How Green is this Green Community?

Photo courtesy of
’2009 Solar Decathlon’
courtesy of ‘Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon’

Today the Washington Post tells the story of the revitalization of St. Charles in southern Maryland as a “green community”, with housing that features low-flow toilets, better insulation, and Energy Star certified appliances, among other things.  Developers call this a test for the commercial viability of green homes in a generally conservative area.

While I’m all for more green features in new homes, this doesn’t sound like the most green way to revitalize a community.  St. Charles is 22 miles from DC with no direct transit access to the city, so any new residents would be driving to jobs, schools, and shopping centers.  A more green alternative would be to focus this new development where the infrastructure already exists, so that residents can live without cars.

Also, this is a revitalization effort that aims to start fresh with new housing in the area– 11,000 new homes on 4,000 undeveloped acres.  Personally, I’d think that retrofitting existing homes with energy-efficient features, building more housing where housing already exists, and preserving that 4,000 acres of open space would be the way to go.  But good for St. Charles in taking this first step towards greening the community.

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at)!

4 thoughts on “How Green is this Green Community?

  1. Well, this is “green” in comparison to the rest of the concrete expanse known as Waldorf. I was down this weekend and saw they put in yet another mall where five years ago there was forest.

  2. But then you would run into the ludicrous opposition to gentrification, “mcmansions”, and historical preservation of buildings that weren’t built to last 50 years.

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  4. This is a very intriguing idea… the WP’s article is quite vague in its generalizations about the “greening” of this community. It seems as if it were written by someone who has no concept of building/real estate or sustainable design. I’ll be interested to see the outcome for this community. It seems like all of the communal living areas which boast eco-friendly developments are sort of flailing around out there not getting the word that they deserve. Maybe this article will inspire interest?