May 10,2016 - Florida Town Will Be Country's Most Sustainable
APR 25, 2016 03:00 PM ET // BY TRACY STAEDTER
In Florida a new development is on track to become the country’s most sustainable community. The Babcock Ranch, on the Gulf side of the state east of Punta Gorda will feature a huge solar farm and public transportation that comes in the form of driverless, electric taxis.
The land for the ranch was purchased nearly a decade ago by Kitson and Partners and since then developers have been working with the state and local utility company to create an infrastructure that supports a sustainable town.
Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson and Partners, told FastCoExist that it was easier to start from scratch when building an energy-efficient town than retrofitting an existing suburb. “How you design your roads — thinking about pedestrian walkways and bike paths, if you’re making it walkable and bikeable and pedestrian-friendly — doing that from the beginning is much easier.”
The town is currently under construction, with each home incorporating the latest technologies to reduce waste and improve the sustainability factor. Graywater recycling will be a standard feature, for example. And tele-health system will make it possible for residents to get medical care for certain illnesses without having to leave the comfort of their living rooms.
The solar farm, which will feature 350,000 panels, will power the entire community with excess energy stored or sold to nearby municipalities. Houses, shops, restaurants, a wellness center, cafe, educational facilities and outdoor outfitters will make it easy for people to get what they need without going too far.
If they do need to get around, though, driverless electric taxis will shuttle them via an Uber-like app.
Florida has already passed legislation that makes autonomous vehicles possible statewide, so if people need to roam outside of the community, they can take a driverless vehicle there.
What’s perhaps the most impressive goal, is that the developers will restore 75 acres of former farmland into a panther habitat. An additional 73,000 acres will also be preserved as a wetland, supporting native birds and plants.
“It can never be touched,” Kitson said. “If you ask me what I’m most proud of, it’s that.”