Luxury Living Meets Sustainable Design

Builder and Developer Lehmann Homes is combining style with ecological values in Philadelphia.

By Evan Lancaster

Breaking ground in July 2009, one of the greenest residential establishments built in the unique urban neighborhood of Manayunk, Philadelphia, Pa., by builder, Lehmann Homes, showcased green building practices, and achieved LEED Platinum certification. Sheldon Crossing, a three-phase project, expected to be completed in the Summer of 2014, incorporated the use of ecological concepts. Sheldon Crossing gets its name from the streets on both sides of the development: Sheldon St. and Cross St. It demonstrates that luxury can be sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Denise Lehmann, the principal behind the project, believes very strongly in the practice of sustainable building and expressed that one of the goals of Sheldon Crossing was to educate both prospective home buyers and surrounding Philadelphia builders of the benefits of using such practices. Not only for the well being of the environment, but in order to showcase the energy savings capabilities households could attain. “Certainly, green building is a growing trend in the Delaware Valley and, in particular, the City of Philadelphia proper,” she said. Lehmann added that an unforgiving economy has hampered the success of green building practices. But, as time unfolds, sustainable building seems to be a growing trend as it is becoming more accessible to builders. More importantly, home buyers are catching on to the wave and understanding the many benefits, primarily the financial savings they can reach each month on their utility bills. When realizing the true cost of owning a Sheldon Crossing home, one must take into consideration the tax credits, energy savings and rebates that come from solar, geothermal and making use of tankless water heaters.

For Lehmann, this is good news. She explained that Sheldon Crossing isn’t just a myriad of low VOC paints and solar panels, it’s a tool to demonstrate the dynamic required to be considered on the cutting edge of sustainable technology. Mike Rosen, of the Martin Architectural Group, was a key player in seeing this project through to completion. Rosen’s suggestion to use photovoltaics for the covered solar panel rooftops has assisted Sheldon Crossing in achieving its green vision. By incorporating a timeless design scheme, Sheldon Crossing lends a modern flare to the traditional and avoids overkill from cliché renditions of post-modern green architecture.

“These homes show that green design can be expressed in a familiar and stylistically comfortable palette using exterior finishes common to this area of Pennsylvania, such as stone and stucco,” Lehmann explained. “Sheldon Crossing stands as an urban reinterpretation of the classical farmhouse, while embracing the best that environmental technology has to offer — I like to call it Sustainable Architecture.” Lehmann explained that Phase I of Sheldon Crossing took on a significant role as a strong backbone for marketing strategies to attract potential residents.

Phase I was completed in October 2011, approximately 17 months after completion of the model home and has officially sold out. Currently working on Phase II, Sheldon Crossing continues to offer ecological options for residents. Lehmann explained that Sheldon Crossing will continue to grow and will showcase sustainability, luxury and value. “When compared to similar properties in other areas of the city, these homes still reflect a phenomenal value and an ideal investment — both financially and in terms of lifestyle.” What is truly amazing about these energy efficient homes, especially given the building site and existing circumstances, is the dollar savings that the homeowners of Phase I are realizing. One homeowner has been tracking his utility bills over the last year; his average gas & electric bill is only $174 per month. Compare this with the average combined energy costs of a same size conventionally built house, at $650 per month; that is a $476 per month savings.

In addition to the energy saving systems of the GeoThermal Heat Pumps, water storage units and Superior Building Envelope Insulation, Sheldon Crossing offers several sustainable amenities that assist in making this project truly green. For example, roots from a cedar tree were made into a table in the sales office and reclaimed blackboards from a demolished school were used to clad the shower walls and floor in one of the bathrooms. There are even Coulomb Technologies electric car chargers in the garages. Also featuring intensive and extensive vegetative green roofs, Sheldon Crossing gives residents the opportunity to create their own vegetable garden, deepening the ecological benefits in both design and functionality.

Lastly, Lehmann added something for builders and homeowners, alike. By using sustainable, logical building designs and principles you are able to take control of your project, and see it through. “There is no need to suffer in order to be green, and these homes prove it, the needs and wants of the homebuyer are met with style on every level.”

Evan Lancaster is assistant editor of Builder and Developer. He may be contacted at elancaster@penpubinc.com.

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