Yesterday, I discussed a post by Leo Hickman on The Guardian’s Ethical Living blog where the Brit journo steps from behind the news desk to share his own experiences performing a green home renovation. In his post, Hickman mentions a “29m monstrosity in Florida” that claims to be the world’s most pricey “eco-home.”

The property in question is no other than Acqua Liana, a $29 million, built-on-spec mansion that was completed last month in Palm Beach County, Florida. The LEED-seeking Acqua Liana, at 15,071 square feet, has raised plenty of eyebrows and received plenty of press — ranging from adulatory to jaundiced to completely bewildered — since it was first announced. 

The man or woman behind this kind of audacious, contradictory project has to be completely off his or her rocker right?  With so much attention focused on Acqua Liana itself, many, including myself, failed to investigate whom exactly owned the vision. Recently, I decided to look into it and was surprised. The man responsible isn’t the shadowy, South Floridian real estate developer that I expected but a flashy, Fabio-haired “maverick daredevil real estate artist” named Frank McKinney. Thought green building was a restrained, cautious business? McKinney is here to inject a bit of Vegas showmanship. A self-described "illusionist," he’s the Lance Burton of the real estate world.

For the full Frank McKinney experience, I recommend checking out his website yourself. Just be sure to turn off the sound if easily startled. That “Well, helloooo there” gets me every time.

In addition to building multi-million dollar, fully furnished, oceanfront homes, McKinney is a motivational speaker, philanthropist, and best-selling author. His three newest books aren’t about developing or building eco-friendly homes: One is a Christian fantasy adventure for kids, the other is a self-help book about overcoming the real estate “bubble,” and the third is a spiritual tome about how God has “tapped” him.

I’m not here to lambast McKinney, his 80s rock star wardrobe, or his ostentatious, risky entry into the world of green building (I do admit some of Acqua Liana’s green features are pretty remarkable). I simply think McKinney is a fascinating character. If someone’s going to build a green home on such a grand scale you might as well inject a little (or a lot of) razzle-dazzle. For this, McKinney is your man.

I’m curious as to what you think. Should a tricked-out, super-sized green building project like Acqua Liana be taken seriously? And is McKinney, despite his "maverick" status, in his right mind by building a property like Acqua Liana entirely on speculation in this economy? Will Acqua Liana sit empty, and if so, for how long?

Thirsty for more? Read more about McKinney and Acqua Liana at Inhabitat, The Wall Street Journal, and TreeHugger. Or check out the below clip from 20/20 to see McKinney the maverick in action (complete in Robin Hood costume to underscore his "build for the rich, give to the poor" ethos) that was filmed just as Acqua Liana broke ground. 

 

Acqua Liana Photo: GreenBuildingTalk

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