In terms of eco-friendliness, few homes in central Indiana boast much more than a high-efficiency furnace or low-flush toilet.
But a Carmel-based custom-home builder is so certain the region is ready to embrace the green movement that he is willing to risk investing in a residential community designed to achieve national environmental recognition.
Frank Redavide, president of Castalia Homes LLC, is finalizing financing for the project and plans to start construction within 60 days. The 144-lot development, called Villages of Eastmoore, will be in Mooresville.
The historic-style renaissance homes will range in price from $180,000 to $400,000 and will contain enough green elements to earn certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.
Environmental enthusiasts are cautiously optimistic the project can succeed.
"I definitely think that there's a market," said Mac Williams, president of the council's Indiana chapter, "[but] I don't know about Mooresville."
Redavide, 37, is purchasing the property from a lone developer who progressed as far as installing roads before abandoning the project. The housing market has been in a tailspin for several months, damaged by a subprime lending market run amok.
The Ohio native who in 2002 founded Castalia-named for a spring on Mount Parnassus in Greece-is undaunted, acknowledging risk is involved in most aspects of life.
What's more, he's expanding upon the green-building niche he created with the construction of a $920,000 green home in the Village of WestClay in Carmel and another being built at The Willows at Zionsville.
The WestClay home, which Castalia built for Greenwood-based real estate investment firm the Modglin Group, was featured as a showpiece for green building during its early construction phase in March. Modglin now is offering the home for sale. The Zionsville home will be put on display during a May 31 open house and again in the Sept. 20-Oct. 5 Home-a-Rama.
Redavide said green homes are more than earth-friendly; they also offer a healthier way to live.
"We're worried about kids having toys with a little bit of lead content, yet we allow our children into homes with formaldehyde and [other volatile organic compounds]," said Redavide, referring to chemical-containing cabinets and paints.
The time line for completion of the Villages of Eastmoore is four years. Besides that project, Castalia will build eight to 12 green homes this year.
How green is green?
The Washington, D.C.-based Green Building Council's LEED program mandates certain standards to meet various levels of certification. Redavide is shooting for gold status at his Mooresville community, one step below the highest, platinum.
Using sustainable and recycled building supplies, energy-efficient products and non-toxic materials are just a few examples of how a structure might achieve LEED certification.
The Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis supports the green movement, but stops short of endorsing the LEED initiative. Instead, it encourages members to follow guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute, which oversees the creation and use of thousands of guidelines affecting business.
They are not mandates and offer the builder and consumer flexibility in choosing how green to make a project, which may have a bigger impact given the shape of the economy, BAGI CEO Steve Lains said. Four-inch-thick binders containing LEED information are not uncommon.
"To have a rigid set of standards might keep green from being as successful in a market like Indianapolis as it could be," he said.
Just the mere debate about greenness factors shows Indiana is making strides. The state, in all its rust-belt glory, hardly is known as a haven for environmentalists. Yet, progress slowly is being made, particularly in the housing sector. Joining Castalia in the green-building trend are at least two other local builders-Lone Star Custom Homes Inc. and Casaverde LLC.
Castalia not alone
John Brooks founded Lone Star 25 years ago and typically has used green elements into his homes-but not to the extent of his latest creation, also in WestClay.
The $1.6 million Spanish colonial building is made of aerated concrete and features a recycled metal roof and the only geothermal power system in the community, Brooks said. He is using it as an office and model home. Now he's embarking on a project in southeastern Marion County in which the home will be equipped with solar panels and a wind turbine.
Despite the rough housing market, Lone Star is enjoying its best year, which gives credence to Brooks' notion that a market for green homes exists.
"If building green is the right way to build and a better way to build, why wouldn't you build green?" asked Brooks, who's working to dispel the notion that green building equates to "expensive."
Indeed, the price difference on a green home can be "quite small"-as little as 4 percent more than a traditional house, said David Kadlec, a partner at Casaverde.
Formed less than two years ago, Casaverde built the first LEED-certified home in the city on Park Avenue and is building green town homes in Columbus near the Cummins Inc. plant. The 13 units, some of which already are sold, are part of a mixed-use development and start at less than $200,000. They should be finished by the beginning of next year.
Kadlec is unfamiliar with Castalia's Mooresville project, but sees no reason why it can't thrive.
"Green is going to make utter sense no matter where," he said. "The market is coming around."
'Passion for it'
Redavide earned a business degree from Wright State University and an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University, where he serves as an adjunct professor.
He arrived in Indianapolis in 1993 and worked at MCI managing accounts for several big local corporations, including Thomson Consumer Electronics and the former America United Life, now OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc.
Redavide left MCI after Worldcom absorbed it and jumped ship to Qwest. Not long after, he took over as a superintendent of a builder. Using its processes and people, he launched Castalia.
Building traditional homes in Geist and other high-end communities kept his interest, until about a year ago, when a conversation with a colleague in Chicago convinced Redavide that green construction is the wave of the future.
"I started researching it," he said, "and I decided I really had a passion for it."
He since has joined the local and national chapters of the Green Building Council and has become LEED-accredited. He's accredited with the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C., as well.
The transition to green building actually has been made easier by the housing slump, Redevide said, because subcontractors resistant to the change are hungrier for business and have little choice but to embrace it.