The Grow Community is built to make living a carbon free lifestyle easy and obtainable. This section of our blog is dedicated to all things energy and meant to catalog our pursuit of a carbon free lifestyle and the steps we are taking to achieve that goal.

We’re leading the nation in Green Power

The US Environmental Protection Agency recently honored the City of Bainbridge Island with its Green Power of the Year Award – and Grow Community helped earn the honor.

In his report to the community, City Manager Doug Schulze cited Grow Community’s leadership.

“Adjacent to one of Bainbridge’s three neighborhood centers is Grow Community, one of the first North American communities built on the One Planet principles,” Schulze writes. “These all-electric homes have the option of installing enough PV to meet almost all of their homes’ energy demands. The homes, available for sale or rent, are populated as quickly as they are built.”

Kudos to Bainbridge Island for this great national award! Read the City Manager’s report on our national leadership in Green Power below.

How far we have grown.

With just three buildings to go, and construction paused for the winter, let’s pause ourselves to appreciate how far Grow Community has come.

This photo puts it all in perspective – three distinctive neighborhoods, tasteful, energy-efficient homes clustered around shared green spaces, a new community center, and row upon row (upon row!) of solar panels, soaking up the sun to help power Washington’s largest planned solar community.

What a great community to be a part of! And what a great vantage to take it all in.

Photo courtesy of Kelvin Hughes

New solar array powers community center

Grow Community boosted its standing as Washington state’s largest planned solar community this week with another new photovoltaic array – this time, for the new community center.

A 17-module, 5.1-kilowatt array went up atop the bike shelter behind the community building, centerpiece of the Park neighborhood.

The south-facing array takes advantage of excellent solar exposure through the day, turning the bike shelter roof into productive solar garden to help power activities at the community center.

The system also supports the local solar industry, using certified Made In Washington solar panels by iTek Energy of Bellingham.

Installation is by A&R Solar of Seattle, who’ve completed many of the residential arrays found throughout Grow’s three solar-powered neighborhoods.

A real sense of “neighborliness” in a community designed to foster closeness, connection and cooperation.

Amelia Parker had been following the work of Bioregional and its One Planet Living initiative for years, since the development of London’s famous BedZED zero-carbon community in 2002.

When she learned that there was another One Planet Community just a few miles away on Bainbridge Island – she was living in Bellevue at the time – she decided to visit and see environmentally friendly development firsthand.

She and her spouse found Grow Community. After speaking with residents, they made their move – to the Juniper building in the new Grove neighborhood.

It’s a real turn toward sustainability from her last home, a 1912 Craftsman bungalow. It was beautiful and twice the size of her current home, she says, but trying to modernize and maintain it was exhausting and expensive.

“It’s lovely to be in a place where things simply work,” Amelia says of Grow Community, “ and if they don’t, maintenance is on it quickly, where good design minimizes utility bills – large, well-insulated windows make the space feel expansive and reduces the need for lighting – and makes caring for the space simple, so that time can be spent on other things.”

At Grow, she has found a simpler lifestyle, one that de-emphasizes the need for a car, with easy connections to local shops and merchants, and even travel hubs like the ferry system and regional rail.

“For the most part, I can walk to anything I need, including the ferry terminal,” she says. “My car is coming up on 193,000 miles, and I drive so little that I’m in no hurry to replace it. My spouse occasionally needs to travel to Vancouver for business meetings: before, he would have to drive to Everett to catch a train. Now he takes the ferry across and walks to King Street Station. Not having to deal with traffic does a great deal for our mental health!”

She also finds a real sense of “neighborliness” in a community designed to foster closeness, connection and cooperation.

“Last weekend I was out at the observatory with my next-door neighbors, after a thank-you dinner for looking after their cat while they were on holiday,” she says. “We will text one another: ‘I’m going to Silverdale, do you need anything?’ ‘I’ve got too much lettuce: can I bring you some?’”

She adds: “Seeing people from the yoga studio means stopping and chatting in the aisles of the grocery store. I lived in my previous home for 13 years and really didn’t have that sort of relationship with my neighbours; I’ve been here almost 18 months, and it’s very different.”

Does she recommend Grow Community?

“Yes, absolutely.”

 

Urban Land group visits Grow

The prestigious Urban Land Institute held its Spring Conference in Seattle in early May, and Grow Community was both hot topic and host.

Grow welcomed thought-leaders in spheres ranging from development to investment, planning and design, as they came to Bainbridge Island for site visits throughout the conference.

Grow has been part of the ULI conversation since the project began, our community being a case study for creating healthy places, promoting intergenerational living, and integrating sustainability at scale.

