The Courtyards at Collegeville, a 65-unit townhome project by Michael Anthony Homes, was the right project at the right time for this community northwest of Philadelphia.
Built as an age-restricted community for a burgeoning active-adult market, the three- and four-unit clusters of attached homes within a park-like setting delivered high-performance yet low-maintenance living at a competitive price.
Among a wealth of standard features, homeowners enjoy high-efficiency space and water heating systems and cooking appliances, and perhaps an optional fireplace-all fueled by propane.
Though municipal natural gas lines run past the project, the cost to upgrade and direct them to The Courtyards at Collegeville was cost prohibitive; instead, the builder worked with a local propane supplier to bury more than 20, 1,000-gallon propane tanks on the site, each serving no more than three units.
“Gas appliances are what’s expected in this market,” says Jack Barbary, who, as vice president of Real Estate Services, Inc., in Collegeville, was in charge of sales and marketing for the project. “We needed to provide them to enable the efficiencies and conveniences that these buyers expected.”
Because Michael Anthony Homes, headquartered in Collegeville, Pa., retained ownership of the common areas of the parcel, the builder avoided easement issues to more easily plot and bury the propane tanks on site. “We also were able to place the tanks behind the housing clusters,” says Barbary, thus reducing the clutter of service outlets in front of the homes.
Still, the tanks are easily accessible by the propane provider and refilling and service chores are conducted without intruding on the residents. “I’ve never heard any complaints about people running out of propane,” says Barbary.
In addition, Michael Anthony Homes contracted with the local propane supplier to install the tanks, supply lines, and meters for each home at no cost in exchange for a five-year agreement to supply the propane at a fixed price-a deal that the homeowner’s association has since extended.
Though some buyers were initially skeptical about the safety and environmental impact of on-site (and underground) propane tanks, the project team was able to put those concerns to rest. “Each tank has a sensor that automatically shuts it off and alerts the service provider if there’s a problem,” says Barbary. “The natural gas lines in the area don’t have that.”
The use of propane was so successful at The Courtyards at Collegeville that the team is using the same setup for its latest project, a 123-unit townhouse community called Glenwood Hunt that will appeal to first-time buyers. Propane will be the energy source for high-efficiency forced-air furnaces, water heaters, cooking appliances, and optional fireplaces.
“Energy efficiency and lower monthly costs are a big deal for this target market,” says Barbary of the singles and young couples he hopes to attract when the project opens next year. “Propane is cost efficient and enables consistent performance. We need it to compete.”
To learn how to incorporate propane products into your next project, be sure to check out our free online CEU courses, available at the Propane Training Academy. The categories mentioned in this article are discussed in the following training courses: