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  Green Cay Village: Building With a Purpose

By Kate Burrows   
Construction Today

Monday, 27 August 2007

Green is the name of the game these days, but even some of the most environmentally conscious homebuyers cannot afford effective, energy-efficient amenities. However, real estate developer Goray Communities Inc., together with Housing Trust Group, are working to make energy efficiency affordable by developing Green Cay Village, one of Palm Beach County, Fla.'s few Energy Star-certified, value-priced town home communities.

The homes are geared to some of the most important, and often underpaid, members of the community: teachers, firemen, healthcare workers and police officers. According to co-developer Gerald Goray, Green Cay Village worked with Pompano Beach, Fla.-based general contractor Current Builders to ensure homebuyers do not absorb the typically higher initial costs associated with energy efficient construction.

"We were very careful in choosing the [green] features in the community," Goray says. Goray and Housing Trust Group implemented energy-saving amenities such as SEER 13 air conditioners, programmable thermostats, ceiling fans, high-efficiency hot water heaters and Energy Star upgraded appliances. Homes also feature reclaimed water lawn irrigation systems and low-volatile organic compound carpets.

Housing for the Middle Class
One of the few official, "work force"-priced, certified Energy Star town home communities in the country, Green Cay Village is comprised of 420 units total: 160 condominiums, 100 town homes and 160 rental units.

According to Goray, units are set at price points starting at $198,900 for condominiums and $292,900 for town homes. The average price for a new home in Palm Beach County is approximately $388,000, Goray adds.

"It's so important to develop housing for middle-class America," Goray emphasizes. "Housing prices have risen so dramatically in recent years that people with these important community-service jobs can barely afford to buy a new house in today’s market.”

Nearly 80 percent of the buyers at Green Cay Village are making less than $60,000 per year, according to the developers. Teachers and municipal employees currently comprise 20 percent of the condominium sales.

The developers purchased the land under the unofficial agreement by the seller that they build affordable housing, Goray says. “The landseller was very interested in the idea of work force housing,” he says, “and we all recognized a need in the marketplace for this type of community. I hope this project can serve as a model of what can be done to create more affordable housing."

Efficient Operations
Although energy efficient building requires more money on the front end of the project, Goray, Housing Trust Group and Current Builders worked closely together to keep price increases to a minimum, according to Goray.

"This kind of construction is usually reserved for higher-priced houses, but I thought it was important to keep the buyers' energy bills as low as possible," Goray says.

Goray, Housing Trust Group and the rest of the team set out to eliminate excess costs. Working closely with the general contractor, the team purchased many materials far in advance to secure affordable material pricing. "We did a lot of volume purchases," he says. "We got a very favorable price on plywood, for example, and purchased our concrete under a lump contract, as well."

All homes were built sequentially, Goray adds, and the team worked in tandem to ensure the project was completed within budget. "We have always viewed our relationship with Current Builders as a working team in this project," Goray says. "We were able to align our goals in terms of budgeting, quality and scheduling goals. It's a mutually beneficial relationship."

Throughout the course of construction, the organizations had regular meetings to keep the lines of communication open and running strong. "We were all able to clearly identify problems early on in the project this way, and made adjustments as necessary," Goray says.

Smart Building
Built on 42 acres, the community is located near good schools, healthcare facilities, restaurants and nightlife. Goray says the community may be priced below market value, but it does not skimp on style and amenities. Town houses include granite countertops, colonial baseboards and casing, upgraded appliances and upgraded cabinets, Goray explains.

Green Cay was also marketed directly to its target demographic by the developers, who became fully entrenched in community activities. "We would go into the actual work force we were trying to market to, and meet with government officials to get the word out to the community," Goray says. “We worked with local human resource departments to spread the word, as well."

Green Cay also placed restrictions on who can purchase units. Buyers are restricted from purchasing multiple units and generally should be owner-occupants. “Green Cay Village’s design and philosophy encourages people to actually live here,” Housing Trust Group Principal and Managing Partner Randy Rieger said in a statement.

“We’re proud to be marketing to the end-user, not the investor, so that there is a real cohesive community ambiance, where you really get to know your neighbor and your kids have a safe, vibrant place to play while offering extraordinary value.”

'Good Social Objectives'
During the course of building the community, the Green Cay team of employees felt a sense of purpose in what they were doing, Goray says. "The people working on this project feel like they're not only in business to meet the usual business objectives, but also to meet some good social objectives at the same time,”  Goray says. "There are a lot of social benefits to this project that we're all very proud of.”

While many companies in the construction industry have been hit by a shortage in skilled labor, Green Cay Village says it has attracted many members of its work force through word-of-mouth. “Many [of our employees] are aware of our pricing and energy conservation goals,” according to Goray. “[Therefore,] Green Cay Village continues to seek other leaders in the industry who would like to work in a socially responsible community.”

 
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