In Spring 2007, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer unveiled the city’s first comprehensive plan to protect its natural resources and encourage environmentally friendly lifestyles among its residents.  Titled "Green Works Orlando,” Dyer’s overall environmental agenda focuses on actionable items to
* Conserve natural resources and protect the environment;
* Invest in green buildings, vehicles, and materials;
* Foster alternative transportation options;
* Increase the amount of trees and green spaces in the city;
* Provide residents with the tools and information they need to become more environmentally responsible; and
* Work together as a community to combat the urgent threat of global climate threat.

“It’s our opportunity to lead by example and promote environmental stewardship,” says Dyer. “This is our chance to educate people about ‘going green’ and encourage others to incorporate a concern for the environment into the everyday workings of government and private business.”

Mayor Dyer’s initiative even inspired a now-ongoing housing program to build and revitalize homes with an eye toward environmental consciousness and affordability. 

Spearheaded by City Housing Development program manager Bryan Booth, a recently completed residence within the city’s Parramore Heritage neighborhood serves as the latest example of the achievements the program looks to accomplish and encourage in other homes.

Before: Built in 1925, this home in Orlando's Parramore Heritage neighborhood was found to be too far gone to be renovated cost-efficiently.

Before: Built in 1925, this home in Orlando's Parramore Heritage neighborhood was found to be too far gone to be renovated cost-efficiently.

Credit: City of Orlando

After: The rebuilt bungalow is appointed with a range of features--from durable siding to efficient windows--implemented for their green attributes as well as for long-term cost savings.

After: The rebuilt bungalow is appointed with a range of features--from durable siding to efficient windows--implemented for their green attributes as well as for long-term cost savings.

Credit: City of Orlando

The affordable Craftsman-style bungalow sits on the same corner where homeowner Barbara Andrews’ family had lived for decades, replacing the existing dilapidated, 1925 abode that city leaders determined would be more costly to rehab than to rebuild. Utilizing local builders and contractors in an effort to support local businesses while reducing unnecessary transportation and travel costs, the city completed the 1,159-square-foot home in July 2008.

The two-bedroom house now boasts numerous environmental and long-term-cost-saving features, including double-insulated windows, James Hardie fiber-cement siding to reduce exterior maintenance costs, BioGreen soy-based spray-foam insulation, and Termimesh, a woven stainless mesh to stop termites at concealed entry points and resist infestation common to the Florida environment.

While some green homes are less concerned with the ongoing maintenance and utility costs, affordability was of utmost concern here. “While the various environmental elements we incorporated into the home added an additional $15,000 to the overall cost, they’ll readily pay for themselves over time through less costly energy and water consumption,” says Booth when explaining the overall thought process around the $120,000 home.  “The program is a win for the homeowner, neighborhood, and city as it improves the neighborhood landscape and promotes homeownership while being less demanding on city utilities.”

Termimesh is a woven stainless mesh to stop termites at concealed entry points and resist infestation common to the Florida environment.

Termimesh is a woven stainless mesh to stop termites at concealed entry points and resist infestation common to the Florida environment.

Credit: City of Orlando

In addition, the City of Orlando’s Housing and Community Development Department gives each new participating homeowner a detailed reference manual about affordable ways to keep energy costs low, properly maintain home systems like HVAC and plumbing, and even eco-friendly ways to clean the house. “Our thought was to not only provide an affordable and environmentally friendly home, but to teach homeowners maintenance skills and ways of being green that they can use within their everyday lives as part of the overall Green Works Orlando initiative,” explains Booth.

The Parramore home is undergoing certification for LEED-Platinum status. It’s an essential detail in city officials’ goals: “We wanted to showcase the fact that being green is not financially out-of-reach for the average homeowner,” said Booth.   

The City of Orlando’s housing and community development programs, funded by federal and state subsidization, has completed 15 reconstruction projects and 60 emergency, moderate, or substantial rehabilitations over the past few years.

Stuart Hanson is a freelance writer in Renton, Wash.