Kennecott Land Co. of South Jordan, Utah, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto—a London-based, multi-billion-dollar global mining company—was formed in 2001 by a handful of people who wanted to develop former mining land into thriving living and working communities.

“Our goal is to take these lands when mining activity is complete and develop them into enduring communities,” says Ty McCutcheon, vice president of community development for Kennecott. “Despite challenging times these last few years, we have achieved quite a bit of success.”

The first and largest of its communities is called Daybreak, located in South Jordan, Utah.

McCutcheon says one reason for the company’s success is that “we began by asking people how they wanted to live and work. Through hundreds of conversations, we painted a picture that depicted a different option for people that wasn’t available in the marketplace. We have stuck to that vision over the last decade, and we are being rewarded for it.”

The company opened Daybreak for home sales in 2004. Since then, it has moved in 2,500 families, and the population is close to 10,000. In 2009, Daybreak represented about 16% of all new home sales in the Salt Lake market, McCutcheon says.

Businesses continue to be drawn to the community, too. “We are just crossing the 1 million sq ft line in terms of retail, office and industrial space,” McCutcheon adds. Part of the company’s overall development program includes selling parcels of land to other entities. In 2009, for example, it sold a piece of property to eBay, which built a large data center in Daybreak.

Green Cornerstones

Sustainable development has always been a filter through which Kennecott Land makes its decisions. “We are a global leader in sustainable development practices,” McCutcheon says. “We do this through some key cornerstones we want to see in Daybreak and all of our communities.”

He says the six tenets to sustainability are safe and vibrant neighborhoods, a healthy and sustainable environment, lifelong learning opportunities, robust local economy, integration of natural and open spaces, and collaboration and active engagement among stakeholders.

Energy management is an important part of the Kennecott equation. “Clearly, going forward, energy continues to be a major issue,” McCutcheon says. “One thing we try to do is focus our development efforts around community and building design that reduce energy and water usage.”

Piper Rhodes, manager of sustainable development, health, safety and environment for Kennecott, says the firm operates under a master plan as well as a series of sustainable guidelines. She adds that Kennecott had those guidelines “before LEED and EPA’s Energy Star programs were well-known.” One of the first strategic decisions the company made when it decided to build its own buildings at Daybreak was to commit to LEED certification. One of the first buildings it built was a combination elementary school and community center, LEED-Silver-certified and Energy Star-rated.

“All of our commercial projects are built to LEED-Gold and -Silver standards, and our corporate center was the first LEED-Platinum building in Utah,” McCutcheon says. Kennecott Land also owns the only distribution center in the state that is LEED certified.

Rhodes says the firm “uses sustainability as a component of how we select our business partners. When we sold improved lots to builders, we wanted them to build products that were examples of sustainable development. We only selected builders who were committed to those guidelines.”