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Sustainable living isn’t just a luxury — it’s become a necessity. Sustainable features are often touted as being revolutionary or cutting-edge, and while this may be true in some cases, I have long noticed that there are some core features that continue to deliver long-term value when it comes to sustainability.
Here are three in particular that seem to be favored by designers, architects, and developers when building sustainable homes:
- Photovoltaic (PV) panels and arrays
- High-quality external thermal insulation
- Air exchange and renewal systems
None of these are new technologies necessarily — however, they have notably improved over the last decade. In the past, their function was usually prioritized over form, and while they were appreciated for their utility, they were aesthetically lacking. But technological advances have changed this, and today, form and function have melded to produce homes that are beautiful because of their sustainable features. Now, buyers can live more autonomously without sacrificing the luxury amenities they desire.
1. The enduring enthusiasm for solar panels
PV cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity; several cells form a solar panel, and several panels form a solar array. Over the last twenty years, these installations have stood out as one of the most iconic symbols of the environmental movement — and one of the most effective and impactful ways to harness clean energy.
For the world’s finest sustainable homes, solar panels not only complement the ambiance of the property, but they also fuel other eco-friendly features. That’s the case for Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty’s Stephanie Lamarre. The PV arrays are optimally placed on the expansive grounds to capture as much sunlight as possible, and supply power to the entire home — including the EV charging stations.
2. Eco-friendly thermal insulation is essential
Less recognizable than solar panels but no less important, insulation on the exterior of the home keeps the interiors climate-controlled in all seasons.
Passive heating and cooling can certainly be achieved through the strategic placement of shading and windows and is an environmentally conscious strategy for keeping temperatures comfortable. But it’s those intentional choices made during the construction process — such as sealing seams with urethane tape, adding spray-applied fiberglass insulation, and cladding with element-resistant shingles — that help turn the home into a self-contained, environmentally friendly haven.
A great example of this is these brand new developments being built on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, represented by my colleague Middleton Rutledge with Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty. No-maintenance NuCedar shingles, UV-reflective aluminum roofs, and closed-cell foam insulation take these properties to the next level in terms of green living — as does the fact that they’re warmed and cooled with geothermal power.
3. A focus on the purity and quality of the air
This might not be top of mind for all prospective homebuyers, but it’s something agents should be aware of and point out to their clients: any well-insulated building also needs exceptional airflow. This keeps stale, moist, or contaminated air moving out of the home and prevents the accumulation of mold and mildew. This is why a robust air renewal system, like an exchanger, is another highly desirable sustainable design feature.
One of Sotheby’s International Realty’s current properties — the Las Colinas Golf and Country Club in Costa Blanca, Spain — is a stunning example of how developments that feature modern, design-forward insulation necessitate a strong air renewal system working behind the scenes.
The greatest luxury lifestyles are the greenest
We’re supporting our clients through a moment of pivotal social change, when they not only want to invest in their ideal homes but also want to ensure that those investments can be made with a sense of environmental responsibility and personal pride. Future-proof features that have proven their value over time — such as solar panels, external insulation, and air renewal systems — enable this. Sustainable building will continue providing excellent value for both buyers and sellers in the years ahead.
Stan Ponte is a Senior Global Real Estate Advisor and Associate Broker with Sotheby’s International Realty – East Side Manhattan Brokerage. He was named the #2 agent across all firms in Manhattan by individual sales volume in 2020 according to “The Thousand” list, an annual national ranking by The Wall Street Journal and REAL Trends.
As a realtor in New York City for the past 23 years, Stan’s client list ranges from first-time home buyers to CEOs, philanthropists, hedge fund managers, entertainers and technology thought leaders. Stan’s success as a top performer in New York City’s white glove firms includes two years of management experience at a global real estate firm, where he honed his business development, branding and marketing skills.