HGTV Smart Home 2013: Low-Impact Development

To protect the environment within the Paradise Key neighborhood and throughout Jacksonville, Fla., the design/build team treads lightly on the land.

HGTV Smart Home 2013 Low Impact Development

Land preservation and water conservation are goals of the HGTV Smart Home 2013 construction process. Careful planning and preparation go into every step of the build, from the home’s design to land clearing and construction.

Plants Lend Permanence

The back two-thirds of the lot lacked significant foliage, says architect Mike Stauffer, and were cleared to make way for decks and compelling water features. Land near the street and down the left side of the lot were handled with kid gloves to not only preserve the lot’s delicate ecosystem but also complement the home’s design. “When we tucked the house in, it felt like the trees grew up around the house rather than plopping a house in behind them,” says Mike. "It was a very conscious effort to preserve as many trees as we could where they were and to make the house feel like it had been there a while.”

Not Just Underbrush

When staking the property to determine the home’s four corners and clearable land, builder Glenn Layton’s team not only tagged trees that would be saved from demolition, but underbrush that would be integrated into the home’s low-maintenance landscape plan. “It saves to maintain that palmetto, which is an indigenous growing material,” says Mike. “We saved as much as we could around the lot’s perimeter."

Maximizing Natural Areas

“Whenever you permit a development like this you have to assume a certain amount of impervious area,” says Mike. “You have to provide space that is always going to be natural.” On the HGTV Smart Home 2013 lot, a waterway that snakes behind the home became a design asset. “You could have looked at that and said, ‘Heck, let’s redo it and make it more contrived,’ but we decided to use it and maximize it for a natural area.”

A Little Bit of Land for All

Paradise Key, a low-density neighborhood (62 lots on 22 acres), features small common areas and pocket parks landscaped with drought-tolerant species. An 1800-foot walking path is presently in the process of redevelopment. With Jacksonville Beach within an easy five-block walk, a larger community center with pool was deemed unnecessary.

Just Say No to Sod

Paradise Key, soon to be designated as a Florida Water Star Community for its water-efficiency practices, has reversed the residential landscape design model, where yards comprise 75 percent sod and 25 percent plantings. “Almost 50 percent of your monthly water consumption would come from exterior watering,” says builder Glenn Layton. A strategically designed landscape and irrigation package at HGTV Smart Home will incorporate native and drought-tolerant species and direct water only where and when it’s needed most.

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