Sustainability at On Top of the World
Preservation of Nature is Key
Preservation of nature is key to the preservation of one’s perfect lifestyle. Here at On Top of the World Communities, we understand the importance of preservation. We strive for environmentally friendly development and participate in many sustainable practices and programs to do just that.
Because of our deep commitment to the land, our homes and amenities are purposefully built to maintain our beautiful Florida habitats for generations to come, as well as bring residents years of comfort and pleasure. For over 65 years, this vision of stewardship and responsible management of our 13,000 acre community has guided us, and even resulted in a 2012 Environmental Stewardship Award as well as a 2015 Community of Excellence Award.
Sustainability – it isn’t only good for nature, it’s good for all of us.
There are approximately 60 species of wildlife on Florida’s endangered and threatened species list. From the beginning, On Top of the World Communities (OTOW) has carefully developed the ranch lands that are a part of our community with the intent of providing a safe haven for displaced wildlife, consulting with wildlife biologists to ensure a balance between our working landscape and nature. As a result:
- On Top of the World has 418 acres of State recognized conservation areas, exceeding Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) guidelines.
- On Top of the World provides and preserves prairie, scrub, hardwood and sandhill micro habitats to attract species to their natural environments and protect them.
- Endangered Gopher Tortoises have over 400 acres of habitat, and OTOW has successfully relocated over 100 tortoises during our latest development phase.
- Endangered Florida Scrub Jays have a place here, too. OTOW follows a plan to provide habitat needs for three banded and marked groups, and are attracting non-banded birds to the habitat.
- Florida Burrowing Owls also have designated conservation areas, planned to ensure that their nesting areas are not disturbed during land development. OTOW builds artificial burrows to give them alternate nesting sites when we start new development.
- Southeastern Kestrels, a threatened species, also live here. On Top of the World provides nesting boxes to promote population growth. We’ve found at least six active nesting sites so far.
- The Eastern Indigo Snake (also called gopher snake) is the longest non-venomous snake native to North America. It is harmless, eats venomous snakes, and is a protected species.
- On Top of the World is also home to several other notable species such as fox squirrels, coyotes, turkeys and other native Florida reptiles.
On Top of the World is passionate about environmental conservation, so much so that it’s common practice for us to reduce density in our development plans to ensure local flora and fauna live and thrive in harmony with our residents. Through careful planning and a conscious eye on the future, OTOW will continue to develop in a manner that ensures wide open green spaces and natural habitats are plentiful, not just for ourselves, but for the numerous species of wildlife that also call On Top of the World home.
Florida Friendly Landscaping
At On Top of the World Communities, we have a variety of beautiful neighborhoods, each with its own personality and features. Some are maintenance-free, and some self-maintained, all with high performance energy efficient homes, inspected by a third party energy auditor, that meets or exceeds ENERGY STAR® qualification criteria. OTOW also provides or encourages the use of ecologically sound landscaping practices as outlined by the University of Florida’s Florida Yards & Neighborhoods (FYN) Program, which helps homeowners reduce water pollution and conserve water resources through the use of nine principles:
- Right plant, right place – select plants to suit a specific site and that will require
minimal amounts of water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
- Water efficiently – irrigate only when needed. Efficient watering is the key to a healthy Florida yard and water conservation. SolarSync™ irrigation controllers on new or upgraded irrigation systems can be used to set watering times for optimal irrigation.
- Fertilize appropriately – less is usually better. Overuse of fertilizers can be hazardous to yards and the environment. Use of slow release fertilizers reduce the chance of unintended contamination of ground water with nitrates.
- Mulch – maintain a 3-inch layer of mulch to help retain soil moisture, prevent erosion and suppress weeds.
- Attract wildlife – include plants in your yard that provide food, water and shelter to attract Florida’s diverse wildlife.
- Manage yard pests responsibly – unwise use of pesticides can harm people, pets, beneficial organisms, and the environment.
- Recycle – grass clippings and leaves provide nutrients to the soil and reduce waste disposal when reused as compost or mulch.
- Reduce storm water runoff – when water runs off of landscaping it can carry pollutants such as soil, debris, fertilizer, gasoline, and pesticides that can adversely impact water quality.
- Protect the waterfront – whether on a river, stream, pond, bay or beach, waterfront property is ecologically fragile and should be carefully protected to maintain freshwater and marine ecosystems.
OTOW believes the smart way to grow is to create environmentally sound landscape practices that ensure a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations. By cultivating native landscapes that boast the natural beauty of our community, OTOW isn’t just providing good-looking backdrops for our homes, we are protecting our natural resources while preserving our region’s unique beauty.
