Manalapan estate proves eco-friendly is chic, so go green

By Christine Davis

You’ve driven up the Seaside Paspalum grass driveway. Along the way there was a water grotto and bamboo-clad guesthouse, swimmable water gardens and a palapa.
In the front courtyard, there’s a floating deck, infinity pool (with windows), 16-person spa with a fire pit, and a Tahitian cocktails balé supported by moose-pole pine columns.

Now, you are about to enter Frank McKinney’s brand-new, LEED-certified, South-Pacific-resort-style mansion, “Acqua Liana.”
But, this is not just any entry, real estate entrepreneur McKinney points out. This is an all-out “significant front-door event.”

Take a close look at the door itself. McKinney’s signature door-within-a-door is 1,200 pounds of compressed reeded bamboo, which can open with a mere touch of your pinky.

Now. Go ahead. Use your pinky and push either of the doors open…

Inside is a glass floor over a tiled lotus pond, water cascading down a two-story glass wall, and a coconut-wood-and-glass serpentine stairway. At the heart of the room, a 671-piece hand-blown chandelier releases water for a “cool melting effect.” In the wall separating the entry from the living room, a double-sided fireplace boasts a serious Mother-of-Pearl mantel.

“Fire and water,” McKinney said. “There’s a lot of feng shui in this house.”

Then, out of the corner of your eye, you glimpse the wine room. One of its walls is part of an enormous aquarium, where 60 fish of 18 species swim overhead, down a clear tower, and into the base of the bar.

“I’ve never gone this far,” McKinney said. “The fish didn’t swim over to the bar before.”

This home abounds with stunning features, but let’s get down to the green gritty. Acqua Liana is the largest LEED-certified house in the United States, making it super green.

This is not just a green experiment, though, McKinney said. “I have to make sure that the home’s design drives the buyer to buy. Green doesn’t drive the project, but everything must go through the green filter.”

To be USGBC (United States Green Building Council) LEED-H (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes) certified, this home had to garner a median threshold of 66 points in eight categories. A third-party evaluator performed third-party testing. Since McKinney’s house is large — 15,000 square feet with seven bedrooms and 11 bathrooms — it was penalized and started with a -21. After the testing was done, Acqua Liana scored 79 points. That’s 2.5 points away from the LEED Silver certification. “If it wasn’t for that penalty, I’d be knocking on the door of Platinum,” McKinney said.

Gary Shlifer, the LEED-accredited professional who led the project’s design and construction team, gives some specifics on the green construction:

* 75 percent of construction waste was diverted from the landfill and incineration.

* The use of low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, adhesives and materials, provides healthy indoor air quality.

* The house would consume 45 percent more energy if it weren’t built “green.”

* Rainwater collection allows for a 68 percent reduction in the use of potable water for water features.

* Mold-and termite-resistant construction materials were used and the flooring material is 100 percent reclaimed or renewable.

Then, there’s the solar power system.
“Solar is not required by the LEED system,” explains Eric Martin, senior research engineer for the Florida Solar Energy Center. That’s the research institute selected by the USGBC to be a LEED provider and responsible for the third-party evaluations.

“McKinney’s house has a relatively large solar array for a residential project — 10 kilowatts. That’s big. A lot of renewable energy can be produced by that house.”

Shlifer gives the visual: “The array is about half the square footage of a basketball court.”

So, what’s next? Committed to building green, McKinney owns neighboring lots, and, on one of them, another green mega-mansion, Crystalina, is designed and permitted. “We will commence construction when Acqua Liana sells,” McKinney says.

Acqua Liana is at 620 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan. It’s on the market for $29 million.

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