Developer has eco-friendly plans in mind for subdivision

Developer has eco-friendly plans in mind for subdivision

URBANA – In Debbie Insana's vision of a subdivision, you don't just buy a lot but a way of life.

Insana is the force behind the new Brickhouses Road Subdivision, located about 5 miles northeast of Urbana near Airport and High Cross roads.

This is not a sprawling subdivision. In fact, only seven lots are available at this point, although they are big at approximately 1 acre each. And they are pricey, too, ranging from $120,000 to $140,000.

"We've had people calling. A lot of people are concerned about the price of the lots. They are pricey, but they are 1-acre lots and this will be an upscale subdivision," says Insana, who is working with Realtor Barb Gallivan of Keller Williams Realty.

Brickhouses Road Subdivision, though, will not be a row of McMansions sitting in what was once Big Grove, the 6,400-acre prairie grove that stretched from Urbana to Leverett. A small surviving tract of Big Grove, Brownfield Woods, owned by the University of Illinois, is nearby. And years down the road, when the 1,500 trees that Insana had planted start to mature, the subdivision will have its own prairie grove feel.

The trees will be surrounded by a reconstructed tallgrass prairie. Not only that, but Insana has also installed a wetland (she calls it "a presedimentation pond") and a detention pond with natural landscaping to control runoff.

Insana and her husband, Michael, a professor of bioengineering at the UI, bought the property originally for their own home.

"When we bought this piece of property, we didn't need the whole 24 acres," Insana says. "So we decided to develop the site with nature in mind.

"This is a neighborhood where people will think it's an awesome thing to plant native prairie plants in your yard," she adds.

There is also a reason for the Brickhouses name – all of the homes in the subdivision must be built out of brick. In addition, the homes must have a passive solar design to help with energy efficiency and to meet the subdivision's green theme.

The Insanas, who will build their home on the north end of the subdivision, are also encouraging homeowners to install thin-film solar roof panels. The panels would be installed on top of a metal roof and generate electricity to help lower energy costs. Insana happens to be a dealer for Uni-Solar roof panels.

"The new thin-film solar panels generate more power, produce more electricity than the old solar panels. They go on top of a standing seam metal roof – there are no holes at all. It's a great system," Insana says.

While the solar roof system is expensive, there are state and federal incentives to help lower the cost. The first person to buy a lot and build a home in the subdivision will receive a free solar roof system, according to Insana.

The solar roof system "pays for itself in 24 years and will probably still be producing electricity in 50 years," Insana says.

She has a model plan that shows a two-story brick home with traditional design touches. Insana has been a home designer for 30 years, working mostly part time for small companies.

"People can build almost anything they want. Home designs do have to pass a 'passive solar review panel.' And we do have prototype home models for people to look at. I'll do a modification for free, or people can have our designer-builder do it," she says.

"We're really hoping that people, in the spirit of green building, will build a versatile space that meets different needs – but something not in excess. I'm hoping we don't have anyone building a 6,000-square foot home here."

Insana had some initial problems earlier this year with the Urbana City Council in waiving some of its subdivision requirements (capped sewer lines, road width, sidewalks and other issues), but all those have been resolved, she says.

The lots have septic systems but no sewer lines for future service, the road width is 25 feet instead of the normal 31 feet and sidewalks were deferred on one side and waived on the other.

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