Case Study Sample
Environmental Case Study Green Community
Seven years ago Verdanz Partners new environmental design consortium received grant money from the Green County Pilot Program in Mallard County Texas to make the Coyote Canyon Development an environmentally friendly community. The goal of this case study is to determine whether or not their efforts were successful. Seven years ago Verdanz Partners new environmental design consortium received grant money from the Green County Pilot Program in Mallard County Texas to make the Coyote Canyon Development an environmentally friendly community. The goal of this case study is to determine whether or not their efforts were successful.
The goals of the Verdanz Partners were to dramatically lower the use of electricity and water and to create renewable energy for the community when possible. To do this Verdanz Partners and the Coyote Canyon developers Dos Hermanas Corporation did the following. Added green roofs to the clubhouse and fitness center to drastically cut heating and cooling costs for these common buildings. Added energy efficient skylights to all communal buildings to cut down on lighting costs at all times of year and heating costs in winter.
Added solar collectors to roofs of all communal buildings to heat water and generate electricity. Added solar heat generation system and ultraviolet cleaning system to the community pool. Replaced all lawns existing or planned with approved xeriscape plantings to cut down on water usage and maintenance costs. Installed solar powered lights in all outdoor fixtures to cut down on electricity usage.
Installed windmill to pump water and installed ultraviolet treatment panels at sewage treatment plant to reduce electricity and chemical usage. Use resulting ‘safe sludge’ to fertilize communal landscaping. Installed two wind generators flanking the cliff at the back of the planned community park to generate electricity for community buildings. This area is consistently windy and the cliff edge is already safety hazard that must be fenced to keep the community safe.
It was anticipated that at many times of year much of the electricity created by these wind generators could be sold back to the utility company for community profit. Added skylights solar panels solar water heaters and solar powered outdoor lights to all houses planned for the community. We’ll examine each of these strategies to see how well they accomplished their objectives. The Coyote Canyon Development is now fully built out and functioning very successfully generating all its own electricity and handling its own sewage.
The only commodity routinely purchased from the county is water and the community uses approximately 25% on average of what similar homes and community facilities elsewhere use. Homes in Coyote Canyon sell for premium price and there’s even waiting list of prospective buyers in the community office. Residents of Coyote Canyon are so enthusiastic about living in an environmentally friendly manner that they have become major force in the county lobbying for more recycling bicycle trails and electric car share programs.
Mallard County is fast becoming one of the ‘greenest’ counties in Texas. Dos Hermanas Corporation in conjunction with Verdanz Partners is planning another similar community miles away. Verdanz Partners has become leader in environmentally friendly design recognized across the United States.
The grant money Verdanz Partners received from the Green County Pilot Program in Mallard County Texas has been paid back many times over in savings to the county in water sewage treatment and electricity generation. The following are interviews conducted with residents of Coyote Canyon Development. The interviewer asked them to comment on what it was like to live in neighborhood that emphasized renewable energy and resource conservation.
Lindsay Brewer – Homeowner for years; lives with husband Michael Black and three children ages and "I believe that this type of neighborhood should be the wave of the future. We pay community dues to maintain the windmills and solar panels and sewage treatment facility but we pay virtually no utility bills—only little bit for water.
It makes me feel good to know we’re teaching our children to live in tune with nature."
Dave Ramiro – Coyote Creek Community Facilities Manager for years "I’ve got pretty easy job. Most times everything works like clockwork—the solar panels the windmills and the pool ultraviolet cleaning system just all do their thing. The only hassles are during periods of extreme temperatures or wild weather conditions.
In really hot weather we’ve got to remember to cover the skylights before midday or the air conditioning cannot keep up and after hail storm all the solar panels need to be checked and on those rare occasions when there’s snow I’ve got to get someone up on the roof to sweep off the panels ASAP. The wind generators get little noisy when it’s really windy—some of the residents that are closest to them complain. And then we had to patch the sod roofs in couple of places. We’re planning to add another layer of sod this summer to get rid of the problem of drying out.
But in general it’s pretty cool and takes care of itself better than most traditional systems I’ve worked with.
I’m proud to live here too."
Felipe Gomez Smith – Homeowner years; lives with wife Susan "My wife and were one of the first people to buy house here and I’ve never been sorry. Love how we can stick it to the utility company and generate our own electricity; have friends who are always complaining how their electrical rates go up every year. The only thing don’t like is all the rocks and bunch grasses and cactus everywhere—it’s kind of monotonous.
Grew up with big lawn so guess miss that. But this is in harmony with the rest of the landscape around here so it’s really more natural. And don’t miss having to mow the lawn that’s for sure.
Around here you just pick up few leaves now and then and that’s pretty much it."
