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An important tenet of New Urbanism is the concept of sustainability. Sustainability begins with the idea that neighborhoods should endure in one place for a long time, contributing to their identification as a place that is distinctly recognizable by visitors, as well as home to the inhabitants. Such a concept has everything to do with the weather, terrain, vegetation, architectural context and local industry. Currently sustainability extends to “building green” or Green Building.

Green Building is defined as a high-performance building: designed, built, operated and disposed of in a resource-efficient manner with the aim to minimize the overall (negative) impact on the built environment, human health and the natural environment. As a practical matter, two crucial questions are: ‘Can this be done affordably?’ and ’Will it sell in the marketplace?’

Coastal Style, Net Zero demonstration house_1

Upfront Costs

The costs of green buildings can imply a higher initial capital cost, compared to the cost of conventional buildings.  However, careful planning and deliberate choices can minimize these upfront costs.  It is expected that the costs of building green will decrease over time, thanks to experience and the development of products and services. For instance, using modular construction techniques and building components instead of traditional methods.

Life Cycle Cost

One of the main arguments for green home designs is that any higher upfront cost for construction/renovation can be mitigated by a lower operating cost over the life-time of the building, i.e. a lower life cycle cost. If the initial investment leads to lower operation costs and/or higher durability, the higher upfront capital cost needed for construction or renovation can be justified.


Green building benefits include environmental, economic and social benefits. The potential environmental benefits are enhancement and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems; improved air and water quality; reduced waste stream and conservation and restoration of natural resources. Economical potential benefits include lower operation costs; a market for green products and services; enhanced occupier productivity and the optimization of life-cycle performance. Social potential benefits include improved health and comfort for residents, minimizing the burden on local infrastructure and improved aesthetics.


Typical homes compete on price (comps), features and “sizzle” (such as granite counter-tops) whereas green homes compete on value (lower utility bills, less toxins).  There are more options available and more opportunities to build value above and beyond a typical competing home.

Green building market share projections

Green homes represented $17 billion, or 17 percent of the overall construction market in 2011. This figure is double of what it was in 2008, which showed an 8-percent market share (valued at $10 billion).  Green building’s market share is expected to sharply rise to 29-38 percent across a five-year forecast for overall residential construction – potentially an $87-$114 billion opportunity.

According to the report, the two key factors driving market growth are that green homes are seen as higher quality, and that they save consumers money on utility bills. “Homes that are not only green, but also offer the combination of higher quality and better value have a major competitive edge over traditional homes,” said Harvey Bernstein, vice president of industry insights and alliances at McGraw-Hill.

A “high performance” Green-built house need not appear different than its conventional counterpart. The design for a single-family or multi-family residence can be architecturally consistent with the historical precedent of a given neighborhood.  There are development projects in many parts of the country that have successfully demonstrated that sustainability is achievable and marketable, regardless of the climate or the geographic/urban context.

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Cape Henry Residence

Virginia Beach, VA
This home is design for a fully accessible first floor living. There is a wheelchair ramp in the garage. The most remarkable feature of this home is its concrete plenum floor system, designed to deliver conditioned air through a honey comb of cavities under the floor slab that retains the temperature of the conditioned air passing through it. In engineering jargon this concept is called a “heat sink” and adds comfort as well as increased efficiency to heating and cooling operations.

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Frech Residence

Virginia Beach, VA

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Chamberlayne Ave. Storage


Chamberlayne Ave. Self Storage is a 65,060 sf facility located near downtown Richmond. The design was a renovation of an existing industrial laundry facility. The project features four covered loading areas, a conference room and business center, mini-offices and a sample storage unit in addition to the 43,000 sf of leasable storage space.

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Norfolk, VA

In 2009 GMF+ Associates was commissioned to create prototype single-family house plans for possible LEED certification. These houses were designed for urban infill lots in selected NRHA neighborhoods. Strict architectural styling guidelines were followed to create three distinct models in keeping with the historical precedents of Norfolk area. The house plans featured many energy saving products and methods of construction including SIPS (structural insulated panels), insulated crawl spaces and air handlers located in conditioned spaces. The houses that have been built to date qualify for ENERGY STAR and EARTHCRAFT certifications. ACS Contractors of Portsmouth is the builder of the house shown in the photos.

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    Urban Underbelly is a blog that seeks to share the back stories of successes and struggles in achieving the visions of New Urbanism, especially in Hampton Roads, Virginia

    New Urbanism: is a city planning and architecture movement directed at the creation and restoration of vibrant neighborhood places: centralized, sustainable, walkable and socially diverse.
  • Social Media

  • Residential PROJECTS
    Award Winning Beach Bungalow OBX – The Westly
    Lynnhaven River Makeover
    Winthrope Avenue Residence
    Greene Residence
    Burnette Residence
    Tibideaux Residence
    Straley Residence
    Stewart Residence
    Simkins Residence
    O’Connel Residence
    Kyrus Residence
    Klar Residence
    Kesler Residence
    Gerloff Residence
    Drinkwalter Residence
    Commercial PROJECTS
    Reginella’s Trattoria & Pizzeria
    Chamberlayne Ave. Storage
    Linkhorn Bay Condo
    Captain George’s Restaurant
    Self Storage: Historical Renovation
    Self Storage: Curved Glass Façade
    Self-Storage: Phased Construction
    Self-Storage: Building Reuse
    Morning Star Self-storage
    Self-Storage: A Good Neighbor
    Neighborhood Office Building
    Kettler Headquarters
    Cagney’s Restaurant
    Self-Storage: Structural Innovation
    Planning PROJECTS
    Buckroe Beach, Hampton Virginia
    Knotts Creek Refuge
    Virginia Beach Community Development Cooperation
    Cypress Cove Commons
    Bishop Court
    Curtis Residence
    Burton Station Office Park

    Green PROJECTS
    EarthCraft Residence
    Frech Residence
    Torope Residence
    Fortner Residence
    Interiors PROJECTS
    The Nicholson Companies, Norfolk, VA
    Kantor Residence, Norfolk, VA
    Cape Henry Residence
    Lochhaven Residence
    Nicholson Residence
    Waterside Interior Renovation

    Cedar Grove Apartments
    HomeArama 2010 East Beach
    Church Point Shopping Center
    Church Point Historical Manor
    Smithfield Affordable Sustainable Workforce Housing
    Beach Park West Apartments