Green Ideas...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Arizona Townhomes go Solar

Ryan Randazzo
The Arizona RepublicJan. 16, 2008 12:00 AM

Catalyst Communities founder Chad Gifford is gambling. He's willing to bet there are 36 home buyers in central Phoenix that are so frugal with their electricity that he'll pay their utility bills if they buy his solar-powered town houses.

Catalyst Communities will give buyers a credit for their electricity bills for the first five years so they won't have any electricity bill.

If residents use more electricity than the credit, Catalyst will pay the difference. If buyers use less electricity than the credit, they can keep the money.

"We think this community appeals to like-minded people who are conscious about the environment," Gifford said. "We are willing to take that risk.

"The proposed project, Aura, is at 25th Street and Campbell Avenue, just south of Camelback Road. Floor plans for the proposed community will range from $800,000 to $1.2 million. Private investors are financing the project, according to Aura.

"You notice what globally is happening with energy prices and what is happening with global warming," Gifford said. "There is an impetus for doing something different in the marketplace.

"Gifford hopes to have the proper permits in hand and begin building in spring. A sales office is scheduled to open next week.

The rooftop solar arrays will cover about two-thirds of the homes' energy needs, while efficient design, such as insulating window glass, will keep demand low, he said.

The development is planned in Salt River Project territory. The utility pays wholesale prices for surplus electricity generated from rooftop solar systems but doesn't carry kilowatt-hours over from one month to the next, like Arizona Public Service Co., which credits customers at retail rates.

"We've taken the pain out of trying to give back," Gifford said. "You can have a luxury feel and you don't have to compromise. "Agenera, a Phoenix commercial solar-power provider, is consulting for Gifford on the solar-power systems for Aura.

"For some people, if they are ecologically minded and frugal, it will cover about 100 percent of their energy needs," Agenera founder Mike Eisele said. "But the typical homeowners needs some electricity at night, and at Aura you still are connected to the utility (for those needs).

"Other Valley boutique developers, including Modus Development, have proposed high-end, solar-powered homes.

Initial interest in a small solar-powered project near the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt in Scottsdale is so strong that Modus is adding solar as an option at a central Phoenix project just north of Gifford's development and another in Scottsdale, founder Ed Gorman said.

"Everybody wants to be 'green,' but they don't always understand the technology," Gorman said. "You tell them it will save them money, and they get it. "Utility regulators hope the pioneers like Catalyst and Modus are successful so more builders join in.

"This ought to be an option for home buyers just like putting in granite countertops," Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes said. "In this time of rising energy prices, it is a more important option for homeowners.

"Mayes has been meeting with major builders in the region the past year to ask why they don't offer solar systems on new homes, which is easier and more cost-effective than adding a system later, she said.

Developers tell her than anything that adds to the price of a home is problematic in the currently sluggish market. She has suggested at a minimum wiring the attics in new homes to be "solar ready."

"The fact of the matter is energy prices are rising across the country and solar is a way to shield them from those cost increases," Mayes said.

For the full story, please see:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Attention Canadian, European and UK Investors, it's time to look at the US/Arizona

There couldn’t be a better time to invest in US Real Estate and there is no better a place to invest than Arizona. With a declining dollar and soon-to-drop interest rates, here are 10 reasons why you should consider investing in Arizona property…
1. If you currently reside in Canada, Europe or the UK you can now buy property that is equal to, 70% or 48% the value of your own currencies respectively, which means a $900,000 home would cost you $911,000 (Canadian), $516,560 (Euros) or $443,919 (Pounds).
2. Arizona is growing faster than any other part of the US and has unlimited ability to expand its footprint, infrastructure, culture, social life and commerce.
3. Despite the summers (it’s a dry heat) there is no better place to live climatically with 340+ days of sunshine and 9 months of temperatures ranging from 50° to 90°.
4. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, mudslides, humidity, mosquitoes and snow are non-existent.
5. With unlimited abundance of sunshine, Arizona offers some the best opportunity for investing in green technologies like solar energy.
6. Some of the top Architects and Green Developers in the southwest have created a competitive market for environmentally friendly/green residential and commercial properties.
7. Major international airport with direct flights daily from major European/British cities.
8. Short flights to Utah/Colorado for skiing, San Diego/Mexico for beaches, San Francisco, Napa Valley or LA if you have any possible reason to go to LA.
9. Unlimited access to…
a. Golf
b. Shopping
c. Bars/Clubs
d. Restaurants
e. Dozens of places that televise Soccer, serves a lukewarm pint and a good curry. Who knows you might even find the Mexican food and BBQ better/spicier than in your own backyard.
10. No snow to shovel, no rain to flood your basement, no leaves to rake, no grass to cut, no pollen to make you sneeze, no cold period and gasoline is still under $3.00 per gallon.

In general, there are a lot of reasons for investing in the US and specifically Arizona but the best reasons of all are the weather, the cost-of-living, the access and value. Most importantly, Arizona is leading the US in green development and land recycling. Investing in green development is obviously great for our earth and equally important it’s a great investment because of its long-term sustainability.

