This article was originally published in the September/October 1998 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online September/October 1998

Civano: Green Development at Work

by Mark Rodman Smith

Civano is a new 820-acre, 2,800-home, mixed-use neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona, currently under construction with the goal of creating a sustainable community using green building techniques. Its homes are all being built with mechanical and wall systems that are at least 50% more efficient than what is required by the Model Energy Code (now the IECC; see p. 7). The developers have committed themselves to other stringent goals: At least 40% fewer car trips are to be generated, thanks to the close placement of homes, schools, and workplaces. Indigenous vegetation is being used for landscaping. Graywater is being used for all irrigation, reducing potable water use by at least 54%. The community is committed to using recycling and composting to reduce solid waste output by at least 30% compared to a similar traditional neighborhood. At least 20% of the housing is to be affordable to households with income under 80% of the area's median.

To create an integrated, sustainable neighborhood, the developers had to change their ways, including building design, construction, marketing, lending, municipal infrastructure design and finance, and business park design and marketing. They have needed extra time to implement their plans, and the effort has sometimes met resistance from people unfamiliar with green building techniques.

The difficulty of this process has been eased by the commitment of those involved. The city of Tucson, design professionals, scientists, and citizens have long been an important part of the push to move Civano along. The project was nurtured through many years of planning by the Metropolitan Energy Commission and the city of Tucson.

Lee Rayburn, Civano's director of design and planning, says that the trick has been to achieve a successful balance between reaching Civano's sustainability goals and controlling the time and costs associated with changing the builders' existing processes. We have worked very closely with our builders to help advance design, energy efficiency, water systems, successful integration of the building into the landscape, and permaculture, Rayburn says. The result has been a substantial change in all these areas.

KE&G Homes and TJB Construction are two of the three builders currently constructing homes in Civano. KE&G Homes is one of the largest housing producers in the area. They see their involvement in Civano as a way to learn new skills and to gain a competitive edge in the future housing market.

Construction is just beginning in Civano. Obtaining equity and debt financing partners has been a substantial task. A grand opening for the first neighborhood is scheduled for spring 1999. The first commercial building, an industrial facility for Global Solar (a photovoltaic manufacturer) was completed in June 1997. Planning for an eco-industrial park is progressing. By the middle of 1999, Civano should be emerging as a complete, vital neighborhood with occupied housing and workplaces.

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