Unlike the obvious sustainable touches throughout the neighborhood, the homes themselves are less identifiably green, with a subtle mix of energy- and water-efficient features alongside the high-end options and amenities Thornton says home buyers in his market demand.

The Colonial-style houses—one- and two-story models ranging from 1,500 to 4,100 square feet—were the first in the state to be certified Gold under the NAHB’s Model Green Home Building Guidelines.

All of the homes start with tight envelopes of 2x6 exterior walls with CertainTeed R-19 fiberglass batt insulation; ceilings feature R-30 fiberglass batts from Owens Corning. Interior walls also are insulated to reduce sound transmission from room to room.

Walls are wrapped with DuPont Tyvek housewrap and all penetrations are foamed with fire-retardant spray. Pipes, including long runs, are wrapped. Duct runs are minimized, sealed, and confined to conditioned space.

Energy Star–rated products are prominent throughout the homes, including Maytag kitchen appliances, Carrier air conditioners, Velux skylights, and Pella windows. All lighting fixtures accept compact fluorescent bulbs, and laundry rooms and bathrooms include occupancy sensors. Rinnai tankless water heaters also are standard, and several buyers also have made use of Frog Mountain solar-powered attic fans.

The development’s first residents already are noticing a significant difference, reporting electric bills 25% to 30% lower than that of similar-sized homes nearby.

In addition, all of the homes are pre-wired for future installation of photovoltaic panels. In anticipation of older homeowners, barrier-free upgrades are available in some of the two-story models, including a framed chase that allows for the addition of an elevator.

Though the first few homes in the community did not undergo HERS testing, Thornton is working with the NAHB-Research Center and the Department of Energy's Building America program on a pilot project that commits Silver Woods to achieving a HERS rating of 70 in all homes. The NAHB-RC will assist Thornton by redrawing plans and reengineering systems to help achieve that goal.

On the exterior, the homes’ standard sod and irrigation package includes native plantings and a satellite-controlled sprinkler system; an on-site nursery will help ensure residents continue to use drought-tolerant plants. Each homeowner receives a guide to native plants along with a manual explaining efficient use of resources in the house.