Besides, isn’t southern Spain and eastern Italy a bit passé by now, and do you really want to hike all the way over to Croatia?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

With all due respect to Gordon Gecko (Wall Street), we believe Green, like Greed is Good. More importantly, green when done proactively, unencumbered by government oversight and unimpeded by Eco-wack jobs is the best course for our future as Americans and human beings both.

You see, despite all the panic and screaming, the best way of protecting our environment and our economic prosperity is to turn the private sector loose to drive the market place and create the next generation of technologies that will both save our planet and drive the global economic engine. Of course the true agenda of many who yell the loudest is said to be done in hopes of the former but really to stop the latter, but that's another blog for another day.

Our belief however is that just like World War II, Landing on the Moon, Star Wars and Microsoft, our country is at its best when our backs are against the walls and the private sector is turned loose on it unfettered to solve a problem.

We also believe that greed, like green can be good because the more income the consumer has, the more inclined they are to invest it in products, services and technologies that are good for the planet, sustainable and a good investment. And the more the consumer spends, the more the private sector invests in development of the products that the consumer desires. You think GM and Ford would make 3 mpg SUV's if the consumer didn't want them?

Noted Economist, John Baden stated in an article written in 1999 for the Bridge News entitled, What We Have Learned Since Earth Day, 1970? (, “As people become better educated and more wealthy, their demand for a quality environment increases dramatically. Earth Day should promote institutions which recognize this taste for green. This requires innovations which only entrepreneurs, non-profit and for-profit, are likely to deliver. This is not to suggest that wealth gives immunity from ecological ills. For example, trophy homes in sensitive riparian zones and wildlife corridors present serious problems. People, especially rich people, should be held accountable for the consequences of their actions. In general, however, richer is greener.”

We tend to agree with Dr. Baden…

When the private sector unites...

When we allow the private sector to drive the market place, we all benefit. As we've discussed many times, the way to change our earth and our lifestyles is through motivating the private sector and allow them to do their thing without regulation, government interference and the typical demonization of the far far left who really hate it when business and the consumer benefit, leaving them on the sidelines.

Here's a sample of a win-win for everybody...

April 18, 2007 - Scottsdale Developer Offers Solar as a Standard Feature - SRP EarthWise Solar Program Helps Offset Costs SRP has partnered with a Scottsdale developer, Modus Development, to do something no other valley home builder has done before – provide home buyers with a solar electric system as a standard feature of each new home in a Scottsdale development. Nine new town homes in the Array Development, which will be located at Oak and Scottsdale roads, will each be equipped with a 2-kilowatt photovoltaic system to harness the power of the sun.

Modus Development, a developer focused on green building and infill projects, has partnered with American Solar Electric to provide grid-connected PV systems. Modus Development also was able to take advantage of SRP EarthWise Solar Energy incentives. In addition, the new home buyers can apply for state and federal tax credits. SRP EarthWise Solar Energy, a solar-incentive program that encourages SRP customers to invest in solar energy, paid for 40 percent of each homeowner’s system in the development.

The individual systems are expected to significantly reduce each homeowner’s electric bill. The nine systems are forecasted to generate 28,800 kilowatt hours of electricity on an annual basis, which equates to offsetting almost 30,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in the first year of operation. “We’re excited to see this new-home builder step up and invest in renewable energy,” said Lori Singleton, manager of SRP Environmental Initiatives. “As more home builders realize the value of offering these systems and more home buyers expect it, we will see more homes harnessing the power of the Arizona sun.”

The development will feature nine town homes built to meet standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. This will be the second residential LEED Certified home project in the Valley. “LEED Certification is the first step in reducing the impact on the environment and lowering energy consumption,” said Ed Gorman, president of Modus Development. “By adding the solar panels to the rooftops of every home, we create homes that are both architecturally unique and cost very little to operate.”

The development will be complete and the panels installed within the next 12 months. “Modus Development is setting the bar for integration of photovoltaics into residential green building projects,” said Sean Seitz, president of American Solar Electric. “The energy-saving and energy generating elements within Array create value for the owners through reduced energy costs and establish a sustainable energy profile for the property that benefits our community. Array is leading an evolution into sustainable-energy design within Arizona’s urban environment.”

Green Development - Spotlight on Modus Development

Green…with Envy
In a world focused on global warming and being “green” most home buyers today feel they need to shy away from luxurious homes, believing you must live in a tree fort with outdoor plumbing to save the environment. For some reason, the notion of living in a home that is well built and appointed with stylish features is merely for show and to save the environment, your home must be dull and generic. Well not anymore thanks to a new breed of visionary Developers like Ed Gorman of Phoenix-based Modus Development who believe when it comes to style versus substance, you can have your cake and eat too.

With a passion for homes edgy in design, Ed Gorman chucked the corporate world and decided to focus that passion on building just that, chic homes emphasizing luxury and style while using materials and design that blend into its surroundings.

