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The metro St. Louis area isn’t a greenitarian’s utopia.  Hardly.  But there are folks aiming to change that.

Since Scorecard.org ranks St. Louis as the second worst city in the country as far as pollution, their efforts are needed and welcome.  A simple chart here shows how awful we are.  We’re ranked #19 in smog and #10 in particle matter.  We get an F from the American Lung Association. 

The city of St. Louis is taking some baby steps toward greener buildings to relieve our pollution and plans to take bigger steps.  The only thing definitely happening is that the two new recreation centers being built will be green buildings.  And the rumor is that the new Centene building will also be green.

But behind the scenes at City Hall, lots of discussions are going on, with considerable excitement.  Alderman Wessels has proposed resolution 154, which basically mandates that the city adopt an energy efficiency policy to encourage rehabbers to create green buildings.  This resolution isn’t just high-falutin’ blather, either.  The powers that be seriously want to make an impact on our ability to breathe the air here.

But far away from St. Louis city hall, in Eureka, even more exciting green plans are happening–plans for a green community that may well become a model nationwide.

Jim Trout, who came oh so close to putting the Republican state rep out of office in Webster Groves last November, is working his day job there as a development consultant.  A builder asked him to design a community of homes around a golf course, but with the housing market in such a slump, Trout felt the project would only succeed if it filled a new niche.

The Greens at Fox Run will certainly do that.  The wells are dug, the utility lines are in, and the homes are being designed–truly green homes that will cut the carbon footprint of the owners by fifty percent.  I’ll come back to how that will be achieved, and it’s some nifty news. 

Besides saving energy, these green homes will use sustainable materials: in other words, for example, no old growth wood, but rather new growth, native wood that can be easily regrown.  Furthermore, the houses will be healthy for their inhabitants.  Most people don’t realize that in this age of well-caulked and insulated airtight houses, the air they breathe in their homes is often more poisonous than what they would get outside–even in a city like St. Louis.  That’s because most homes emit gases–from the carpets, from the paint, from … any number of items.  These homes won’t do that.

The final attraction is that this will be a concierge community, meaning that it has a banquet hall and an outdoor pavilion.  The concierge is the organizer, the person who makes things happen.  He might plan neighborhood picnics, weddings,  or dinner for two.  He can also run errands–for example make a Walgreens run for ten or twenty families at a time.

How handy.  That’s a nice feature, but the main drawing card for this community is the energy savings, and the chief way of achieving them is using water to both heat and cool the homes.  Running underneath the community are pipes that carry 200 gallons of water a minute.  The technology now exists to extract both heat (in the winter) and coolness (in warm weather) from the water itself.  Get this:  heating, cooling and hot water for these homes will cost the homeowners virtually nothing.

Even the water that the technology depends on is used sustainably.  It is pumped out of the aquifer, used, and pumped back in–just as pure as when it was first pumped out.  And the equipment that will harvest the energy from the water is four times as efficient as anything you or I could buy on the market in the way of air conditioning units or furnaces.

Bottom line then?  The equipment is extraordinarily efficient, the fuel is virtually free, and the homes breathe fresh.  This community will be the first of its kind in the Midwest and one of the first in the nation.  As such, it has enthusiastic support from a number of influential quarters.

The Missouri Association of Realtors has endorsed the idea of a state “greenfield” tax credit, now being authored by Senator Jeff Smith.  Politicians, architects, the DNR–all are interested in pushing this concept because it is one area where Missouri will, for a change, be first instead of 49th.

One small, but telling indicator of the interest this project is generating is that the MLS, the website prospective homeowners can use to search for properties, is about to add a new button–a green button.  In addition to searching by price range or number of bedrooms, buyers will now be able to search for green homes.

Trout feels that this community will set a standard which buyers will quickly demand in new homes.  The tax credit, which will be capped at a low amount, will speed up the process of making such homes a reality.  He feels that in three years, anyone building a house worth more than $150,000 will be building it green–that’s with the tax credit to encourage the change.  But even without a tax credit, such change would probably be inevitable.  It would just occur more slowly–in, say, seven or eight years instead.

I often drive down the Innerbelt and see the windmill at the green Alberici building near Page Ave.  Too bad it’s one of a kind, I’ve often thought.  That’s going to change.  Soon.