Eco Consulting: sustainability & practicality

For home owners who want to live off the grid by using solar panels, that’s great. If they want to have a tankless hot water heater and geothermal heating and cooling, that’s great too. But, if home owners want to have an overall holistic design that functions, allows them to live well and provides a healthy home, they might want to start at the beginning. That’s where Element, and the new extension of services at Eco Consulting, comes in.

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: Doug Warner, left, and Matthew Peterson, right, are co-principals in Eco Consulting, a new ‘green’ arm of the Element land-planning and engineering firm.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
Doug Warner, left, and Matthew Peterson, right, are co-principals in Eco Consulting, a new ‘green’ arm of the Element land-planning and engineering firm.

“Conservation is conservation. Always, our philosophy has been to design and engineer towards sustainability and practicality,” said Matthew Peterson, principal of Element. “And there’s a lot of ways to do that. We do a lot of different things, from aerial photography for a developer to working with a single homeowner who has a 2 acre lot they want to subdivide.”

There are basically five stages of a project at which Eco Consulting can be of help to property owners and their plans for a sustainable “green” project.

They can help in locating a site that will be beneficial for specific needs. If property owners already have a plan, they can look it over and assist them with making it the most sustainable project it can be. They can help evaluate preliminary or final plans to make them more marketable. They can do architectural design of the actual house for maximum energy efficiency. And they can help with what they call the “exotics,” or the practical building assessment; solar panels, tankless water heaters, geothermal heating, windmills and more.

Element works with people on an individual basis and describe their customer as “atypical.”

“One day we’ll be doing land planning or engineering for a big commercial project and the next we’ll be working for a mom-and-pop sheep farmer,” said Doug Warner, co-principal of Element. “We have an actual sheep farmer that we have been working with.”

Sheep farmer or not, sustainability and eco-friendly building is becoming more and more popular and accepted. Element wants to be able to help all types of people realize the triple bottom line of environmentally friendliness. They want to help real estate agents drive it home to potential buyers as a perk and to sellers a potential marketing tool. They want to educate developers, builders and single-family homeowners alike that they can have sustainable, practical living with a little planning.

“We are not in the solar panel installation business or the windmill business,” said Warner. “We just want to educate people. We want to let them know about tax incentives and rebates, the marketing value to sustainable projects and to let people know that smart things can be affordable — to really drive home the triple bottom line — there is first the actual environmental effect, second, the social aspect or the ‘feel-good’ aspect of having something such as solar panels, or living in a community where the developer installed geothermal systems, and third, the financial savings one might receive because of their lessening dependence on the electric company for their utilities for example.”

“People can control their mortgage. They can lock in a rate,” added Peterson. “But they can’t control their utilities, and it is something we all need. So, someone coming here and living on a fixed income should look at the triple bottom line of investing in a home that is going to save you money or even pay you back at the end of the year.”

“Since coming here, we have learned a lot about how things work and have gained allies in the people at DNREC and Sussex Conservation. Instead of showing up and submitting a plan, fixing it and going back and showing them again, we decided to show up and say ‘Hey, can you look at something different?’” said Peterson.

“And they are saying, ‘Yeah, that’s great and we have a 100 ways to help you do that,’ interjected Warner.

“They are really getting on board and it’s so much better to incorporate them from the start of the project,” Peterson continued. “It really has turned into a pleasurable experience and allowed us to take design to a whole other level.”

“We just want people to know they have options,” said Peterson. Whereas somebody might think they have two or three options, we might show them they really have nine or 10, and those options aren’t going to dramatically change pricing and, in some cases, can actually save them money overall.”

Added Warner, “We might be working with a developer who wants to build a multi-family site and suggest that they look at an existing shopping center that isn’t being used anymore. Just in digging up all that asphalt and using the existing infrastructure, they have created a more sustainable project. And little or no cost was added to the project.”

After having worked with some East Coast companies, Peterson moved to Delaware from Dallas and started a design firm, and Douglas was quickly brought on. Together with their team of 15 highly skilled staff from all over the country, they have been operating as Element since 2004. Being land planners, engineers and architects from all over the country has given them the opportunity to bring that knowledge to developers, builders, Realtors and homeowners alike as they launch their new service, Eco Consulting.

“I’m from Dallas,” explained Peterson, “And Doug’s lived and worked in New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. And when we first started, we moved a lot of our people here because it helps to have people who look at things from a different perspective. We have people from Rhode Island, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan. We have an interesting mix of people who have different opinions and a lot of different architectural styles and design tastes and they get to apply it here. We’re just the lucky guys that get the privilege of being the front-men to this great team.”

Things in the mix for Element and Eco Consulting include more outreach and promotional marketing. They will be attending the Delaware Great Green Expo on March 29 in Wilmington at the Riverfront, and plan on doing something big for Earth Day. For more information on Eco-Consulting, no matter the stage or size of the project,
call (302) 645-0777 or visit online.