When Candace Dyal established Dyal Compass, a real estate developer with a special focus on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, she did it to make sure hulking condominium developments didn’t take over the little island hamlet. Her latest project, Indigo Park, continues that mission. We spoke to Dyal about the land she loves and her homes’ green features.

Candace Dyal on: Life on Kiawah Island

“My history in Kiawah began around 1998. I rented initially, then bought a home a couple of years later. There are two things that make Kiawah unique. First, there’s an incredible amount of diversity here. It’s a place where your neighbors could be from London, from New York, or from right here in South Carolina. You talk to the sales clerks, the shop owners, and the contractors, and you get a feel for the pulse of the community.

The nature is the other big spirit in Kiawah. It’s a pure place. You smell the ocean air. You get to see the Loggerhead turtles and the 750 alligators and the bobcats. You realize: It’s okay. They’re all here together, and they like it that way.”

Dyal Compass describes itself as “responsible living practices with a conscience.” What does that mean to you?
Candace Dyal: Our very first project [109 Flyway Drive, in 2007] was an old Georgian on an oceanside double lot. A normal developer would have knocked it down, sold the lots, made some money and moved on. I chose to keep it as a double lot so there was less building on the island and to save the old Georgian and turn it into a green Adirondack home. That’s developing with a conscience.

Dyal Compass is a very mission-driven company. What made you decide to take the plunge?
Dyal: You mean to invest a serious amount of my own money and go crazy? (laughs) I have a real estate background; my parents would renovate and sell homes as a hobby. And it was always a “pay-attention” mentality instead of a “slap-it-on” approach. So that’s what I did on Saturdays instead of going to the mall. I had just moved back from London after living there for many years, and when I showed my son the potential, he said, “That’s risky.” I knew then and there—as a parent, as a mentor, as a citizen—what I should do, because I don’t think enough of us go out and actually take risks.

What kind of risks does Indigo Park take? How does it advance the responsible-living cause?
Dyal: In 2009, when stocks were shutting down and credit was frozen, Kiawah was exploring the possibility of building 54 condo units on this most gorgeous, prime location—I call it the Central Park of the island. I thought, “Really? No, no, no. Let’s keep honoring Kiawah.” It’s about 70 percent nature, and it’s not built up like the Hamptons. I want to help keep it that way.

Like all of Indigo’s models, the Sweetgrass features local materials and water- and energy-efficient systems that contribute to what the developer hopes will be LEED Platinum status.

So this project is very much about the spirit of the land.
Dyal: Exactly. And the land is a spirit. So I contacted Kiawah Partners and said I wanted to save this. I told them, “I’m not a big-time developer; I couldn’t do huge condos if I wanted to, and by the way, I don’t want to. But I can help a little.” Long story short, I ended up owning the whole thing. There’s an American tendency to go big, but I felt it would be best to go with 16 homes, all overlooking the marsh, not a gazillion apartments. And we donated the best piece of property on the parcel to the Kiawah Island Conservancy to be used as a park.
We went with three models called the Azalea, Sweetgrass, and the Camellia. There’s also an option for a 500-square-foot guesthouse. We’re all about flex. As you go through life, sometimes you need a bigger space for kids. Then they go away, and you may need a guesthouse for the grandkids, or the in-laws, or the outlaws (laughs).

This is a project that’s aiming for LEED Platinum status. Any favorite green features?
Dyal: We’re doing geothermal, so the heating bill will be about 50 percent less, and the carbon footprint will be pretty close to zero. The aluminum roofing reflects heat unlike copper, and it lasts longer than cedar shake shingles. We installed reclaimed floors; the railings are totally recyclable; NuCedar siding with a lifetime warranty; SieMatic kitchen cabinets, the greenest in Europe. We used local craftsmen for the cabinets, the beams, the framing, the furniture. I said, “You gotta find someone in the Carolinas that can do this.” It took a while, but sure enough, we did.

And the result is a beautiful, responsible product that focuses on living.
Dyal: Have a life. Have time for your friends. Have time for your family.