LAKEWOOD RANCH — Perhaps the reason Lakewood Ranch is one of the nation’s leading “green” residential communities, and maybe its largest, is that the land it is built upon has had a history of being revered.
Before it was a 6,000-home master planned community east of Interstate 75 in Manatee County, what is now call Lakewood Ranch was a piece of a working turpentine, milling and lumber hub called Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
“In the early 1900s, John Schroeder selected this beautiful land for its abundant natural resources and beauty,” said Leah Blair, an SMR spokeswoman.
Phrases like “green building,” “environmentally friendly” and “stewards of the land” didn’t exist then, but may have remained in the SMR’s institutional memory. The ranch, which envelops Lakewood Ranch, today still supports cattle ranching, vegetable, citrus, timber and turf farming as well as shell mining.
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In 2005, SMR officials fully made the commitment to green building, Blair said.
Now, every builder who wants to construct a home in Lakewood Ranch must comply with the Florida Green Building Coalition’s green designation.
“Green buildings and homes are healthier, conserve resources and cost less to maintain over time through lower utility bills and increased protection from hurricanes, fire and pests,” Blair said.
For those interested in a more microscopic look at green building, SMR has constructed a walk-through gallery at its Lakewood Ranch New Home Information Center at the corner of University Parkway and Lake Osprey Drive.
The display, for instance, shows green air-conditioning and heating duct work and how it differs from non-green duct work, Blair said.
The green duct work has a tighter seal, Blair added.
“The purpose of green duct work is to get your thermostat to kick in less because more cold or warm air gets to where it is needed and less leaks away,” Blair said.
Also on display are examples of green and non-green insulation, which further aids in energy conservation.
But green isn’t just the features in a house. It’s also the features around a house.
“We have a heritage of making development fit the land, not the land fit development,” Rex Jensen, SMR’s president and chief executive officer, has said.
All sensitive habitats are mapped in Lakewood Ranch before any plans are drawn, Blair said. After determining these locations, SMR does everything possible to work building designs around them.
Wildlife sanctuaries abound in Lakewood Ranch and many are connected by safe corridors that animals can use.
Among the animals that coexist with 12,000 residents are deer, river otters, eagles, gopher tortoises, sand hill cranes and other species.
Green impacts humans outside also as Lakewood Ranch has more than 100 miles of interconnected trails, sidewalks and paths.
The community also boasts a 110-acre nature preserve, a restored 451-acre wetland preserve and more than 400 acres of man-made lakes.