Discussion threads running through the week included:

Creating a legacy. Pooran Desai, founder of the organizations BioRegional, which established the One Planet Living Principles, described effort at Grow as a legacy – both for the region, and in changing the conversation around the way we develop future communities. While the project has had many twists and turns, its consistency around creating a place for all ages to be comfortable and live in a more sustainable way is a profound achievement.

Intergenerational living. Visitors from the ULI appreciated Grow’s commitment to developing a community with many varied home types, to give people at every stage of life a comfortable place to live. It marks a change from development patterns often seen in the United States, where we tend to segregate generations, versus other communities around the world that embrace keeping mixed generations together.

Sustainability. Many of the ULI visitors came from places where a push for sustainability is just beginning, compared to the Seattle region where it is becoming the norm. Visitors were impressed by the range of areas where Grow challenged the norm: energy, materials, solar, and open space. Built Green standards allowed us to use a local certification program and consider our efforts from a neighborhood level, integrating our sustainability goals through One Planet Living. Grow gave visitors a model they can follow and incorporate into their own communities.

The Grow Community development team and investors thank residents for continuing to allow for guests like ULI to visit. These visits and conversations plant the seeds for other communities to come. They also provide the inspiration for others to take on the challenges of sustainable growth and living – allowing others to take what we have learned here, and spread the best of what we have for our One Planet.

Grow sponsors new ‘terrestrial’ podcast on KUOW

Grow Community is all about making smart choices for the Earth – how we build and how we live.  Now we’re proud to sponsor the new podcast “terrestrial” on local radio station KUOW, exploring “the choices we make in a world we have changed.” Host Ashley Ahearn travels the country — from ranches in Oregon to churches in Colorado — to bring listeners stories about people making personal choices in the face of environmental change.

Subscribe to “terrestrial” through Apple podcasts, or listen online at here.

PSE celebrates Grow’s energy efficiency program

Puget Sound Energy visited Grow Community recently to celebrate the success of our Energy Efficiency program for Multifamily buildings.

Our development team and PHC Construction welcomed PSE officials for the occasion, to fete an effort that has been ongoing for several years.

Incentives from the PSE program helped offset costs for the heat pump hot water heating systems within the Salal, Juniper and Tsuga buildings.

Coupled with rooftop solar production, the program has greatly reduced energy costs in these multifamily buildings. Owners benefit additionally from solar power net-metering and production incentives.

We hope to repeat the program with other multifamily buildings now underway in Grow’s third neighborhood, the Park.

“It was a great morning visit, and an overdue tour for the PSE team that has been working with us to help Grow’s goals of energy efficiency,” said Greg Lotakis, project manager. “PSE has been a great partner.”

Grow Community’s multifamily solar program was chronicled recently at Solar Power World Online. Read the story here.

Tread lightly on the earth, live healthy at Grow Community

When we set out to design the most sustainable, future-friendly community possible, we knew we were building more than homes. We were creating a whole new way of living, and a model for the world.

We started with the principles of One Planet Living – promoting sustainable, healthy lifestyles through low-impact construction and high-quality materials. Culture, community, equity and economy were our guiding principles, health and happiness our end product.

We haven’t backed down from the challenge. Homes in our first two neighborhoods, the Village and the Grove, have earned national and international acclaim for their thoughtful design and construction. Each neighborhood is designed around vegetable gardens, fruit groves or open spaces, with native plants and vegetation creating natural and inviting places for children and adults to enjoy.

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Grow offers a “five minute lifestyle” where residents can walk/ride/roll to local amenities and urban attractions in Winslow town center, reducing dependency on the automobile. Spacious designs offer room for families, while single-level living options mean owners can age in place in security and comfort.

We’re all about bringing people together – a new community center will provide a space for classes, gatherings and community events, bringing residents and neighbors together throughout the seasons.

Along the way, Grow has become the largest planned solar community in Washington state – with more clean energy-producing rooftop PV systems being added all the time.

As we enter our third and final phase, the Park neighborhood, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. A healthy community of satisfied residents and, we believe, an inspiration that others can follow for forward-thinking, sustainable urban design.

Visit Grow Community today, and let us share it with you – a new way of living, at one with the future and the world.

Three flavors of multifamily solar at Grow Community

Condos, apartments, townhomes – three flavors of multifamily construction, each with its own challenges for reaping the power, and financial benefits, of solar investment.

Asani development company is tackling all three at once at Grow Community.

On buildings dubbed the Salal, the Juniper and the Elan, now complete in the project’s expansive second phase, solar arrays will benefit both homebuyers and renters alike.

One roof apiece, with many beneficiaries beneath.

