LEED Zero Certification Brought to the Community Level

The Overall Grand Winner of Green Builder Media’s Home of the Year program features net-zero, solar-powered houses.

Developers of Hunters Point Resort and Marina have a rather modest goal: to create the first United States Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED Zero-certified, sustainable community in North America.


Project Stats

Name: Hunters Point Resort and Marina, Cortez, Fla.

Builder: Marshall Gobuty, Pearl Homes Development

Architect/Designer: BSB Design, Tampa

Landscape Architect: Robert C. Gause, Gause and Associates,
Interior Designer: Meg Carson, EMCY Design
Photographer: Pearl Homes

According to Marshall Gobuty, founder and president of project builder Pearl Homes, such an undertaking is not only possible but is also perfect for today’s market. 

The Cortez, Fla., community includes 86 net-zero, solar-powered houses, and 47 boat slips on a nearby 18-acre property. The homes of Hunters Point were developed with help from the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research institute at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Hunter Point community 300

“The goal was to do something that hasn’t been done before: build a home that has a positive carbon footprint that would generate more power than the owner can consume,” Gobuty says. 

“After years of implementation, we have achieved just that.”

The houses generate 35 percent more power and consume 25 percent less energy than Pearl Homes initially aimed for. This is in part due to features such as ENERGY STAR-certified appliances, six inches of foam insulation throughout the walls, and dual-pane windows. 

The project’s overall Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index rating is minus 13—a light year below the typical score of 80 for a new home built to code. And, overall carbon emissions are declining by 8 tons per year.

Word of the project’s success has gotten around: The company is developer of this year’s Green Builder Home of the Year winner in the Sustainable Communities category, and the 2024 Grand Winner overall. In 2023, Pearl Homes was included in Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards, and it was named a USGBC LEED Power Builder for the fourth time in six years.

Hunters Point Floor Plan CROPPED

Community-Wide Energy Independence

According to Gobuty, Hunters Point is the first community of its kind that can function off the state power grid, if needed. “Residents at Hunters Point have peace of mind knowing that their homes are equipped with an intelligent backup power system providing clean, carbon-neutral energy,” he says.

Each of the homes built or planned at Hunters Point relies on 14 solar panels to power up self-sufficiently. There’s also a 12-kWh battery to ensure uninterrupted energy, even under extreme conditions. 

In 2022, Hurricane Ian knocked out power to millions of Florida residents; in 2023, Hurricane Idalia put more than 500,000 utility customers in the dark. But the lights stayed on at Hunters Point. A home can operate for up to two weeks off the grid, Gobuty notes.

There are also cash benefits for owners. In addition to a federal tax credit of about $30,000 one year after the purchase of a Hunters Point home, residents on average save $1,800 per year in electricity costs, based on current energy prices.

Net Zero, Resilient Construction Criteria

Homes are very likely to stay upright during storms and are less likely to flood. Walls are designed to withstand 150 mph winds. Meanwhile, since the development lies within a flood zone, the structures are about 3 feet off the ground, with actual living spaces about six times as high when the garage is accounted for. 

All homes are built with materials that are sustainably sourced and of highly sustainable quality, using a process specifically designed to reduce construction site waste while increasing indoor air quality and enhancing many other health benefits for their residents, Gobuty adds. 

Materials chosen are local, which cuts down on shipping costs and helps the local economy. And, Pearl Homes partners with contractors “who act and think just like we do when it comes to the environment.”

Seamlessly handling all of the criteria was no simple task, Gobuty notes. Coordinating various sustainable systems such as solar panels, onsite energy storage, energy-efficient HVAC systems, and advanced insulation required meticulous planning and collaboration with experts in the field. Additionally, ensuring that the construction materials met sustainability and quality standards was a major challenge. 

“Building Hunters Point taught us the importance of flexibility and continuous learning in sustainable construction,” Gobuty says. “We learned valuable insights about adapting green technologies to overcome obstacles. Collaboration with experts and staying informed about the latest advancements proved to be crucial in achieving our sustainability goals.”


Next Target: Water Conservation, Carbon Offset

The construction of Hunters Point also demonstrated that there is always room for improvement. 

“In future projects, we will prioritize implementing highly efficient water conservation strategies and explore cutting-edge technologies, including reducing the carbon footprint during construction and the overall carbon offset during the house’s lifespan,” Gobuty says. 

“These measures will undoubtedly reduce the ecological footprint and help us create a more sustainable future. Additionally, fostering stronger community engagement and education on sustainable living practices would be a priority to inspire broader adoption of green building principles.”

Gobuty also hopes that other builders will use Pearl’s success as an example of what can be done when a real emphasis is placed on sustainability. His vision of the future includes communities that “work together in harmony with nature and technology to create sustainable living for all people.” That effort means focusing on sustainable materials and practices that ensure a future for the next generation.

“We like to think of it as ‘generational sustainability,’ because without a healthy planet, generational wealth is useless,” Gobuty says. “We plan to grow with the technological advancements as they improve, and continue to build upon the betterment of the way people live and communicate within their community.” 

Hunters Point - Home w tree CROPPED

Hunters Point homes are three-story, with the bottom level serving as protection against flooding.

Hunters Point community building

Houses are built to withstand hurricane-class weather, floods and power outages. A total of 86 homes is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

Hunters Point sonnen battery

A sonnen power system keeps electricity needs in the hands of residents, via solar panels and a battery backup.

Hunters Point - bathroom

Water-saving fixtures and WaterSense faucets from Moen contribute to each home’s net zero, environmentally friendly status.

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Dual-pane windows, premium caulking, and weatherstripping minimize air leakage.

Key Components

Appliances: GE (stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer)

Building Envelope: Huber ZIP Systems

Cabinets, Shelves, Millwork: Timberlake Cabinets 

Caulks and Sealants: DAP, BEHR

Doors and Hardware: Therma-Tru doors

Electrical: Leviton; Lutron Electronics

Exterior Finishes: James Hardie siding

Flooring: Shaw Floors

Garage Doors: CHI Overhead Doors Model 2250Z5; LiftMaster

Home Controls: Guardian Protection; IQ Panel 

HVAC/Ducts: Mitsubishi Electric mini split system

Insulation: Icynene foam insulation (R-20) 

Lighting: Topaz LED Slim Fit

Paints and Stains: Sherwin-Williams

Plumbing/Plumbing Fixtures: Moen

Renewable Energy Systems (solar, wind, etc.): Solar system 7.2kW

Roof: Metal roof 

Ventilation: Broan-NuTone

Water Heating: 40-gallon electric water heater 

Windows, Skylights, Patio Doors: PGT windows

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