Brian "A.J." Jackson, vice president of land acquisition and development for EYA, and Courtney Baker, of USGBC's Residential Market Development team, speak in front of the Capitol Quarter townhomes during the Earth Day certification ceremony.
Bob Youngentob Brian "A.J." Jackson, vice president of land acquisition and development for EYA, and Courtney Baker, of USGBC's Residential Market Development team, speak in front of the Capitol Quarter townhomes during the Earth Day certification ceremony.

Although it’s costing EYA about 5% more to construct a certified green community in the nation’s capital, the Bethesda, Md.-based builder says homeowners will not pay that premium based on environmental issues alone. So, why is the company certifying all townhomes in the Capitol Quarter development green? “We want to be on the cutting edge,” says Brian "A.J." Jackson, vice president of land acquisition and development for EYA. “We’re approaching a tipping point when customers will demand it.”

EYA’s bet is paying off. Seventy-five percent of all homes in the development’s first phase are sold, and officials say the down economy is not slowing the pace of sales.

The first townhouse in the community was certified during a ceremony on Earth Day. The home not only meets the Department of Energy’s Energy Star for Homes standards, but it also earned a Silver ranking from the USGBC’s LEED for Homes program.

At the ceremony, Courtney Baker, of USGBC's Residential Market Development team, announced that Capitol Quarter is the largest community registered in the LEED for Homes program.

EYA, which builds residential communities throughout the Washington metropolitan area, started planning Capitol Quarter in 2003 and began looking into green certifications about a year ago. The area had been filled with barracks-style public housing, which has been demolished.

“It was out of context and unattractive,” Jackson says. “We built it back to fit with the context of the neighborhood.”

Capitol Quarter will consist of townhouses and apartments for mixed incomes, and are being built in an architectural style to fit the historic neighborhood. Townhouses are for sale at both market value and for targeted incomes, and affordable rental properties will be scattered throughout the development. When completed, there will be 208 townhomes and 115 public rentals. Only the homes will be certified, says Jennifer Hebert, director of marketing for EYA.

Because the decision to go green happened when the project was underway, EYA had to redesign units. It took six to nine months for the redesign and evaluation process and to find a rater to certify the units. A learning curve also slowed construction of the first few starts.

Despite these obstacles, the project continues on track, Jackson says. Phase one should be done in late 2010 and phase two should be completed in 2011. 

The townhouses will include a long list of environmental-friendly features, including: 

  • Advanced framing techniques, including smaller headers and insulated corners 

  • Sealed HVAC equipment 

  • A controlled, continuous flow of fresh air 

  • Drought-resistant landscaping 

  • Low-E windows 

  • Carpet made from recycled materials 

  • Compact fluorescent lighting in kitchens and stairways 

  • Spray-foam insulation in hard-to-reach areas 

  • Low-flow faucets and showerheads 

  • Energy Star-rated appliances

Furthermore, construction waste is recycled.
The community’s location also adds to its green attributes. Homeowners and renters can walk to the subway, buses, a school, employment, a craft fair and farmer’s market, shops, restaurants, and more.

Ed Chabay will move into the neighborhood in November. Capitol Quarter’s perks were what made it stand out from all the other places he and his wife looked at, he says.

“What it came down to was this seemed to be the best value,” he says. “You get a new home with the latest technology and Energy Star appliances, as opposed to a home that is 20 years old without these features.”

Chabay also likes that he can walk to work from Capitol Quarter and looks forward to strolling to the nearby Washington Nationals baseball stadium.

The owners of the first certified home, Jason and Debbie Herring, did not know about its green attributes when they reserved their place. While Debbie Herring says they consider the eco-friendly features a “huge bonus,” the walkability of the neighborhood is what attracted them.

Five townhouses have been built and residents began moving earlier in April.
“We’ve had great success despite the slowness of the market,” Jackson says. “It shows that with the right location and good design, even in this market, there is still a demand for homeownership opportunities.”