There’s nothing terribly remarkable about the new home at 1 Palma Lane in East Hampton, looks-wise. But while 1 Palma Lane is in one sense just another nice, moderately rambling home on an upscale street full of them, it’s also a little bit of history in the making. The 3,300-square-foot home, which was built by East Hampton’s Clontarf Properties on spec, was certified as the first LEED Platinum home in the Hamptons, and recently sold for $2.25 million. In the Real Deal, Caren Chesler enumerates the various green features of the home at 1 Palma Lane, and it’s an impressive list indeed — from a geothermal HVAC system to castor oil-based insulation (that’s a new one to me, and you know I love some insulation) to upcycled carpeting and recycled glass tiles. It’s good stuff, and if it cost somewhat more to build than the usual, then… well, you can finish this sentence yourself. But the home at 1 Palma Lane sold for enough above the average that Clontarf has begun construction on another, bigger green home on Palma Lane; New World Home, whose work some gbNYC readers might recall from their LEED Platinum home in Sullivan County, is also awaiting LEED certification on a green East Hampton home. This is all good stuff, especially relative to some grandiose brown-construction mansion rising in the luxury-choked Hamptons, but what does it mean about green development on Long Island?
“While buyers may not be asking for green houses specifically, when they’re shown one, it can make or break a purchase,” Chesler writes. “Other developers have already expressed interest in building green in the Hamptons. ‘When the other developers heard about [the house], some came by to see it and said, “Wow, you guys are nuts.” Now they’re actually starting to use solar panels and geothermal,’ [developer Cormac] Creed said. ‘A little green revolution is taking place in the Hamptons.’” Which, first of all: Cormac Creed is an amazing name and I speak for all of us here at gbNYC when I salute him for it. But while it’s easy to dismiss this as real estate guy hyperbole — “revolution” and “Hamptons” shouldn’t be in the same sentence unless Karl Marx is also in that sentence — Creed may actually be right about this one. It’s just that rooftop solar and geothermal likely don’t have much to do with it.
We’ve talked about LEED Brain a lot, and for the most part seeing solar panels on a home are as good an indicator of a LEED Brain-afflicted resident as anything I can think. Ditto for single-home geothermal, which just isn’t a terribly efficient way to cool a home. It’s plenty neat, of course, but it’s kind of the opposite of what green building is about — it’s an add-on, and an ego-flattering one at that, as opposed to an actual indicator of efficiency. This (besides the fact that I’ve got some issues) is why I keep harping on things like insulation: they’re not cool, but they do more to make a home efficient and green than a dozen nifty green building gadgets. If homes in the Hamptons start one-upping each other with solar panels instead of other ludicrous rich people things, then I suppose I’ll have to salute that, but that’s part of the ego-driven consumerism that’s in turn a part of the bigger problem. Anyway, I’ll believe the solar panel as status symbol thing when I see it. This is still Long Island, not Marin County. But, but:
But, the good news is that the Hamptons in general seem to be doing some really good work on the boring stuff that actually makes for sustainable communities. Southampton’s requirement that new commercial buildings meet Energy Star standards is a good example of this, and big ticket green buildings are all over the area, from Southampton’s Dubin House to East Hampton’s Old Stone Highway House. Most importantly, Long Island itself seems to be recognizing that its sprawl-first development ways aren’t working. The Hamptons are notably less sprawled-out than, say, Nassau County, but if there’s really going to be “a little green revolution in the Hamptons,” it’s going to take a culture change to go with all those solar panels. In the Hamptons, people can pay for the green building gadgets that LEED Brain loves, and that willingness is 1) laudable enough and 2) may help set a friendlier market for that sort of thing. But for the area as a whole to work — for this to be a revolution, rather than a fad — government is going to have to do its part, as well. Right now, it seems to be doing just that, and that’s even more encouraging than that 1 Palma Place’s cool geothermal HVAC system. Cool though it is.