By Liisa Sullivan

What is a conservation and preservation community? How are these ideas, as well as green building concepts, incorporated into a new home setting, to leave a lesser impact on the land? This article tells the story of one private community in Western North Carolina, Whisper Mountain, that is executing the conservation and preservation philosophy in a myriad of ways.

Asheville, NC is home to some of the most coveted mountain real estate in the southeast region of the United States and has some of the richest biodiversity in the country. The area mixes cosmopolitan flair and outdoor adventure. It provides a wealth of recreational and career opportunities for retirees, young couples, singles and second-home seekers.

As a result, new area developments have worked to create that perfect piece of mountain real estate. One developer in particular, Whisper Mountain, located just outside of Asheville, seems to have perfected this vision. In fact, its concept of “conservation meets preservation” prompted Southern Living Magazine, the premier lifestyle and entertaining magazine of the South, to choose Whisper Mountain’s site for its eco-friendly 2008 Idea House; the first green idea house ever.

Conservation Meets Preservation: What does it mean in mountain real estate?

The words conservation and preservation are often tossed around. While the terms are used to mean the same thing, differences do exist.

Whisper Mountain’s owners, Charlie Ball and his wife Troy, moved to Asheville from Austin, Texas and are not new to creating environments that encompass these philosophies. They have practiced these methods in Texas, Colorado, Montana, Canada and now North Carolina.

Conservation is the sustainable use and management of natural resources including: wildlife, water, air, and earth deposits. In Whisper Mountain’s development, the use of harvested wood, site-cut timber and local stone, all work to conserve natural resources. And, while conservationists accept that development is necessary for a better future, they only support it when the changes take place in ways that are not wasteful.

In contrast to conservation, preservation attempts to maintain in their present condition, areas of the environment that are untouched.

The Whisper Mountain vision of conservation meets preservation is one of modern-day convenience in an environment that is in harmony with nature. Restored structures contribute to the preservationist’s philosophy.

“Through harvesting reusable resources, implementing cutting-edge, green-building techniques, and maintaining large wooded home-sites, I believe we have succeeded in developing a community where conservation truly meets preservation,” Ball, said.

Green Home Building: A Sneak Preview of the Southern Living Idea House

Having respect for environmental preservation and amenities that tread lightly on the land, Southern Living and Whisper Mountain partnered with EcoBuilders, Inc., Asheville’s premier green builder.

The 2008 Southern Living Idea House will be a farmhouse-style home with complementary outbuildings – a “barn” that houses a guest suite and garage, cistern “pump house” and other amenities. The home’s many eco-friendly features will include: solar thermal and solar photovoltaic panels, rain water catchment and gray water system, radiant-heated floor, tankless water heater, use of recycled metal and site-cut timber, native species landscaping, Energy Star appliances and much more.

“We hope that our partnership with EcoBuilders will set the standards for green building across the country,” Ball said.

Rob Moody, President EcoBuilders, explains that the Southern Living Idea House will be a revolutionary home that will minimize environmental impact and maximize comfort and savings.

“EcoBuilders creates residences that are wholly sustainable, yet combined with the ultimate in craftsmanship and high-performance materials and systems,” Ball said.

In addition to eco-friendly amenities, the private Whisper Mountain community also offers parks and greenbelts, hiking trails, and an owner’s lodge reconstructed from an 1840’s, timber-frame structure.

The house will be open for public tours, June through September. Thereafter, it will be placed on the Asheville, North Carolina real estate market, through EcoHouse Realty.

The Whisper Mountain Design Team

There are many facets to creating a perfect piece of mountain real estate. While the builder and developer are at the forefront, many others are at work behind the scenes. The design team for the Southern Living Idea House is Bill Allison of Allison Ramsey Architects of Asheville; and interior designer, Traci Kearns of Alchemy Design Studio, also of Asheville.

Allison Ramsey Architects is founded on a set of guiding principles: customer service orientation, and a collaborative approach to design and architectural philosophy.

“Each project is the result of a team effort between architect, builder and client,” Allison said.

Alchemy Design Studio is bound to a design philosophy that the spaces where people work and live should enhance the human experience.

“Our process is guided by an adherence to principles of sustainability, craftsmanship, and integrity to the project’s vision,” Kearns explained.

LaQuatra Bonci Associates, landscape architects, are working to maintain and enhance the community’s natural environment.

“We’re not just building homes,” Ball said, “We’re celebrating the area’s history and natural heritage to create lifestyles to be proud of.”