Philly's ‘Cork Homes' First in the Country

An environmentally-friendly real estate developer is nearly finished two quirky, or better-yet corky, homes in Philadelphia that are the first of their kind in the country.

"We are always looking for new ways to be innovative and use new materials instead of just plain old brick and stucco," said Philly-based Postgreen Homes’ President Chad Ludeman.

Located in the city’s Kensington neighborhood, Postgreen’s Pop Project is two 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath homes at 2037 and 2039 Blair St. They have a unique cork façade, which also acts as insulation for the nearly 2,000-square-foot houses.

"You have the cork, which is three inches thick, then you have your frame wall with your water barrier and sheeting on the inside. Then you are insulating on the inside," described Ludeman, who said they are the country's first.

Officials with the U.S. Green Building Council couldn't confirm Ludeman's assertion, but said they hadn't heard of any other "cork homes" in the U.S.

Ludeman said Postgreen narrowly beat another builder that is using the same material, which makes t the construction process "very labor intensive"

But the extra work needed to incorporate the high-density, pressed sheets of cork sets Postgreen apart from other local developers that focus solely on energy efficiency.

"It is very sustainable," Ludeman said. "It is a natural product that has a negative carbon footprint. Even the way it’s produced has very little waste."

Architecture firm Orange Concept did not include the façade on the ground floor's exterior to avoid damage from passers-by. Cork, which can sustain wind, rain and other natural elements, creates a stronger sound barrier than more commonly used materials and reduces heating and cooling costs since it super insulates the homes, Ludeman said.

"Our typical home has about half the energy bills of a normal, code-built, new construction house," he said.

But there is one potential caveat — the color may vary with the season.

"They will get darker again over the winter and turn an orange hue next spring and summer," Ludeman said. "It’s a natural material, so each panel fades a bit differently as well."

While the unique design makes the Philly firm a trailblazer in green building nationwide, buyers have yet to uncork their wallets for the unprecedented residences. Prices were recently reduced from $415,000 to $399,000.

"They are so ahead of the curve in their niche," said Stephanie Somers, a realtor with the Somers Team at RE/MAX Access. "There is a small buyer pool that understands that."

The price point, which is similar to other newly built residences nearby, should attract house hunters interested in living near the bustling Frankford Avenue corridor in Fishtown, even if the environmentally friendly design is not on the buyers’ checklist, Somers said.

"In Fishtown central, new construction properties are inching up toward that $450,000 mark,” she said.

Currently, Postgreen is putting the finishing touches on the Pop Project — named for the building material’s most well-known use, stopping up bottles filled with Champagne or wine.  The two homes will be move-in ready in about two weeks, Ludeman said.

"Besides [the environmental benefits], it is bragging rights to have this house," he said. "The first cork home in the country."

Contact Alison Burdo at 610.668.5635, or follow @NewsBurd on Twitter.

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