Happy, Healthy, Harmony and Holistic New Year to you and your family. Starting in 2017 a new standard and strategy for the Great NEWS blog will begin to evolve. While we will continue to focus on great nutrition, emotions, wellness and success solutions, strategies, suggestions and systems we will also direct a significant amount of energy, money, resources and time documenting, researching, traveling, videoing and writing about our newest passion project which is an eco conscious community evolving in beautiful Belize.
This blog starts with an observation that will lead to an obvious conclusion for me to stop focusing on the problems and start focusing on eco conscious solutions. This blog will help set the stage by addressing the common community issues many people face now and then move towards what we would like our communities to be like.
How Eco Conscious is Your Master Planned Community?
Most communities in the US today do not really have a long term master plan that fully focuses on our habitat carbon footprint, durability, ecology, efficiency, environment protection, long term costs, maintainability, recycling, security, sustainability, water footprint, water pollution & protection and black and grey waste water treatment. Rather than looking long term at what is best for homeowners the developer and home contractors build and design the community seeking to maximize profit for the least expenditure today knowing the homeowners will bear the full burden and costs in the future.
Most Master Planned Community (MPC) in the US look good on paper and launch with big expectations, hopes and promises. Most developers want to create the illusion of grandeur and massive value when often their hidden agenda is implementing the cheapest amenities, homes, infrastructure and landscaping possible today knowing that after they sell out and leave the new home owners will be responsible for all the costs, headaches, maintenance and problems later.
After residing in First Colony for 25 years most the shiny penny has dulled and been replaced by disappointment, financial burdens, frustration and setbacks. While this community was promoted as a state of the art Master Planned Community by the developer Gerald D Hines Interests it is now obvioushad there are many gaps and holes in their plan. The one shining star in their development has been the land plan for dealing with drainage, levy system and rain water run off. We have never had any serious flooding in First Colony unlike many others in the Houston area. Landscaping has been one of the biggest short falls along with problematic curbs, driveways, streets, sidewalks and traffic flow near schools.
First Colony Master Planned Community Cons
The architects created fancy blueprints and floor plans for elaborate and expensive houses built for exterior and interior looks rather than long term energy efficiency, functionality and sustainability. They focus on pretty facades and inefficient layouts rather than cost and energy efficient home designs. They do not seem to care if the hot water that will run through the big rain shower head in the big shower that can hold 6 people has to run 30 feet from the hot water heater that runs on fossil fuel energy 24 hours a day and wastes many gallons of clean drinking water. They come up with lots of cute and dreamy ideas like arched windows, round windows and window seats that turn out to be energy and maintenance nightmares.
One of my window seats took 3 repairs to finally fix the wood damage that occurred over time after the 10 year home owner warranty expired. Another one of my windows is actually a ridiculous non opening octagon shape. Another giant glass window over the entrance is so big and oddly shaped window experts said it would cost 5 to 8 times the normal cost to replace it with a new custom energy efficient one. A custom bathroom window costed me 6 times the normal cost due to the foolish custom design. Standardized size windows throughout the house would have saved me a fortune in unnecessary additional costs. Even with minimal window openings of our windows many are having problems with the internal spring system that keeps the window functioning to open and close. Windows in the EU often are much better designed for multiple opening options and long term durability.
Architects seem to like lots of angles, curves and pitches to the roof and wall design which are a nightmare for the contractor to build and then become a nightmare for the homeowner to maintain. They also like big driveways and garages to house 2 or 3 cars. Many driveways and patios have had to be replaced due to poor construction.
Builders install fancy looking green grass yards, luscious landscaping and trees that are expensive to maintain and labor intensive. They may look pretty but serve minimal practical functionality and are more susceptible to disease, drought and pests. This results in the need for excessive chemicals, fertilizers, maintenance and watering. The builders had trees often planted too close to the house and grow too big and the branches and roots do damage to the house. The developer had many live oak trees planted to close to the street and had to be butchered by tree trimmers to cut branches interfering with vehicles in the street. We are in the process of paying millions of dollars for tree trimming and removal.
Developers love plans and plants for looks rather than long term functionality and sustainability. Our common areas and green spaces were made to look fancy but have turned ugly and unsafe. The curving concrete sidewalks are breaking and shifting causing dangerous walk ways. Poorly designed landscaping has resulted in tree roots damaging curbs, driveways and sidewalks costing millions of dollars in replacements. The original creeks and drainage was converted into green belts which are now subject to excessive use of chemicals, fertilizers, herbicides, maintenance, mowing and watering and cost millions a year to maintain and mow.
Many builders and developers are comical, complacent or criminal in their lack of planning and preparation when it comes to 100 year cycles for drainage, drought, fire protection, rain, run off, storms and fresh and waste water. There systems may or likely may not factor in surrounding neighbors and other nearby land projects. While most high end homes have adequate rain gutters many homes have limited or none. Most homes have no rain catchment and collection systems so heavy rain runoff can be potentially dangerous and problematic. Then when rain is scarce the green areas need the frequent use of sprinklers and watering in the dry season. The excess fertilizing and watering causes the grass to grow more and need mowing. Poorly planned, planted and selected trees either do not do well or they live a long time and get big and burdensome. Our developer used large numbers of ornamental pears which are susceptible to disease and winds and have a shorter (20 to 25 year) life span. The trimming, removal and replacement is costing millions of HOA dollars. They also allowed live oaks to be planted too close to curbs, driveways, roads, sidewalks and streets which are now a multi million dollar problem. These trees can live to be 200 years old so the problems will likely get much worse over time. This means more money will be wasted to fix the developers stupid miscalculations and mistakes.
