Site Designleaf imageSugar Creek image caption

Mr. Arendt has designed "conservation subdivisions" for a wide variety of clients in 21 states and five Canadian provinces. His site designs have been featured in publications of the American Planning Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Association of Home Builders, and the National Association of Realtors.

One community in Livingston County, Michigan, which has implemented conservation design over the past decade has protected nearly 2,000 acres through this approach in the course of a single decade, representing a land value of at least $40 million (its protection cost through more conventional means). And Hanover County Virgina has protected more than 5,000 acres in the same manner, representing a savings equivalent of some $100 million.

Mr. Arendt's designs are "twice green" because they succeed both environmentally and economically. One of his recent designs was praised by the Director of Advocacy of the Massachusetts Audubon Society as "one of the most innovative subdivision plans I've seen".

In Tennessee, his re-design saved one developer approximately $212,000 in street construction costs, while at the same time introducing significantly more quality open space into the layout. By respecting natural terrain and designing around existing site features on an 80-lot development in Texas, he recently cut grading costs by 83%, or one quarter-million dollars (from $300,000 to $50,000). Another design is credited by an Indiana developer as having added $20,000 to $25,000 of value to each of his 40 lots (an added value of $800,000 to $1m), while still providing for full development density.

These lots sell well, as evidenced in one of Mr. Arendt's designs in Florida, where 86 of the 87 lots offered in phase one of the Centerville Farms conservation subdivision sold within the first seven hours ( Jon Kohler, my client at Centerville Farms, has written to me that "Many of the people who had come to your talk as concerned citizens and neighbors ended up as buyers. In fact, even the president of the neighboring homeowner association bought two lots. The project is a great success, extremely popular, and exceeds even my highest financial expectations." At Sugar Creek Preserve in Walworth County WI, the developer was able to pre-sell twice the number of lots which he had expected to (

Mr. Arendt works closely with each client, walking the property and taking the measure of its natural features and elements of the historic or cultural landscape. After analyzing both the constraints and the opportunities offered by the site and the client's program for conservation and development, Mr. Arendt prepares a scale drawing showing the location of protected features, houselots, streets, trails, and stormwater management areas. (The latter can usually be incorporated into the neighborhood design as an attractive feature that also serves to recharge local groundwater supplies.)

Although Greener Prospects typically works within the realm of low-density rural/suburban zoning, Mr. Arendt has also designed a number of mixed-use and residential developments within urban service areas, following the principles of the "New Urbanism", with which he is equally at ease. (Please see the "Books/Videos" section of this website for details about Mr. Arendt's latest volume, Crossroads, Hamlet, Village, Town: Design Characteristics of Traditional Neighborhoods, Old and New.)

Selected Design Projects

Links are provided below to ten different conservation subdivisions that I designed, which have been selected to reflect a diverse range of locations, density levels, and price-points, and project sizes.

Note: A list of references, from past developer-clients, is available upon request. Read a reference from Robert G. Brown, owner of RGB Custom Builders. Requires Adobe Reader: Get Adobe Reader

Economic Benefits of Conservation Design

  1. Greater flexibility in lot sizes allows developers to create lots smaller than one acre, for empty-nesters who wish to minimize their routine outdoor maintenance work (mowing lawns, raking leaves, etc.). It also enables developers to take far greater advantage of special places on the property (such as knolls offering views of ponds, meadows, etc.) by siting a larger number of less-wide lots there than would ordinarily be possible.

  2. The ability to divide and sell parts of the protected open space as "conservancy lots" enables them to tap into the higher-end Country Property market, boosting their profit margin and also adding value to all lots in their vicinity.

  3. Reduced site grading costs are another "hidden incentive". One developer in Texas who hired me to redesign his 60-acre subdivision told me that his site grading costs plummeted from $300,000 to $50,000 as a result of my re-design, according to his own engineer's calculation of both layouts. In addition, it enabled 24 of 25 large trees to be preserved in this otherwise open landscape, retaining the value they add to the neighborhood. (The dollar saving is documented in a letter he later sent to me.) He deeply appreciated the quarter-million dollar savings that my conservation design enabled him to achieve.

  4. Reduced street costs are sometimes another benefit. In Pleasant View TN, I recently redesigned an 86-lot subdivision in such a way that I saved the developer $212,000 (by his own calculations), through wiser street layouts involving less street length.

  5. Greater attractiveness, provided by the open space, is another benefit having direct economic value. Another client of mine, in Indiana, told me that my design enabled him to charge $20,000 to $25,000 more per lot, compared with houselots without open space, such as those he had developed the previous year in the same community, for the same upscale market, at the same overall density. On that 40-lot subdivision which I designed, the total added value was therefore between $800,000 and $1,000,000. (This increase in lot value is documented in a letter from him as well.)

  6. Faster absorption rates are another economic advantage created with very significant amount of open space are preserved. One of my current projects in the Tallahassee area ( surprised even my client, who wrote to me several weeks ago to let me know that 86 of the first 87 lots in Phase One had sold out in seven hours flat. Both he and his investors were very impressed, and greatly pleased, with the results. At the Sugar Creek Preserve with 70% open space in Lafayette (Walworth Co.) WI, fully 15 of the 52 lots were pre-sold prior to advertising, double the developer's original projection (see

  7. Research Results: One researcher, who recently studied 184 lots in conservation subdivisions and in conventional subdivisions in South Kingstown, RI , reported the following results:

    • developers' costs were 28% lower ($7400 less, per lot), compared with conventional subdivisions

    • lots in conservation subdivisions commanded a 14% premium (about $15,000 more per lot), compared with conventional developments

    • lots sold 47% more quickly, compared with those in conventional subdivisions

Suggestions for Further Reading

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