Classic design, latest technologies go well together in South Fayette
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Elliot Fabri says home design in many ways is like fashion: Styles disappear and re-emerge, sometimes in a completely new setting.
The home builder's thoughts reflect the work he is doing in the construction of Newbury, a community-in-the-works in South Fayette. He is building homes that are in the arts-and-crafts style so popular in this area in the early 20th century. Yet, they are packed with high-tech and energy-conscious features more a part of the 21st.
The work reflects the blend of old and new that is part of the community as a whole. Brett Malky and his EQA Landmark Communities are trying to create what he calls a home development that looks traditional but is filled with homes bristling with technology.
Malky says he wants to establish a “sense of place” present in older communities such as Mt. Lebanon. But instead of waiting for a neighborhood to emerge because it is at a rail and highway crossroads or the junction of rivers, he is creating one — on a rescued brownfield.
Along with 100 acres of housing and about the same for park and open space, he is setting aside about 90 acres for commercial development. It will have about 200 homes and townhouse units, of which 75 are built and 33 occupied.
Ultimately, it also will have about 250 apartment units.
“We want to create a little town,” Malky says of the $475 million project. “We want to be the next heart of the South Hills.”
Getting that heart pumping is not being left up to chance. It is being planned like a delicate stretch of cardiac care.
Rather than letting home builders compete for buyers, Malky and EQA are working with four that all have roles. They overlap a little, but generally each provides a type of housing with which they are comfortable, he and representatives of the firms agree.
Heartland Homes, one of the area's biggest builders, is constructing single-family homes and four buildings of townhomes, says sales manager Jen Bartos. The single-family homes will range up to 3,500 square feet or more and cost up to $600,000.
At the upper end, Stambrosky Homes will build larger homes that could top $1 million. Meanwhile, S&A Homes will build smaller single-family homes and carriage home duplexes for about $370,000 and $300,000, respectively.
Deklewa Home earlier did 12 similar homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range but is no longer involved in the project, its president, John R. Deklewa, says.
Being brought in for another reason is Fabri's EcoCraft. That company is building single-family homes not far removed in look or size from those built by Heartland or S&A, but they are modular, super-energy-efficient and tech-oriented.
“We did not think of them as offering anything different in design,” Malky says. “They are brought in for technological reasons.”
Their recent addition also is another case of the old becoming new again: Fabri is returning to building modular homes, which he had been doing as CEO of New Era Home Systems in Clarion County. He manufactured more than 12,000 such homes between 1992 and 2005, when he sold it and two other related firms.
Malky says he wanted to offer modular homes because the process is little understood, and his affiliation with Fabri in the past made him the right choice.
“With modular homes, the construction process takes place indoors, where it is dry, warm and controlled,” he says. “Would you want to buy a Mercedes that was put together in the rain and the snow?”
Fabri says that manner of construction fits well with his efforts to provide an energy-conscious, efficient, user-friendly home.
When Malky asked him to return to building, he formed his EcoCraft Homes this year and has put up his first home in Newbury. It is serving as a model home and as a headquarters for sales in the development as well.
The four-bedroom house, which has a finished basement, totals 3,900 square feet and sells for $599,000. It has ultraviolet-reflective windows, every seam is sealed, walls are laden with insulation, and it has a tankless water heater. Plus, because it is so well sealed, it has a heat exchange unit to bring fresh air inside. And it has solar panels,
On a cool, rainy day, the house was operating at a low level but still coming close to generating all the energy it was using, gauges on a laptop showed.
Fabri admits he is offering a high-tech house that might seem like science-fiction to some potential buyers.
“But is it crazy to have a house that is efficient?” he says. “Is it really that crazy to have a house that will be efficient now and into the future?”
He hopes to build about 10 a year in Newbury and is open to building smaller homes, but not less-efficient ones. Solar panels are a gigantic option, of course, but other fuel-saving standards are not, he says.
“If a buyer comes to me and says, ‘I would like to cheapen it down,' I would say, ‘No,' ” he says.
He and other builders feel comfortable with their roles in Newbury.
Chris Sinker, the general manager of the western division of S&A Homes headquartered in Centre County, says he believes having builders work toward a specific task is a “great strategy to work with.”
By focusing on moderate-sized, single-family homes and carriage homes, S&A can work toward its strengths, Sinker says.
Rick Stambrosky, president of that eponymous firm, says design overlap allows clients to investigate “two or three of the builders ... and see what they want to spend.”
He says he likes having a defined role and sees that sales strategy as “working.”
Jen Bartos, a sales manager for Heartland, says she has no trouble dealing with a community in which designs and colors have to be done a certain way.
“People are buying a lifestyle,” she says. “We are trading in what the consumer wants.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.
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