Construction has begun on a neighborhood of computer-designed, energy-efficient homes at the south boundary of Lady Lake.
When completed, the gated Green Key Village at 1635 Lake Ella Road will include 145 family homes on 78 acres priced between $318,000 and $414,000, said sales consultant Paul Buchanan. The project’s second of three phases will include tennis courts, a pool and dog park.
Two public open houses are scheduled at Green Key Village from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, and from 1 p.m. To 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24. A ribbon-cutting event and tour for real estate agents was held Wednesday. The model home is open for individual tours throughout the week.
The land was acquired through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after another developer who owned it went bankrupt during the recession and then his bank failed.
With extensive use of solar energy, Buchanan said the Net Zero homes are designed so homeowners will have no utility costs in a typical year. Costs will exceed the solar energy generated during the summer, but the system will produce excess energy during cooler months.
“They’re designed so you should get money back from the power company,” he said.
Available in 10 custom designs, the three-bedroom homes range from 1,570 to 2,558 square feet of living space.
Buchanan said the developer has tried to blend energy efficiency with an old Florida Key West construction style that includes front porches, granite countertops, crown molding, great rooms and rear garages.
Instead of using dark film to reduce the sun’s heat into the house, the homes will use special glass that blocks more than 80 percent of the sun’s heat and admits 80 percent of its light.
The homes feature high ceilings and large windows instead of the eight-foot ceilings and porthole windows of some older, severe energy-saving models.
Solar panels also will power the neighborhood’s street lights, but not water heaters, which will operate with a more efficient heat-pump system that produces cool air. Insulation is just below the roof so heating and cooling ducts run through a cool attic. The homes are so tightly insulated that they require ventilators to bring in fresh air.
Green Key Village is the first residential neighborhood in the nation designed using software offered by Ekotrope that was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The software, which analyzes 10,000 variables, helps developers compare each component of the home by its cost and energy efficiency. They can evaluate wall thickness, window size, insulation depth and every other aspect of the home.
“When embarking on this new development, it was crucial for us to fully understand all of the cost, energy and sustainability build options available to us in detail,” said Greg Thomas, managing member of Green Key Village, LLC.
Due to more insulation and other features of the homes, Buchanan said, they feature smaller air conditioning systems. Based on the Ekotrope analysis, he said, air conditioning units rated 15 SEER instead of more efficient 18-SEER units are used because of the shorter pay-back period.