Anyone who values farm-to-table or drives a Tesla is just as likely to appreciate organic cotton sheets, energy-efficient refrigerators, and houses made of reclaimed timber or local stone. But the complexities of sustainable design can make building or furnishing an eco-friendly home sufficiently mind-numbing to deter even the most avid environmentalist from taking on the task. Yet if a handful of new developments in South Florida are any indication, green design promises to become an integral part of a new generation of condominiums and single-family homes, making eco-conscious living the next wave in an ever-expanding green revolution seeping into every aspect of our lives.
And why not? Situated as close as they are to coastal waters, residents of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and other South Florida communities are especially attuned to the challenges that rising sea levels bring. So taking steps to live in ways that reduce carbon footprints and limit impact on the environment makes good sense. Whether the impetus for the movement comes from the grassroots up or the top down, an emphasis on environmentally conscious design is not only eminently practical, but—with a growing band of artists, furniture designers, and architects producing green products and residences—it’s becoming de rigueur among the style set, too. And thanks to higher standards in manufacturing techniques and stricter governmental regulations on everything from emissions to energy efficiency to water conservation, cultivating an eco-friendly home has also never been easier.
Among those spearheading current efforts to design sustainable residential projects in South Florida is Miami-based international architect Chad Oppenheim, whose firm is designing not just sustainable buildings but a whole new sustainable community called Metropica in Sunrise, where he says the nearby Sawgrass Mills mall attracts more people than the entire city of Rio de Janeiro each year. “Since it ranks as one of the top places in visitation in the world, the developer saw an opportunity to create an urban center that would feed off the activity of the mall and provide people with a nearby place to live, work, and play,” says Oppenheim. “The core idea of our project was to create an incredible natural oasis, like Central Park [in New York], lined with buildings and interactive sculptural components and play areas to fill the missing gap of accessible gardens and parks in this area.”
Metropica’s ultra-energy-efficient structures were also designed to include other eco-friendly features, such as a gray-water recycling system, a rain water collection tank for irrigation, and deep terraces and trellis systems to encourage residents to cultivate their own gardens. “Creating density here in a community that allows you to go to the office or go grocery shopping without getting into a car allows for the same kind of carbon offset you’d find in urban areas,” says the architect, who is also collaborating with local developer Jacob Abramson of Golden Properties in Miami to create a collection of environmentally conscious single-family luxury homes in Golden Beach.
“A home should only be described as a luxury home if it entails green aspects as standard,” says Abramson, who is incorporating elements like solar roof tiles, heat-resistant paint, and water purification systems in his ultra-high-end homes and regularly attends green building workshops with his team to stay ahead of the sustainable building curve.
Residential projects like these and others, such as the recently completed 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach or the Oceana condominium now under construction in Bal Harbour, merge high-minded sustainable design ideas with high style, making green dwellings as easy on the eye as they are on the planet. They also make green living easier to embrace by ordinary people, who may be able to whip up an organic quiche by themselves but generally must rely on the help of experts to create eco-minded homes or interiors.
“Some eco-friendly buildings can feel cold, but we wanted to really bring the sustainable design to life with spaces that would make you live, breathe, and feel nature the minute you walk in the door,” says Liubasha Rose, vice president of design for Starwood Capital Group, developer of 1 Hotel & Homes. “Instead of slick, typical high-end Miami interiors, we wanted the property to feel very ‘beach house,’ with oyster shell and sand tones, but at the same time, in trying to nail the vibe, we didn’t want it to look too rustic.”
Working with the New York City–based Meyer Davis Studio, Starwood crafted artful compositions in public spaces with natural materials like reclaimed Javanese teak root, bleached walnut, mushroom wood, and spalted maple to form layered backdrops for low-slung linen-covered sofas, leather sling chairs, and driftwood side tables, creating an atmosphere that blends the Zen refinement of a Japanese tea house with a relaxed, beachy air. The furniture-and-finishes package for the interiors of the residences here—designed by Brazilian designer Debora Aguiar—extend the dreamy, nature-infused spirit of the public spaces with wool sisal-look rugs, rough-hewn white oak or wood-grained porcelain tile floors, reclaimed wood tables, and sofas and chairs—some from Artefacto—upholstered in cotton and linen.
In addition to tactile materials and inspired furnishings, new eco-conscious dwellings also often include thoughtful landscape features that reinforce the connection with nature. “We are embracing a native landscape by Enzo Enea that is accustomed to growing in the South Florida heat and uses 75 percent less water for irrigation than other types of plants,” says Marcos Corti, CEO of Consultatio, the developer working with the Miami-based international architecture firm Arquitectonica on the exceptionally beautiful architecture of the Oceana Bal Harbour condominium and with Italian architect Piero Lissoni on its interiors. “The low-e glass wrapping the building not only limits heat transmission inside but also buffers sound while bringing in ocean views and reinforcing the sense you’re living with Mother Nature.”
Just as ready-made eco-friendly residences take the heavy lifting out of creating a sustainable home for the consumer, enhanced manufacturing standards now make decorating them with sustainable furniture and finishes simpler, too. “Going green is easier now because over the years, society, the government entities that look to protect us, and manufacturers are getting better at it,” says Michael Wolk, an industrial and interior designer with Wolk Design in Wynwood. “Products and appliances are becoming more eco-friendly not so much from demand but to meet stricter government standards. So today when you go to the store, you’ll get an energy-efficient refrigerator not because you’re a founder of Earth Day, but because that’s where the industry has gone.”
“There’s a big emphasis among smaller hands-on makers to make interesting products using repurposed industrial or cast-off elements,” says Nisi Berryman, a designer and owner of Niba Home, a fine-furnishings boutique in the Design District. Berryman represents eco-friendly product designers and makers like Remains Lighting, which produces fixtures in a LEED-certified facility in Brooklyn, and Luis Pons, a local designer who makes mirrored glass pieces for Berryman in Miami. The icing on the cake of the green design trend, consciously curated furnishings and objects like these also make it easier than ever to go green in style. Says Berryman, “These kinds of products not only invigorate the community, but really resonate with our clients.”