Raven Robertson – Resident years lives with parents Karen Robertson and Richard Robertson
"All the kids from school want to come to my neighborhood because it’s so cool and we’re so green and that’s the way it should be everywhere.
We love hanging out by the wind generators—it’s supposed to be park for everyone but the parents don’t go there."
In general all the environmentally friendly plans implemented in Coyote Canyon worked out well. However there are always things that could have been done better and Verdanz Partners and Dos Hermanas Corporation plan to learn from the following problems experienced at Coyote Canyon. Green roofs must be designed for the most extreme conditions of the local climate.
Coyote Canyon Community Facilities Manager
A four inch thick sod green roof was laid down on community buildings. During the course of the second summer after installation portions of the sod completely dried out and died during drought period. Then in the ensuing rains dirt in these dead patches were washed away effectively leaving ‘holes’ in the green roof that caused uneven heating and cooling in the roof.
We learned that in southern Texas where droughts are frequent green roof must be minimum of six inches thick; eight inches would be even better. Skylights need shades covers in hot climates. Coyote Canyon Community Facilities Manager homeowners Skylights were installed in all buildings and homes in Coyote Canyon to save on electricity used for lighting and for heating in winter.
In general the skylights worked well but in summer months skylights caused buildings to overheat if the sunlight was not blocked before mid day. Skylights with built in light blocking or heavy light filtering shades will be installed in future projects in this area. Pumping water with windmill requires control system in periods of high winds. Coyote Canyon Community Facilities Manager windmill is used to pump water in the Coyote Canyon sewage treatment facility.
In periods of high wind the mill pumped too quickly and would have caused an overflow if the system had not been turned off at times. The Coyote Canyon windmill pumping system is being changed to allow for more recirculation and to automatically shut down when velocities reach certain rate. Better alternative would be some sort of step down system that maintains steady pump rate even when windmill blades are accelerating. Noise from wind generators can be problem.
Coyote Canyon Community Facilities Manager homeowners The wind generators at the back of the Coyote Canyon Development do great job of generating electricity. But in periods of high winds they create whining noise that can be disturbing to nearby residents. The Coyote Canyon Development is planting windbreak of heat resistant evergreen trees that will hopefully provide bit of noise screen for the nearest residents.
Different models of wind generators and other noise amelioration methods will be studied for future projects. Each of Verdanz Partners’ strategies to reduce energy and water usage is examined below. Add green roofs to clubhouse and fitness center to drastically cut heating and cooling costs for these common buildings.
Four inch thick Bermuda grass sod was added to sealed roofs to create ‘green roofs.’ This did cut heating and cooling costs by approximately 45% for these buildings but in some places the sod died over the course of dry summer leaving patches of bare dirt that gradually washed away when the rains returned resulting in need to patch the green roof. Add energy efficient skylights to all communal buildings to cut down on lighting costs at all times of year and heating costs in winter. Skylights cut typical electricity costs by 40% eight months of the year.
During June July August and September though the buildings became too hot and used 10% more electricity for air conditioning until sun blocking shades were added to interior of the skylights. This electricity was not at additional cost though—see next item. Add solar collectors to roofs of all communal buildings to heat water and generate electricity. The solar collectors effectively heated water in dressing rooms and kitchen all year round.
The panels generated sufficient electricity to run all electrical circuits in the buildings. Add solar heat generation system and ultraviolet cleaning system to community pool. The solar heat generation system and ultraviolet cleaning system worked well all year round although during the coldest months cover had to be added to the swimming pool at night to retain sufficient heat.
Replace all lawns existing or planned with approved xeriscape plantings to cut down on water usage and maintenance costs. Lawn watering is not separated from other water usage but average water usage in the Coyote Canyon development is approximately 25% of the average use in Mallard County. Maintenance on common area landscapes is minimal and performed by community volunteers once month.
Install solar powered lights in all outdoor fixtures to cut down on electricity usage. This worked very well providing lighting for all areas after dark without any cost other than the original installation. Install windmill to pump water and add ultraviolet treatment panels at sewage treatment plant to reduce electricity and chemical usage.
Use resulting ‘safe sludge’ to fertilize communal landscaping. This worked as planned although during few periods of high wind the water pumping system had to be disengaged so as not to cause flooding. Transporting the ‘safe sludge’ turned out to be hassle that was not initially scheduled or planned for but is now done twice year by renting equipment and helpers from local landscaping company.
Install two wind generators flanking the cliff at the back of the planned community park to generate electricity for community buildings and hopefully sell electricity back to the utility company for community profit. In combination with solar generators on the roofs of community buildings this worked even better than planned giving Coyote Canyon constant surplus of electricity to sell back to the utility company. Add skylights solar panels solar water heaters and solar powered outdoor lights to all houses planned for the community. The residents of Coyote Canyon all rave about who wonderfully this works.
See the Interviews section of this case study to read their comments.