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November 26, 2015

Cover Story - Green Building

Going Green

Water-supply woes, energy costs and environmental concerns are pushing green building practices into the mainstream in Florida.

Cynthia Barnett | 2/1/2007

All natural: Steve Ellis (left) and Grant Castilow renovate historic homes using features like hot-water recirculation -- homeowners don't have to run water wastefully as they wait for it to get hot.
[ Photo: Jeffrey Camp ]


In a historic Sarasota neighborhood called Poinsettia Park, business partners Steve Ellis and Grant Castilow are tearing out walls and installing gray-water plumbing in a bungalow built in 1946. The Mediterranean-inspired home, once dark inside but soon to open into a courtyard of native plants, will be certified green. Ellis and Castilow are using as many original materials as possible while adding Energy Star appliances and materials such as soy-based insulation.

Their company, MyGreenBuildings, is trying "to prove that historic renovation can be done green," Castilow says. "What is green about knocking down an entire block of trees and building a brand new house?" Ellis and Castilow plan to do all their renovations within four miles of downtown Sarasota. Upgrading close-in neighborhoods with an eye toward goals like reducing car trips, Castilow says, is the difference "between real sustainability and green marketing."

That's the point raised by those who see some developers' shift to green building as "greenwashing" -- just another marketing ploy to sell more homes. At a sustainability conference held recently at UF, a longtime advocate named Ken Fonorow pointed out that a true green home would never have a pool, for example.

Lakewood Ranch, in Sarasota and Manatee counties, is full of pools, of course. So is it really green? Languell, the Naples civil engineer, says she considers green building most urgent for high-volume builders because they are responsible for some 95% of new homes in the U.S. Consider that one green-qualified home can keep 4,500 pounds of harmful gases out of the air each year. Now multiply that by the 15,000 green-qualified homes planned at Lakewood Ranch -- all of which were going to be built one way or another.

Whether Lakewood Ranch qualifies as green by the strictest standards, Sisum says, every little bit helps. "Just imagine if everyone in Florida made small changes," he says.

"It would be a different world."

As Trend launches its new website this month, look for new interactive features, including experts who will answer reader questions about stories in our print edition. This month, one of the national leaders in the green field, Charles Kibert, answers questions about green building. Kibert, a building-construction professor at the University of Florida, is the author of "Sustainable Construction: Green Building Design and Delivery."
Send questions for Dr. Kibert to
Trend will post his answers at

Tags: Around Florida, Energy & Utilities, Environment, Housing/Construction

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