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'Green' Spec Homes Break Ground in Lowcountry

First-of-its-kind project in South Carolina promises homes that produce as much energy as they consume is now taking reservations for lots

SUMMERVILLE — Let's call this the "Field of Green" model — if you build semi-custom homes that consume less energy than they produce, they will come.

Nexus Energy Homes has officially entered the Palmetto state, building net-zero, green homes, with a ground breaking Thursday in Summerville. The homebuilder has committed to homes in Ridgeville, a green fire and police substation in Ridgeville and homes in Mount Pleasant. It also has aspirations for building a green elementary school in Dorchester County, and homes in North Charleston and West Ashley.

Nexus officials developer Gordon Timmons and owners of Agent Owned Realty Liz and Boyd Loadholt held Thursday ceremony in the River Birch neighborhood off Dorchester Road Thursday. The project, dubbed Sundial at River Birch, will feature 14 net-zero homes outfitted with solar panels and geothermal technology in unincorporated Summerville.

Nexus CEO Paul Zanecki said that, starting four years ago, it had finally become feasible to build affordable, semi-custom homes that used no more energy than they are able to create, a "net-zero house." Advances and reductions in cost of solar and geothermal technologies are only part of the reason though. The company also spent years perfecting a new way to seal off the climate controlled interiors of the homes from the outside environment, meaning no energy is lost by cooler, conditioned air (or warm, heated air in the winters) seeping through cracks and crevices.

The company spent years in research and development honing its construction techniques and computer models until it had a viable plan in place. It financed its first demonstration model home to prove the concept and, after six months, Zanecki said, the power company in Maryland where that home is located now ends up sending a monthly refund of about $11 instead of an electric bill.

Now, the homes Nexus builds meet the National Association of Home Builders Research Center Emerald Certification, which is the highest of four levels of green building certifications NAHBRC awards. The certification is based on a building's lowest score on any of the six criteria upon which the certification is based (energy efficiency, water conservation, resource conservation, indoor environmental quality, site design and homeowner education), according the NAHBRC CEO Mike Luzier.

Agent Owned Realty will market any and all of Nexus' developments in South Carolina through an existing relationship with FM Lending, Agent Owned owner Boyd Loadholt said. FM is a subsidiary owned by Long and Foster, which represents Nexus elsewhere in the United States, but doesn't have a realty presence in South Carolina.

"I've never seen our sales people react with as much enthusiasm as they have for this," Loadholt said.

"We're so excited about it," Liz Loadholt added. "I think they're going to have more business than they can handle."

Nexus is in the process of constructing a model home in River Birch, and Agent Owned is taking reservations now for lots.

And Sundial at River Birch isn't the only project Nexus has going in the area. Not far from River Birch, at Bridlewood Farms in Ridgeville, the company is building at least 31 more net-zero homes, with the possibility to build even more in that development, which will eventually include a total of about 700 homes. The Nexus part of that development is being called Sunchaser at Bridlewood Farms.

Developer for Nexus' Charleston projects Timmons also announced a new fire/EMS/police substation already slated for Bridlewood Farms will meet the same National Association of Home Builders Research Center Emerald Certification as the homes, and discussions are ongoing with Dorchester County School District Two to build a new elementary school slated for Bridlewood Farms to the NAHBRC green standards as well.

But Dorchester County won't be the only county of the tri-county area going green.

Timmons said Nexus will also be building homes in Mount Pleasant at a development planned for a site fronting the traffic circle at Rifle Range Road and Porchers Bluff Road. Nexus has plans to build at least 29 homes in that developments, 10 percent of which will be "affordable housing," meaning the developer and builder have agreed to discount a portion of the homes so that pubic employees like firefighters and police officers will be able to afford them.

And Nexus isn't done either. Timmons said he is looking for additional developments in Johns Island, North Charleston near the Park Circle area and in West Ashley, though none of those projects have been finalized yet.

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