September 30, 2014


Update: Harmony

Diane Sears | 10/1/2010
David Weekley Homes
David Weekley Homes just completed 15 homes that meet the three most stringent measurements for energy efficiency

Preserving the environment, conserving water and energy and promoting a healthy lifestyle are all noble causes, but every once in a while people need a doughnut.

Developed on 11,000 acres in eastern Osceola County, along U.S 192 between Walt Disney World and Melbourne Beach, the town of Harmony was conceived as a model of sustainable green development. Founders Martha and Jim Lentz even created a 501c3 organization, the Harmony Institute, to promote healthy living among people, pets and wildlife.

The town, which has grown to 1,000 residents since 2003, has its own high school, K-8 school, restaurant and pub, and recreational amenities along with energy-efficient homes that sell for $180,000 to the low-$200,000s. Since last October, Harmony Development and David Weekley Homes have ramped up the standards and completed the first 15 homes in Florida that meet the nation's three most stringent measurements of energy efficiency. The structures save 30% of energy use over traditional houses.

From its inception, however, the community has generated concern that it would also generate sprawl by encouraging development in the areas between it and the more urban parts of Orlando ["Discord over Harmony," November 2002,]. Harmony also has had to balance its loftier environmental aspirations with the needs of its residents and the 38,000 people a year who visit the community's Johnny Miller-designed championship golf course.

In recent months, says Shad Tome, president of Harmony Development, the community has begun exploring retail development that will fit its model. The town is seeking permits this fall for a 100,000-sq.-ft. town center that will include retail and offices. The community isn't large enough to support a grocery, Tome says, but shops that sell doughnuts, pizza or smoothies might do well, along with professional offices.

The first phase at 24,000 square feet will contain "core and shell" construction that meets silver-level LEED certification.

Meanwhile, the Harmony Institute has partnered with Florida State University to create a power plant fueled by biomass and the sun and is developing a Florida Sustainable Energy Research Park, hoping to attract renewable energy companies and researchers. One project in the works: A model home that operates with net-zero energy use.

"We hope Harmony can become a showcase for these companies, but it's one step at a time," Jim Lentz says. "I would hope that in 10 years we have a diversity of companies focused on energy and water."

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