Sharing in the Weekapaug Grove
To Dr. Andrew Saldino, the most practical education is the most
abstract education - learning how to think, discovering what's important.
The former Lees-McRae College philosophy professor encouraged his students to consider problems and how to go about solving them. But, according to Saldino, "That part's easy, compared to figuring out what's important."
Saldino's found something, and he's practicing what he's preached.
It's called Weekapaug Grove, and it's fixing to be one of the greenest subdivisions in Boone.
The name has a twofold meaning. "Weekapaug" is Native American for "edge of the water," and the property is situated near two perennial streams that feed Kraut Creek, of which Saldino's a fan. It also references "Weekapaug Groove," a popular tune from jam stalwarts Phish, of whom Saldino's a phan.
Located on Junaluska Road, within walking distance to downtown Boone and Appalachian State University, Weekapaug Grove, still under construction, doesn't only boast picturesque views of the surrounding mountains, but green building practices that go above and beyond regulation and recommendation.
In developing Weekapaug Grove, Saldino was determined that it meet three criteria for sustainability.
First is the use of permaculture. The site used to be an apple orchard and cherry grove, he said, with mature apple and cherry trees still on the property. As such, one of its defining features is a permaculture landscape design, allowing residents to literally enjoy the fruits of their labors.
"We're creating as much edible landscaping as possible," Saldino said, adding that construction's being conducted around the trees, rather than in place of them, to cultivate such habitats.
Second is solar energy. The lots are drawn to enhance southern exposure for passive solar designed homes. "We can use the sun's energy to heat and cool, and where you live is important to how you live, environmentally speaking," Saldino said.
Third is walkability. Due to Weekapaug Grove's proximity to downtown Boone, residents can walk to and from work or play, reducing the use of fossil fuels.
"There's not a lot of land in Boone, but this meets those criteria," he said of the 10-lot subdivision.
The other elements are green icing on an organic cake. The development boasts four large bioretention areas by way of rain gardens, which will be used to control all storm water runoff, keeping it on premise rather than in the streams.
"The idea is none of the storm water from the site leaves the site, but gets filtered back into the ground, which, eventually, purifies it," Saldino said.
Plus, a 1.4-acre common space features a flat, grassy area, a shared vegetable garden, a shared composting system, a wooded area and a small creek.
Each home must be built to N.C. Healthy Built Home (a third-party environmental certification) or higher, some of which already exceed those specifications.
"It's costly and difficult to do this, because no one's done this before (in Boone)," said Saldino, who admits to receiving a few funny looks from contractors when pitching the job. "But part of it's putting your money where your mouth is. This is only a baby step toward truly sustainable development - a preschooler's step toward it."
His hope is that Weekapaug Grove will push the envelope of sustainable development for a more sustainable future, while also remaining a viable business.
"In other words, as a green developer, there's a fine line to navigate between giving people what they think they want and what our society needs to head in the right direction," Saldino said. "There's only so many people willing to pay for being green. The other hope is ... that a sustainable future is reconcilable with a modern lifestyle, and that's a real question in my head, as to whether that's actually real or not."
With an education in philosophy, it's a question Saldino mulls frequently.
"To me, being ethical is moving from what is the case forward to what ought to be the case," he said.
Saldino's a self-proclaimed "developer by accident," having resigned from his professorship in May 2009 to develop Weekapaug, which he considers a "project of philosophy in action."
He now heads EcoLogic Developments, a company "in pursuit of sustainable living." At Weekapaug, Saldino hopes he found it.
"Two of my favorite courses to teach were logic and environmental ethics," he said. "I felt like we needed a logical land development that was based on a long-term impact of the Earth's resources."
Saldino admits he has no training as a developer, "but I can read, think, and figure it out." He's also contracted who he calls the best of the best when it comes to green development, including designer Adrian Tait with GreenMan Studios and Asheville-based Innova Homes.
Saldino bought the 3.5 acres of land in May 2008, devoting two years of planning and execution to reach its present state - two townhouses and two single-family homes to be completed by the end of July, with six remaining lots.
Weekapaug Grove will host an open house on Saturday, July 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, July 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., showcasing the homes, lots and common space. Participants can also sign up for a $200 raffle.
And why should people visit?
"Who hasn't had a dream of buying a piece of land and finding people you want to live near you?" Saldino said.
Weekapaug Grove is located at 493 Junaluska Road. Heading northbound on King Street, turn right on Water Street and follow signs to the open house.
For more information, visit http://www.ecologicdevelopments.com.