“People should not only enjoy where they live, but be proud of it. In today’s world, most people are almost embarrassed to live in luxury because it might appear that they’re excessive and unwilling to sacrifice comfort to better the environment,” says Ed Gorman. “My vision is to build homes for people providing the lifestyle they desire and the “eco-friendliness” they want.”

While other builders were mass producing cookie-cutter “McMansions” by the score to the north, Ed took a different approach. To most developers central Phoenix offered old, run-down neighborhoods with limited space and higher costs, with cost being the bottom line for today’s homebuilder, literally. Higher investment in quality materials, fixtures and appliances means lower profitability. Simply put, the business model is minimize the luxury and maximize the profit. Let the buyer upgrade later!

Where the “one design fits all” approach blankets the shrinking northern desert, Modus saw a next generation urban home that minimizes the investment on the outside and focuses it where homeowners spend most of their time…inside. And where others saw higher costs, Modus saw opportunity…opportunity to replace old ignored and neglected lots, with edgy, modern homes close to work and play!

Modus’ business model is simple, take the expense normally budgeted for property, landscaping, swimming pools and massive amounts of unused square footage, build smaller, more functional homes and spare no expense when it comes to interior appointments, fixtures and appliances. The real trick is putting large home luxury into a small package.

With that in mind, Ed set out three years ago in search of the perfect site to put his signature on the urban landscape. Driving through an old Phoenix neighborhood one day, he stopped at the corner of 27th Street and Turney Avenue and the light bulb went off immediately. While most who passed by were probably in too much of a hurry to notice, Ed immediately saw unlimited potential. It would take a little coaxing and creativity, but it was the perfect place for Modus to start.

And what a start it was, too. What began as two old homes quickly transformed into eight luxuriously designed homes known as, “The Galleries at Turney.”

As luck would have it, Ed had recently crossed paths with a group of young Architects in Phoenix just getting started themselves, and like the property at Turney, Ed immediately saw great potential in their vision and creativity and quickly decided to bring [merz] project Architects in to design Galleries.

As you’d expect with all this talent and energy, the Modus/merz team did not disappoint. Like a start-up with a blank check, they designed each home with the homeowner in mind, rather than the shareholder, which is the real secret to Galleries success. Homes built with a focus on the lavish interiors, rich appointments, spectacular views and a location to die for, rather than unused square footage and acreage that only a Tax Assessor could love.

Modus believes that putting style and elegance into each home from the beginning is actually better for the homeowner in the long run. For example, how about kitchens with stainless steel Bosch appliances, HansGrohe and Durivit fixtures from Germany, Maistri la Cucina cabinets from Italy and CaesarStone® countertops, rather than nameless brands installed at wholesale prices that need replacement three years later?

How about details that accentuate each home like lavish stone floors and glass handrails that enhance rather than hinder one of several panoramic views of the Phoenix area? Modus even looks at basic exteriors with a creative eye. Tired of the same adobe style stucco home painted in one of three “southwesterny” colored earth tones like everyone else on the block? How about concrete panels with corrugated Zinc sheets to keep the heat out and the cool in? Well, that’s what drives Modus, keeping the cool in!

The focus of Galleries is making a smaller, urban location feel open and spacious in part by using the natural resources surrounding it, such as light and panoramic views that appear to be an endless extension of the interior.

As you enter Galleries from the spacious two-car garage you find yourself in a large, “Flex Room” with exposed masonry walls and polished concrete floors. With large glass doors opening into a private patio the room has enough light and space to serve multiple needs, like the perfect setting for a Home Theater or separate office space. Walking up the stairs, your attention is drawn to unique snapshots of the city captured through long, narrow windows at every step of the way. Reaching the top of the stairs, you find yourself in the main living area featuring a flowing modern kitchen built with hand crafted, rich colored cabinets, lavish fixtures, stone countertops and Limestone floors, extending into a large dining/living area. With floor-to-ceiling glass walls opening up to a private balcony, the room seems expansive, awash with natural light from every direction inward, and spectacular views outward towards Camelback mountain north or the Phoenix skyline to the south.

Another flight of stairs takes you up to the third level featuring a large Master Bedroom/Bathroom area as well as two additional rooms that can be used for whatever the homeowner desires, from entertainment to nursery to guest rooms.

Remember Ed’s vision for the neighborhood and its great potential? Well how about a home within walking distance of 24th Street & Camelback recently voted by Urban Land Institute as the #1 intersection in Arizona when it comes to the best areas to live. Based upon the traffic, cost-of-living and availability of shopping, dining, schools and parks, Galleries is mere blocks away from the best area in Phoenix to work and play.

And apparently Ed’s eye for talent is as sharp as it is property. Galleries has already received two Architect Institute of America (AIA) awards for design, and oh by the way, Galleries was also awarded the first US Green Builders Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Certification for homes in Phoenix. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

So the moral of this story is simple, investing a little imagination into the design, a Developer can create the perfect home and lifestyle, one that is both luxurious and eco-friendly leaving the competition, green…with envy!