The trees dotting grounds at Village Verde have already passed a crucial test: a long stretch of extreme drought.
Developers studied the area and figured out what was already thriving, said Michael Nevard, general manager of the 480-acre development at Northwest Expressway and Mustang Road.
“We actually transplanted quite a few trees that were already local and living without additional water, put them in as part of the project,” Nevard said.
And even as homes in the 17-acre first phase are being readied for new families, the planting goes on, he said.
The houses stand as the first tangible signs of the community to come, an ambitious effort that combines green building, energy efficiency and sustainability into what is planned to essentially be a small village.
The finished Village Verde will offer a mix of homes at various price points along with senior housing and a commercial town center, all connected by green spaces and pathways making it all pedestrian friendly.
“The idea is to have all our common areas eventually connect one to the next so there's a direct path to all the different playgrounds, ecologies and habitats,” Nevard said.
The plan doesn't just focus on parks either. Farmers markets, concert venues and ponds all figure into the picture.
But some areas will remain untouched, preserving wetlands and stream channels, Nevard said.
“We designed around those areas. You always want to use as much land in development as possible to maximize it, but we certainly want to keep what's thriving there thriving,” he said.
Nevard is working alongside industry heavyweights on the project. O.A. Garr III is a third-generation builder and developer with more than 45 years of experience, and Kelly Parker is president of Guaranteed Watt Saver, an energy efficiency consulting firm.
Energy efficiency figures heavily in the Village Verde concept. Among the requirements for homes in Village Verde is a score 70 or lower on the Home Energy Rating System — the lower, the more efficient — and will have to have third-party certification to prove it.
For builders, it offers a chance to roll out or tweak technologies. Ideal Homes, for example, is building upon years of knowledge gathered through building and experimenting, said Vernon McKown, owner and president of sales for Ideal Homes.
“You try new things, and it doesn't always work out, but it seems like every time we do a research home we find one or two things we can integrate into our homes as a standard feature,” McKown said.
He pointed to an American Lung Association Health House his company built in the late 1990s, in Ideal Homes tried out a fresh-air ventilation system. “We've been putting fresh-air ventilation systems in our homes as a standard feature ever since,” he said.
Ideal's homes in its Buffalo Grove at Village Verde neighborhood are wired for solar power, which McKown compared to plug-and-play gaming consoles.
“You can add on components,” he said. “So you can start off with a basic solar system for say, $4,000 or $5,000, and then as you get comfortable and used to working with it or you want more, you can add more to it.”
Federal tax credits just sweeten the pot, he added.
Finished homes give substance to an idea that has been taking shape since 2006, when the partners came together to develop the land for the Commissioners of the Land Office, better known as the school land trust, which administers school lands around the state. One of the state's stipulations was that the land be developed around green concepts.
The partners studied other communities, sorting through concepts to find what would best suit the land.
“What may work in downtown Chicago may not work in a suburb of Oklahoma City,” Nevard pointed out.
The evolving nature of building near Piedmont may help Village Verde in the long run. Growth has been slow but steady in the years since the nearby Surrey Hills neighborhood kicked it all off in 1964, and larger-scale building has begun to find a foothold.
But the location and the schools — the area is split between Piedmont and Yukon with Village Verde within Piedmont's district — are proving to be a draw.
Once families begin moving into Village Verde, the wheels can begin turning other the community's other assets, Nevard said. It's a matter of one step at a time.
“It's certainly a new market, relatively,” he said, “but we're plugging away out there.”