Pitching boomers housing that is green as their hair goes gray
By Stephanie I. Cohen
Last update: 3:33 p.m. EST Feb. 24, 2008
PRINCETON, N.J. (MarketWatch) -- Shea Homes, one of the nation's largest home builders, believes baby boomers are looking for communities that make an environmental difference.
This month, Shea announced the opening of Victoria Gardens, an "active lifestyle," or retirement, development in Florida sandwiched between Orlando and Daytona Beach. The homes were advertised as having a carbon footprint that is 20% to 30% less than that of a "typical household."
Billed as eco-friendly and energy-wise, the homes feature solar attic fans, green-fiber recycled insulation, motion-sensor triggered lighting, energy-efficient windows and appliances, and garages outfitted with electric-vehicle charging stations. Shea says it has focused on small, incremental green features that will collective add up to energy savings.
Housing developments that target baby boomers may be the next big push for the green housing market and statistics indicate this could be a good marriage. "There is no doubt that the green trend is going to accelerate more and more," said Rick Andreen, president of Shea Homes Active Lifestyle Communities division, in a recent interview.
Victoria Gardens marks Shea's debut in the Florida retirement market though the company is building similar homes in northern and southern California, Arizona, and Washington. The energy-efficient features are considered standard in these homes. Other retirement communities from Texas to Maine are taking similar steps and adding green features to existing homes. An Army retirement community in San Antonio recently announced plans to install solar hot water systems in the community's 180 homes. Sea Coast Management Company, which manages retirement communities in Maine, is offering existing residents incentives to install solar hot water heaters and offering a Toyota Prius and/or a free solar hot water system to new customers purchasing a home.
Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, grew up alongside the environmental movement of the 1960s and '70s. "These guys were at Woodstock," said Matthew Kahn, a professor at UCLA's Institute of the Environment. "This is the birth cohort that was at the environmental movement's summer of love."
In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were approximately 78.2 million baby boomers in America. A December 2007 survey by AARP found that roughly half of all boomers see themselves as environmental stewards, or "green boomers."
Besides being a large swath of the population, boomers are overwhelmingly homeowners. Boomers are also far more affluent than earlier generations of retirees, making it more likely that they will consider paying a premium for environmentally friendly housing features.
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