Green housing features are becoming a premium amenity in private community development. Both primary and second home buyers are looking to “green” as a means to lower home ownership costs, be environmentally responsible, and embrace a healthier lifestyle.

Interest in green homes spans all income levels and the average green buyer will spend $12,400, on average, for green home features. Green building focuses on energy, water and resource efficiency, indoor air quality, and low volatile organic compound building materials. Perhaps the most well known product standard is the Energy Star rating, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. With the help of the Energy Star program, Americans saved enough energy in 2007 to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 27 million cars, all the while saving $16 billion on their utility bills.

But what, exactly, constitutes a green recreational amenity? While we know golf courses are certainly popular, demand for land that has no purpose other than to just “be” is growing. The age of authenticity has arrived and buyers want to know that they are a part of the movement. Passive recreational land promises to be the “gold” in the next real estate rush. While natural elements such as a resident cypress swamp might have been a detriment to property development and sales a few years back, under current definitions, it actually adds to the property’s cachet as buyers have come to value wetlands and all of their attendant flora and fauna. A swamp, much like a dense stand of forest, can also provide a buffer from development encroachment, placing a premium on property values.

Based on a National Association of Home Builders survey, nearly 60% of homebuyers prefer walking trails to any other amenity, ranking them higher than tennis, swimming pools, and golf. Developers are responding by including dedicated trail systems in their land plans and adding them to existing communities in spite of the fact that trails are often costly to install because they must be level and well lighted. The demand for low impact, natural, amenities reaches beyond the traditional primary residential community. Owners of vacation/second home properties are even more demanding, with expectations of on-site guided and programmed recreation much like that offered at a luxury resort. Family-oriented activities designed to appeal to the outdoorsman are crucial to the new private community prototype.

Camping is becoming an increasingly popular pastime and outdoor specialists can make the experience much more pleasurable by coordinating everything from the equipment and supplies to getting to the campground and finding the right fishing hole. Guided expeditions to off-site destinations require local expertise to formulate just the right experience. The Outfitter’s Center at Oldfield, a private community in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, can arrange a fly-fishing expedition guided by an on-staff river pro or a duck hunting adventure at nearby Turkey Hill Plantation. A key ingredient to providing a high-quality green recreational experience is a well-trained and well-versed staff. These “adventure concierges” include naturalists, fishing and camping guides, and kayak and ski instructors, and not only provide entrée and guidance to your recreation of choice, but insight into local folklore that makes the experience infinitely rewarding.

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