Many developers love to use fancy water features and fountains that require excess amounts of clean water, electricity and maintenance. They build big community pools that use massive amounts of toxic chemicals like chlorine, fluoride and others. While a community pool is better option they could be building salt water pools with minimal chemical treatments. Many builders and developers promote big private swimming pools that use massive amounts of toxic chemicals. Some day soon private pools could be subject to a luxury tax to help compensate for the negative environmental impact. Our community had traditional chlorine pools and when it came time to replace them they elected not to upgrade to salt water pools and instead redid the pools as chemical and chlorine health hazards. They said it was too expensive to change to a more eco friendly one and not worth the benefits.
Deed restrictions on roofing, sidings, windows and yards are often silly, short sided and slanted for curb appeal rather than being more affordable and energy efficiency long term. Developers should be held accountable long term for the decisions they make that affect home owners rather than being rewarded for short cut and short term decisions that end up promoting problems down the road. Their decisions are now preventing us from easily updating and upgrading our home windows due to a restriction calling for “divided light window panes” which makes windows much harder and more expensive to replace.
There are also restrictions against growing food forests, permaculture plants and victory gardens in your front yard, Instead they want you to have grass to fertilize, mow and water.
Suburban developers love to sell bigger and more expensive lots that result in more expensive houses and urban sprawl. Even though this makes the neighborhoods more dependent on excessive concrete curbs, drains, sidewalks, streets and structures. More land is removed from natural eco systems and causes water runoff problems. Excessive concrete, sidewalks and streets reduce water absorption and increase cost and reduce water retention. Residents must drive further to community centers, entertainment, food, market, shops and stores. Many builders still put a private mail box on each lot rather than a more central community mail center with a small park and some benches where people could congregate and connect.
Most builders and developers do not think about excessive electricity usage, light pollution and maintenance costs they are generating. They love to put their ego out there with the baddest, biggest and boldest visual affect regardless of the long term consequences and costs to the economy, eco system or environmental impact.
They create a system that then requires excessive use of coal, fossil fuels, heating oils and natural gas to cool, heat and operate our homes.
Most modern homes are built with significant amounts of fired bricks, caulks, cement, chemicals, composite shingles, foam, glues, lacquers, microwaves, paints, particle board, pesticides, plastics, polystyrene, synthetic compounds, stains, Styrofoam, treated lumber, varnishes, Volatile Organic Compounds and wires which are known healthy for us and the environment. Many homes have external and internal water leaks within a relatively short period of time which often results in massive mildew and mold problems. Many builders are still using outdated flush toilets that waste excessive amounts of water.
Most builders and developers fail to offer real eco friendly and green building choices and design options. Basic energy saving features like on demand water heater, solar panels and solar water heater options. Even if you wanted to add them later on they may be against your deed restrictions and not be compatible with the home design. It appears the developers and builders have their heads in the sand and do not really care that construction is a major factor in fossil fuels usage long term. Construction contributes more than transportation to excess costs and fossil fuel pollution and is a key potential area to make a massive contribution to conserve energy and resources for the future?
Residents end up sharing high Home Owner Association (HOA) fees and maintenance costs. Residents pay high property and school taxes. High school taxes continue even after your children are long gone. The Sweetwater golf course in First Colony requires significant chemicals, fees, fertilizers, land clearing, landscaping and maintenance.
Another concern for many people these days is there are seldom any real restrictions protecting residents against EMF exposure from cell phone towers, high power lines, smart meters and wifi routers. While this may not have been a concern when this community was started over 25 years ago it is a real concern these days and does not seem to receive much attention.
While there are many other areas of concern it is obvious there must be better ways to build master planned communities so they deliver better reliability, quality of life, sustainability and value for homeowners.
We intuitively understand that better behaviors, beliefs, decisions and habits lead to better health of people and the planet. Are you ready to start doing more of the Helpful Stuff and stop the Harmful Stuff?
Thanks for all you are doing to consciously contribute to better eco communities and reduce our carbon and water footprint.
The Healthy Habitat posts are dedicated to sharing simple steps for our communities sustainable health and well being. Unhealthy habitat exposes our body, mind and spirit are being exposed to a harmful environment which is causing damage, degradation and destruction. These simple suggestions will help stop the damage to our environment and start defending our body, mind and spirit against the hazards we are constantly exposed to. This Code of Conduct for Healthy Habitat will transform our life when we decide to implement the simple strategies and suggestions.
Where is a current Gap?
What behavior and beliefs regarding our habitat is harming the health of people and the planet? What can you do to begin making changes that will help protect our health and that of the planet? Our body and our planet is the only home we have. Our habits and habitat determines our current and future health. What are you doing to create a code of conduct for better behaviors, beliefs and healthy habitat? How can you begin to protect your self and the planet from damage, degradation and destruction? Are you ready to do your part?
Mastery Action Plan (MAP)
It is well documented that better beliefs and behaviors are essential for maintaining our global habitat and well being. A wealth of wisdom is on the internet educating us to the hazards in our habitat and homes. What small steps will you take to make your habitat healthier? We must invest the energy, money and time to put the people and planet first with a code of conduct and mastery action plan for a healthy habitat. Are you committed to do your part for rapid results?
Call to Action
What comments, commitments or concerns come to mind regarding how to stop creating unhealthy habitats and starting creating healthier habitat to refresh, renew, restore and revitalize our planet? What are you ready to do to consciously reduce our carbon footprint?
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Healthy Habitat in 2017