At the On Top of the World Golf Maintenance and Recreational Center we employ the latest technology with solar roof panels to harness energy for the facilities. OTOW’s “home-made” electricity replaces power that would otherwise be generated at a plant burning fossil fuel. Generating our own power from solar energy has so many advantages that we are exploring the possibility of using electric vehicles for our maintenance fleet. OTOW employs solar technology because it is:
- One of the cleanest energy sources available
- Environmentally friendly, leaving behind no ecological footprint
- An infinitely renewable resource
- Extremely reliable, especially here in sunny Ocala
- Free power, after the initial investment
- Increasing our energy self-reliance
- Reducing our utility costs, helping us to keep costs and fees to residents in check
Energy conservation is unquestionably of great importance to all of us here at On Top of the World, so we put a tremendous amount of “energy” into ways to reduce consumption in our homes and throughout the community. At On Top of the World, we embrace energy conservation by making small changes that will lead to significant differences in our overall energy usage, not only to save money, but to enhance your life, the lives of future generations, and our environment.
Golf Course Water Conservation
Just as homeowners can choose to be green in their use of water, OTOW practices water conservation on the commercial and common areas of our community. Golf courses, in particular, require significant water resources and present their own challenges to water conservation. OTOW goes the extra mile to conserve water on our courses by:
- Following all FDEP Best Practices and a Site Specific Management Plan.
- Using reclaimed water as our primary irrigation source for two courses.
- No overseeding to supplement turf growth or swapping of seasonal turf (which requires additional watering).
- Utilizing data collected from our on-site weather stations. (We have 3!).
- Regularly monitoring evapotranspiration (ET) rates, using soil moisture meters and visually and physically conducting inspections, we are sure to water only when the courses actually need it.
- Recycling water OTOW uses to clean our golf course equipment.
- Using only Florida friendly or native plant materials that require less irrigation.
- Using composted material for moisture retention to further reduce irrigation needs.
- Following a turfgrass reduction program to reduce maintenance and irrigation needs.
- Conducting regularly scheduled, thorough irrigation audits.
At On Top of the World we pride ourselves on utilizing successful “best management practices” to ensure water conservation on each of our golf courses. OTOW defines this as the combination of proper plant selection and cultural maintenance procedures that supports suitable turf quality while still minimizing water use. By following these best management practices, we are able to reduce water consumption while still providing our residents and guests with well-maintained courses so they can enjoy rounds of golf year round.
Golf Course Water Quality
Keeping 54 holes of golf on three different courses attractive, healthy, and ready for play requires constant maintenance and a lot of water. On Top of the World’s commitment to the environment through attention to golf course water quality is evidenced by the following:
- OTOW follows the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Best Practices and Site Specific Management Plan.
- Five of our golf course employees are certified by the FDEP or the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).
- OTOW pursues very extensive recycling practices for all waste and scrap materials.
- OTOW uses recycled treated sewage sludge (biosolids) on the rough, on all golf courses.
- OTOW returns clippings to the soil to send nutrients back to plants and reduce fertilizer outlays.
- OTOW uses pine and leaf straw debris mulch instead of artificial or dyed wood products to retain moisture on plantings.
- OTOW uses only controlled release nitrogen fertilizing sources to prevent leaching to groundwater.
Because 90% of Floridians rely on groundwater resources for drinking water, OTOW does everything we can to control the quality of runoff on our golf courses to keep our springs, streams and lakes clean. On Top of the World is concerned not only for the health of our own residents, but for that of all Floridians.
Florida Water StarSM
On Top of the World participates in the Florida Water StarSM certification program, which addresses water conservation needs specific to Florida. This voluntary certification program is designed to increase water efficiency in our landscapes, irrigation systems and indoors. OTOW chooses to follow Florida Water StarSM criteria when developing residential, commercial, and community areas to conserve water and protect our environment. The program benefits the community by:
- Providing water-efficient options for homes and landscapes.
- Saving homeowners money on monthly utility bills.
- Saving homeowners energy by conserving water with the use of approved fixtures and appliances.
- Reducing monthly landscaping costs.
- Increasing property appeal by adding resale or leasing value.
- Easily integrating with other “green” certification and recognition programs OTOW participates in, such as ENERGY STAR®.
OTOW isn’t required to be certified by the Florida Water StarSM program, but we believe in proactively taking part in programs that will directly benefit our residents when making construction and development decisions.
We asked On Top of the World Landscape Superintendent, Phillip Hisey about our involvement in the program:
How is OTOW a pioneer for Florida Water StarSM?
