Buda Development Gets Eco Gold Star
Near the end of this month, moving vans could start pulling up in front of Bella Vita, a townhome development under construction just south of downtown Buda.
As the first few of the residents gets settled in, they can breathe easier knowing their new homes have been certified to one of the highest levels of environmentally sound design.
Bella Vita has received a gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, a program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The gold
Compared to conventionally built homes, LEED homes use less water, energy and natural resources, create less waste and are smartly located and built with as little impact on the land it sits on as possible, said Marie Coleman, Communications Coordinator for the U.S. Green Building Council.
“It’s not really more difficult, other than that you have to educate yourself on what kind of green features work best in your climate,” said developer Terri Wimmer. “The materials are there, the technology is there. It’s definitely what’s coming in the future, and there’s no reason not to do it.”
The green-building design increased the cost of the project by about 6 to 7 percent, Wimmer said. But with an estimated 50 percent reduction in utility costs and a healthier and sustainable home, the costs balances out, Wimmer said.
Though the LEED program has been in existence since 1994, the LEED for homes pilot program began last year. Bella Vita was one of the first certified LEED home developments. Just two other home projects in Austin have received the same certification, Coleman said.
Wimmer received notification in January that her project received the gold certification, a road she embarked on several years ago after reading an article from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).
The CAMPO article argued that with heavy population growth along the IH-35 corridor, quality of life would start to diminish unless developers started building pedestrian friendly developments in town centers.
“I was basically trying to atone for being an urban sprawl developer,” Wimmer said.
Bella Vita builder Mark Rodwell of the Buda-based Callidora Homes said qualifying for the LEED certification starts well before the first shovel of dirt is turned.
“It’s the site stewardship that encompasses the entire project,” Rodwell said.
The homes are located within walking distance to the shops, restaurants and parks of downtown Buda, and at 1,500-2,000 square feet, the homes are smaller than many others in the area that use more resources.
“A lot of people are in homes that are way too big for them,” Wimmer said.
Wimmer says the upscale but smaller-sized townhomes could appeal to older empty-nesters who want to trade the upkeep of a large yard and home for a “lock and go” lifestyle.
The homes use an energy efficient HVAC system that re-circulates fresh air throughout the house, leading to improved indoor air quality and up to a 50 percent reduction in heating and cooling costs.
All units have low flow faucets, duel flush toilets, tankless hot water heaters, non-toxic carpet and paint, and energy efficient light bulbs.
At full build-out, Bella Vita will have 30 townhomes and 18 single-family homes on the 6.5 acre site just south of the intersection of Main Street and Goforth Road.
Originally designed as condominiums, the project was recently replatted as townhomes, in which the residents also own the pad of land the building sits on. However, the exteriors and landscaping will be maintained by the development’s homeowner’s association.
Last year, Bella Vita also received a coveted five-star rating from the Austin Green Builders program.
“It’s the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve reached one of the higher standards that you can,” Wimmer said.
Downtown Buda will soon have an 80,000-square-foot condo development decorated to the nines –––– much like the peacocks that currently reside on the 6.5 acres where the condos are to be built.
Developer Terri Wimmer is breaking ground in December on Buda’s first condominium project at South Loop 4, an underutilized corridor just south of Buda’s historic Main Street. Wimmer’s upscale condominium development, Bella Vita, marks one of Buda’s first divergences from the tried-and-true formula of single-family subdivisions.
“Really, we’ve been seeing a need growing over the last 10 years,” Wimmer says. “It’s time to do it, and offer a different kind of product.”
The units will range from 1,500 to 1,900 square feet and sell for $150 a square foot, with an average price of about $250,000. Wimmer is working with Kipp Flores Architects of Austin and builder Mark Rodwell of Buda-based Callidora Homes.
Renderings of Bella Vita show 18 cottages and 30 duplexes tied together by architectural details such as Spanish-style stucco and tile trim, outdoor fire pits and shady courtyards.
Some units will feature master bedrooms on the ground floor, a nod to older area residents looking to downsize their homes and ditch the lawn mower.
“My own example is perfect,” Wimmer says. “My kids are grown, I live in a 3,000-square-foot house on two acres, and I’m tired of taking care of the yard and the pool.”
Buda real estate agent Margaret Givens, owner of Givens Properties, says the area’s preponderance of new, single-family starter homes and aging subdivisions makes the condo development a welcome addition to the market, both for senior citizens and for young professionals.
“A lot of people I work with as buyers are really looking for a niche like that,” Givens says. “They want to be here in Buda, but they don’t necessarily want the big house or the yard.”
Though Wimmer’s other projects include more traditional developments like the low-density, high-dollar Ruby Ranch subdivision, she says she’s making a shift towards pedestrian-oriented developments with smaller footprints.
“We’re putting [Bella Vita] in the community center, within walking distance of downtown,” Wimmer said. “The plan for development of city centers is so important for growth.”
Bella Vita follows hot on the heels of Wimmer’s latest project, the Railyard, a 15,000-square-foot mixed-use development of nine retail spaces and nine loft apartments. It was completed last month in downtown Buda. Most of the units were leased prior to the end of construction.
The Texas Downtown Association named the Railyard the 2006 winner for Best New Construction, citing the development’s commitment to new urbanism and its historical design that meshed with existing buildings.
Buda Planning Coordinator Dave Draz says the city encourages the sort of mixed-use and cluster development common to Wimmer’s recent projects.
“You’ve got to have people living downtown to support the services,” Draz said. “It’s these kinds of projects that are really going to vitalize downtown, and you can see it all over the country.”