Martha Stewart Homes: Eco-Friendly or Eco-Fraud?

martha stewartMartha Stewart, who is putting her stamp on a new green home community outside of Windermere, Fla., unveiled a 2,669-square-foot, single-level show home last week at the International Builders Show in Orlando.

Dubbed the KB Home GreenHouse: An Idea Home Created with Martha Stewart, it is the Los Angeles-based builder's first net-zero energy home, meaning it is intended to produce more energy than it consumes over the span of a year.

All in all, the show home has about $70,000 in upgrades, which leaves some critics questioning whether or not middle America will be able to afford to go so green. "[A]ll those great energy-saving options are just expensive add-ons," sneered, "making the whole exercise something of a bait-and-switch."

However, some builders, including smaller boutique builders, believe there is a big population of potential homebuyers out there who will take the bait, and pay extra for a good-quality, green home. Steve Glenn, CEO at Santa Monica-based LivingHomes, told AOL Real Estate that some people who shop at Whole
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Foods, drive a Prius, use Apple products, et cetera, "settle" when it comes to where they live, because there aren't choices in the market place that coincide with what they value -- a modern design with a lower environmental impact.

Pictured below, the show home, with a $380,000 price tag, is wired to the gills. It has speakers that can pipe music throughout the home, and there's programmable lighting, a remote-control security system with cameras in every room and outside, and there's an electric car-charger system in the two-car garage.

There's also an 8.5-kilowatt solar power system and a computer system tracking real-time energy usage and its cost per hour. And don't forget the compost bin in the kitchen island and the low-emission paints -- Martha Stewart brand, of course.

"With an established track record of building all ENERGY STAR homes in our new communities, we took this opportunity to go above and beyond and built a net-zero energy home that incorporates new ideas and technologies," said KB Home president and CEO Jeffrey Mezger, pictured above with Stewart.

Mezger told the Wall Street Journal, "By bringing some attention to [green building], we think that these things will become more affordable in the future." New home builders, he added, have an advantage over sellers of existing homes when marketing to environmentally conscious buyers, because it is far more expensive to retro-fit an older home with green features than to build green from scratch.

"We were happy to be a part of this project with KB Home," said Martha Stewart in a press release. "It allowed us to build on our already successful partnership by creating the ultimate 'green' home that is not only environmentally friendly, but also beautiful, functional and affordable."

Affordable for some, but perhaps not for enough.

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