The Significance of Environmental Sustainability

By Elam Hall, Crescent Communities

Sustainability is a popular catchphrase. But what does it really mean?

At Crescent Communities, sustainability drives everything we do. We define “sustainability” as a focus on the environment, community, health, happiness and economic viability. Every time we begin a project, we look for ways to preserve or maintain land spaces and natural resources, including maximizing trees saved. Ultimately, all of our properties have sustainable features. One such example is Crescent Alexander Village, a new, 320-unit multifamily community in our hometown of Charlotte, N.C., that is both NGBS Green Registered and on track for designation as an Audubon Certified Signature Sanctuary.

This 63-acre, multi-use property is part of the expanding University Research Park that’s home to a major university, many restaurants and shops and 30,000 jobs with some of Charlotte’s top employers. This site represented a prime opportunity to provide much-needed Class A housing within a growth corridor and within biking and walking distance of one of Charlotte’s largest employment centers.

As we built our plans for Crescent Alexander Village, we wanted to pay tribute to the land in its natural state by finding a way to implement existing timber from the property into our construction.

That journey led us to Kyle Edwards and Iron Station, N.C.

Kyle is the owner of The Sawmill, Ltd., located on a North Carolina-designated Century Farm in historic Lincoln County. As we continued to develop our plans, we talked with Kyle about our vision for incorporating timber from the site into the new community, a process called “treecycling.” Treecycling is an alternative option allowing reuse of natural materials on-site versus sending trees to the sawmill or landfill. Working with Kyle, we drew up plans for a Meetinghouse community space that would implement roughhewn lumber milled from the site into the construction of the grand beams in the Meetinghouse. Use of this wood will honor the natural history of the land and create an experience for residents and visitors alike.

When the first residents arrive at our Crescent Alexander Village Meetinghouse in May, they’ll walk through a grand entrance into a two-story great room framed by rich wood paneling and enhanced by a two-sided stone fireplace. But the focal point will be the native white oaks, transformed from the original site into exposed ceiling beams; beautiful in a different way than before, but still there to watch over the land.

Incorporating timber from the land into our communities isn’t something we do every day. But sustainability is no longer an option; the marketplace demands it, and simply put, it’s the right thing to do. The population will continue to increase, and development will continue to occur, because people need places to live. The developers who can balance the needs of a growing populace in a responsible way are the ones who will make us all successful at the end of the day.

Elam Hall is a development manager with Crescent Communities. A graduate of N.C. State University, he earned an M.B.A. with concentrations in real estate and sustainable enterprise from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Hall joined Crescent in 2007.