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September 07, 2016

Villanova ranked best neighborhood in the United States for green homes

Older construction materials an advantage in Main Line communities, study finds

Living Green Homes
090816_Greenhome Source /AP

Green homes.

The state of Pennsylvania is famously a portmanteau for "Penn's Woods," a dense wilderness that inspired North America's earliest colonists to commemorate it for the ages. 

Several hundred years later, our civilization is so industrially advanced that it's noteworthy when developed territories stand out for their abundance of Earth-friendly infrastructure.

In its latest annual rankings of the best U.S. neighborhoods for green homes, Redfin identified Villanova as the nation's top location for communities with energy-efficient construction methods. A full 57 percent of properties possessed features that met the study's criteria.

When we crunched the numbers to see which neighborhoods had the most homes with “green” features, we had to do a double-take. Several communities within Philadelphia’s Main Line topped the list, with Villanova coming in first. The Main Line conjures thoughts of sprawling historic estates with “French Countryside” architecture…not exactly hip, modern eco-friendly homes. It turns out that Main Line residents are updating their homes with energy efficiency in mind.

Redfin's rankings were determined by compiling a list of the homes sold in their coverage area during 2015 and tallying those that received distinctions such as "energy star," "LEED," "solar," "green-built" and other designations recognizing efficient design principles.

“Most homes in the Main Line were built before 1965, which means they’re in need of upgrades,” said Blakely Minton, a Redfin real estate agent in Philadelphia. “Over the years homeowners in the area have replaced aging roofs, windows, plumbing, heating and cooling systems with newer, energy-efficient materials and designs. In renovated homes you’ll find ENERGY STAR® appliances in the laundry rooms and kitchens, high-end foam insulation in the walls, double-pane windows, energy-efficient tankless water systems and smart home technology that monitors light and heat use.”

The analysis also found that it pays to make these renovations. Among all homes in the cities Redfin analyzed, those with green features sold for $33,894 more than the median price.

“Green building doesn’t just help lower utility bills, it’s about health too,” said Alex Dews, Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council. “In the last 10 years, people have become more aware of how the materials used in home construction – including the drywall, flooring and paint – can impact interior air quality and health. We spend a lot of our time in our homes, so it’s no surprise that homeowners are prioritizing materials that keep the interior environment as healthy as possible.”

Villanova, Dews said, is a prime candidate for green retrofits because older stone and brick buildings provide a sturdy foundation for efficient remodeling.

Redfin's real estate experts advise Pennsylvania homeowners to take advantage of rebate and energy incentive programs that offer tax credits for residential and commercial property owners.

For residents in the Greater Philadelphia area, the Main Line can serve as a blueprint for improving the quality of homes, reducing costs, increasing value and limiting energy consumption well into the future.

Here are Redfin's top 10 U.S. neighborhoods for green homes:

1. Villanova (Philadelphia, Pa.)

2. Villages of Irvine (Irvine, Calif.)

3. Downtown (Santa Monica, Calif.)

4. Newton Centre (Newton, Mass.)

5. Tremont (Cleveland, Ohio)

6. Terramor Village/Ladera Ranch (Orange County, Calif.)

7. Belltown (Seattle, Wash.)

8. Kerrigan Ranch (Yorba Linda, Calif.)

9. Downtown (Denham, Mass.)

10. Del Sur (San Diego, Calif.)