“Our investors said, ‘let’s go for it,'” said Greg Lotakis, Asani president and Grow Community project manager. “Without their desire to be the largest solar community in Washington, and wanting to plant the solar flag in the ground, we wouldn’t be doing this. Without their support, it wouldn’t be possible.”
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The Salal condominiums, with 12 units spread over three stories, is effectively a “community solar” project on a rooftop. Solar was included in the purchase price – no option – and incentives from the State of Washington will be apportioned equally among condominium owners, with each owning a one-twelfth interest in the array.

Asani worked with state officials and the local utility provider to craft a program that satisfies the complicated provisions of Washington law.

The opening was a provision allowing common use of single roof for solar in multifamily buildings. Asani banked on prospective buyers seeing shared solar as a good investment as they bought their condo units, one that promised annual paybacks while lowering operational costs of their building through solar harvest.

Solar was designed into the Salal building. A single production meter monitors total system output, while 12 sub-meters track consumption in individual units for utility billing.

Buyers are rolling the cost of solar, about $15,000 per unit, into their mortgages to take advantage of low interest rates at the time of purchase.

“We wanted it very clean and divisible by all the owners,” Lotakis said. “I think it would be pretty difficult for six, 10, 12 people to come together and agree upon how the system would work after the fact. This gave us a chance to just deliver it.”

Lotakis expects the 44kW array to produce about $1,500 in incentives per unit annually – cumulatively much higher than the state’s $5,000 cap on incentives for a single-family residence.

Next door at the 12-unit Juniper apartment building, the 44kW rooftop array is similar but the equation is different. Renters will enjoy the benefits of solar production through net-metering, but not the annual state solar rebate. That will go to the building’s single owner, and will max out at the state’s $5,000 cap.

The two-story Elan townhomes presented the most straightforward challenge. Individual 6-9kW solar packages are offered for each section of the common roof. No modules will cross the “virtual lot lines,” making each system self-contained within the owner’s patch of rooftop. Three systems have been installed so far.

Growing neighborhood solar

From project inception, Asani set out to build the most environmentally friendly development possible.

Relentless sourcing of renewable materials and low-impact fixtures, and close connection to the island’s town center, have positioned Grow Community in the marketplace for healthy lifestyle-conscious buyers.

The project’s first phase is noted for its shared pea-patch gardens and winding footpaths through close-set homes. The second and third phases are oriented around a woodland grove and open greenway.

The project has earned recognition in national magazines and won awards from local and national homebuilder associations. It is only the second planned community in North America to be certified under the One Planet Living standards.

Grow’s first phase of 23 detached units sold out immediately, and every homeowner chose to add the solar package.
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Asani has also showcased Made In Washington components to support the state’s solar industry.

Modules at the Salal are by Itek Energy of Bellingham, while the Juniper and Elan arrays include APsystems microinverters manufactured and distributed by Blue Frog Solar of Poulsbo.

Using a mix of in-state and out-of-state components allows Asani to achieve different price points for buyers while optimizing local incentives where possible.

Lotakis cautions that Grow Community’s multifamily solar program relies on particularities in Washington law. Multifamily programs elsewhere would face their own challenges, although he believes Grow offers a useful model for developers nationwide to consider.

With the Salal building only recently certified for occupancy, new residents have no comparative data on their energy savings. But the solar component was attractive, as it has been to buyers throughout the three-neighborhood, 142-home project due to be completed in late 2017.

“Solar was a factor,” one new resident said, “along with a development that encourages a sense of community.”

Between the federal tax credit and annual rebates from the state, Lotakis said, owners buying into the Salal condominiums could have their share of the common array paid off within five years.

“And because they’ve rolled the cost of solar into their mortgage, they don’t really see it,” he said.
“Those production checks will be like a dividend.”

Grow ‘hits the Easy button’ for sustainability

It takes a lot of work to make sustainability simple.

But making the choice of a low-impact lifestyle easy for buyers was the goal at Grow Community from the very start.

In an article titled “We Only Have One Planet,” Reserve Magazine explores the history of Washington’s largest planned solar community, and the thoughtful features that have earned it the prestigious One Planet Living certification.

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“We wanted to hit the Easy button for people,” Asani President Greg Lotakis tells the magazine, “so they could get in and just focus on the things we can’t control, which are creating community, enjoying community and enjoying each other.”

Leading elements of Grow’s high-performing homes include rooftop solar arrays, airtight construction and insulation, and nontoxic construction materials, among other low-impact features. Grow homes use 30 to 40 percent less water than a typical Pacific Northwest home, the magazine notes.

It all adds up to a formula for sustainable, intergenerational living. Grow does the hard work, so residents can get on with the fun stuff: living.

“This idea that we can start to create places where generations share space, where elders pass along wisdom, where you have children who are being looked after by friends or grandparents and where young couples or single folks get a chance to live in a community where there’s a mix of support — to us, it’s a recipe for success in the future,” Greg says.

Read the whole story online here.