By Susan Defreitas | 18 January 2011, 19:36 BST
As one of the founders of Community Fuels, the largest biodiesel producer in California, Codding Enterprise's CEO Brad Baker was no stranger to sustainable concepts. Why not apply those principles to the company's real estate holdings in a large-scale, comprehensive way?
Thus was Rohnert Park's Sonoma Mountain Village born: a massive five-year build-out of mixed use residential/commercial space on a 200 acre site formerly occupied by Agilent Technologies.
The development-which will be large scale no doubt - is said to have a unique spin on your typical run-of-the mill "green" development. Sonoma Mountain Village is part of a State of California designated Innovation Hub, with recognitions running from LEED Platinum and LEED for Neighborhood Development to a shout out from no less than the United Nations, which highlighted it and others like it around the world in a recent report on sustainable communities.
To get a handle on what makes this project so exceptional, we chatted with Ryan Sakata, LEED Development Assistant for Sonoma Mountain Village, via e-mail.
EarthTechling (ET): As of 2010, Sonoma Mountain Village (SMV) was one of only four developments worldwide recognized by the World Wildlife Federation/BioRegional One Planet Communities program, and the only one in North America. What is it that makes SMV so different from all the other mixed-use green developments out there?
Ryan Sakata (RS): Sonoma Mountain Village is unique because its plan addresses both the built environment and lifestyle elements of sustainability. Addressing lifestyle choices and providing infrastructure and framework necessary to reduce environmental impacts is a large piece of the Sustainability Action Plan for Sonoma Mountain Village. We plan to provide a lifestyle in which you can truly live, work, and recreate all within the same community, and with a One Planet ecological footprint.
ET: How does the "5-Minute Lifestyle" promoted by Sonoma Mountain Village (SMV) play into its position as a member of the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program?
RS: The "5-Minute Lifestyle" is synergistic in a variety of ways with the LEED-ND Pilot rating system. For example, LEED-ND offers credit for design features such as walkable streets, proximity to daily goods and services, and also access to active and public spaces.
The "5-minute Lifestyle" is a reference point to which we can design and facilitate a pedestrian-oriented environment that promotes walkability, integrated building design, and provides human-scale environments rather than auto-oriented environments.
ET: Tell us about the Rohnert Park Tech Cluster. How does it affect the economics and lifestyle of SMV?
RS: The Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster (SMBC) at Sonoma Mountain Village is the North Bay's first business incubator. SMBC assists and accelerates entrepreneurs and startup companies in achieving success. SMBC leases "plug & play" office space to entrepreneurs that allows them to concentrate on their business. The SMBC saves $5,000 - $10,000 in up front startup costs.
The SMBC is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization. The mission of the organization is to create high value jobs by enabling and accelerating the success of technology startups and emerging growth companies.
The focus is on technology companies in the areas of Sustainable Resources and Socially Relevant Technologies. Its goals are to assist more than 100 startups and create more than 2000 jobs. Companies participating in a business incubation program drastically increase their chances of success.
Eighty percent (80%) of businesses graduating from an incubator program are still successfully in business 5 years later. This compares with less than a 20% startup success rate for startups that go it on their own.
The SMBC serves as a catalyst for economic development within Sonoma Mountain Village and the City of Rohnert Park. The facility will spur new start up companies into the local economy along with new residents for Sonoma Mountain Village and the City of Rohnert Park.
The facility is also working with local organizations and institutions such as Sonoma State University and the Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce to provide synergic opportunities that benefit the entire city.
ET: What are some of the challenges involved in redeveloping a former factory site, rather than developing on greenfields? What are some of the advantages?
RS: Redevelopment poses a unique set of challenges based on the site selection for the project. One of the challenges we are overcoming are the "fixed" operating costs associated with this campus.
As we are able to lease more available space to tenants looking to align their company goals and practices with that of Sonoma Mountain Village, we are able to drive down the "fixed" costs of operation for the campus.
With this particular site we were very fortunate to have high quality infrastructure in place at the time of purchase. The former owner (Agilent Technologies) invested substantially in the infrastructure of this campus and that played a role in the decision to purchase and redevelop the property.
ET: How have the principles of New Urbanism been applied to SMV?
RS: Sonoma Mountain Village is a new urbanist community designed to provide true environmental sustainability and everyday livability for its residents. This is apparent in nearly every facet of design of Sonoma Mountain Village.
The street grid network reduces congestion while promoting greater circulation and accessibility. The diverse mix of housing and building types provide opportunities for a wider demographic and diversity of residents and businesses.
The architecture and density of the project promote a more compact urban form which is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and more environmentally friendly. Above all, Sonoma Mountain Village offers a high quality of life that is truly sustainable.
Source: Earth Techling