on my heating bills in the winter."

Mirabella is not the only green-certified community in Manatee County. All Lakewood Ranch homes are built to standards laid out by the Florida Green Building Coalition. LEED, said Stroer, has more name recognition because it is a worldwide standard.

Construction at Mirabella has a long way to go. Building started in June and is expected to continue for two years. Ten homes have been completed and another 20 are under construction. Each home must be certified individually for LEED certification. When Mirabella is finished, 158 homes are expected to make the grade. Two model homes will not.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.