My first visit to Palmetto Bluff served up amazing views and good food, but it was mostly the opportunity to get behind those gates and see what the hell was going on behind them that enticed me. The extremely subtle signage and rumor that last year’s Oscar attendees received a weekend visit in their luxurious gift bags added even more interest. Finding out that Auberge Resorts was behind this Lowcountry treasure was icing on the cake. But the piece de resistance is this: Palmetto Bluff is a leader in sustainable and green building practices, as evidenced by their work with Southface and gracious hosting of the Lowcountry’s first Earth Craft House training seminar, which I had the pleasure of attending last Wednesday.
Let us start at the beginning. Palmetto Bluff is owned and developed by Crescent Resources, a division of Duke Energy. From the Palmetto Bluff website comes the vision of Crescent Resources’ philosophy:
By allowing the land to guide us rather then imposing a “developer template”, we have crafted a plan that respects its physical form — the topography, the wetlands, the diverse maritime forest and the miles of undulating marsh and river edge. This vision of Palmetto Bluff as a place, rather than a project, is a more challenging path. It requires that we remain authentic. That we un-learn much of what the last thirty-five years of development in this region has taught.
Palmetto Bluff is working to qualify each home in its community as an Earth Craft House. The philosophy behind the Earth Craft House is simple and feasible. The concept deals mostly with the process and materials used to build a home, creating a process that is efficient and smart, with the environment as its guide. Points are given within each major category in order to certify each home as an Earth Craft Home. The program is completely felxible and works with each builder to develop their “sustainibility quotient,” with Southface acting as a consultant with each build.
Common sense strategies are part of the point system, like having a central cutting site, which enables the builders to recycle perfectly useable wood throughout the project. More technical aspects, like the building envelope and correct and adequate ventilation, add not only to the homeowner’s improved indoor air quality, but a more efficient, and therefore more affordable, home.
One needn’t be purchasing in the exclusive enclaves of Palmetto Bluff to enjoy what is now the luxury of well-built, healthy homes, but it seems it takes these artisans of the building industry to take this painfully obvious next step within our built environment. Working against this natural progression towards a better and more profitable building process will force the cut and paste schlock of unconscious production builders to their inevitable extinction.