The Florida Water StarSM program was started several years ago by the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to not only provide an opportunity for saving water indoors and outdoors but also provide recognition to those participating. The program takes into account the use of shower heads, faucets, toilets, shut off valves, piping, landscaping and irrigation to name many components. On Top of the World Communities LLC was instrumental in providing the teaching grounds and input for the program and we continue to partner with the Florida Water StarSM program and SWFWMD. When Florida Water StarSM started we partnered with St. Johns River water management district to pilot many of the Florida Water StarSM practices in place today. What is unique about this partnership is that we are not even governed by SJRWMD. Our water management district is Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), they were in the infancy stages of the program. Our cooperation with SJRWMD has led to some lasting relationship building with our partners at SWFWMD and SJRWMD. On Top of the World Communities sits on the Florida Water StarSM technical Advisory Panel as a Builder/Developer to help with continued development of the program and also to articulate to the panel any issues we may see from Builders/Developers or landscape and irrigation contractors that participate in the program.
How is OTOW committed to getting better?
On top of the World employs a full time staff of landscape and golf professionals to maintain homes, common areas and golf courses. Our landscape staff adheres to the Florida Green Industries Best Management Practices for Florida. Our Golf staff adheres to the Best Management Practices for the Enhancement of Environmental Quality on Florida Golf Courses. Several members of the Landscape and Golf Staff sit on professional advisory boards throughout the state of Florida sharing knowledge and gaining knowledge from other communities and industry professionals to provide the best atmosphere for our residents. We are committed to conservation through knowledge and sounds environmentally stable practices.
How are we already better than the competition?
On Top of the World Communities LLC partnered with Bay Laurel Center Community Development District to develop strict irrigation standards to adhere to so that every home constructed will incorporate the highest quality, conservation oriented irrigation system available. Here are the attributes of the system:
- Sod irrigation zones shall be separate from shrub irrigation zones, and no irrigation zone shall include both sod and shrub irrigation.
- Irrigation for all shrub beds shall be point source drip irrigation not exceeding two (2) gpm for shrubs three (3) gallon and larger, shrubs one (1) gallon and smaller shall be irrigated with low volume emitters. Spray type emitters shall not exceed fifty-three hundredths (0.53) gpm. All irrigation zones shall not exceed twelve (12) gpm. Due to pressure fluctuations in the water distribution system a zone may test at thirteen (13) gpm, which will be allowed.
- Irrigation installations shall use pressure regulated irrigation heads as approved by the District.
- Irrigation systems shall be hydro-zoned and matched precipitation rates to achieve maximum efficiency.
- On sides of homes where coverage is limited due to proximity of adjacent homes, the use of End Strip/Side Strip nozzles shall be required.
- Large sod zones shall be irrigated using rotors or similar device to achieve maximum irrigating efficiency.
- All irrigation zones shall have matched precipitation rates for best coverage.
- Rain sensors shall be installed on all irrigation zones, and shall be Hunter Solar Sync Evapotranspiration Sensor, or equal sensor based technology that automatically adjust watering schedule and flow according to atmospheric or soil condition or equal “smart irrigation technology” approved by the Irrigation Association and the Bay Laurel Center Community Development District.
- All irrigation installations will include a Pressure Vacuum Breaker Back Flow device per Florida Building Code.
- Rain sensor and related wire shall be installed per manufacturer specifications and shall meet manufacturer’s wire gauge specifications.
- Customers will be allowed a thirty (30) day grow in period upon installation of landscape material and sod; after thirty (30) days customers shall be responsible for adhering to irrigation restrictions.
- All additional or more stringent landscape/irrigation requirements imposed by the Water Management District, and/or Marion County Land Development Code from time to time, are incorporated into and made a part of this Policy and shall control over less stringent requirements of this Policy.
Additionally, the program also aligns with the Florida Green Building Coalition’s green standard and the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which On Top of the World takes into consideration in our new designs.
Community Water Conservation
At On Top of the World, we work closely with Bay Laurel Center Community Development District (BLCCDD), our local water and wastewater utilities provider, to ensure that their goals for reclaimed water services and water conservation are met. The BLCCDD uses reclaimed rainwater and runoff to water golf courses and common areas, saving precious groundwater resources. The Bay Laurel Center CDD also offers useful conservation tips and tools for residential customers to help keep utility bills down and conserve water, such as:
- Smart water meters that log water use data and detect leaks, alerting residents of a suspected leak.
- Compliance with Marion County watering restrictions, allowing irrigation only before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. on a rotating day schedule.
- Indoor and outdoor water conservation guides, available at blccdd.com/conservation.
OTOW follows the Bay Laurel CDD Uniform Service and Uniform Extension Policies, which include:
- Rules for new irrigation standards that call for reduced pressure irrigation heads and drip irrigation or low volume emitters for shrubs.
- Use of hydro-zoned irrigation systems that match rainfall rates for maximum efficiency.
- Setting a maximum 13 gallon per minute water usage in all irrigation zones.
On Top of the World sets an example by supporting BLCCDD in our responsible use of water in residential, common, and recreational areas, and OTOW encourages our residents to do the same by taking a free water facility tour to learn more about the importance of water conservation.