At Grow, we believe that what we do now affects future generations, so we’re trying to build a community that respects the resource and cultural needs of future generations. In this category we will be spotlighting forward thinking technologies and concepts being utilized at Grow, and in the wider sustainable development community.

Alleycat Acres

By Scott McGowan

Three years ago, I participated in my first PARK(ing) Day – an annual, open sourced global event in which people from all walks of life temporarily transform parking spaces into public places.

That day forever changed the way I view how space is utilized in an urban setting. Over the course of the weeks following PARK(ing) Day, I set off to find an answer to the question: How can vacant spaces be used to bridge communities together?

That answer? Alleycat Acres.

Alleycat Acres was born during winter 2010, under the idea to (re)connect people, produce and place through building a network of neighborhood run farms on underutilized urban space.

By early 2011, twelve dedicated, diverse strangers came together to turn this idea into a reality. Together, we worked creatively to build the first farm in Beacon Hill, on a plot of land donated by a retired school teacher. That same summer, we broke ground on a 2nd farm in the Central District; and this year we celebrated our 2 year birthday by breaking ground on a 3rd farm, also in the Central District.

Our farms serve as community meeting grounds – allowing places for people who’d never normally meet to do just that — all while growing a healthier future.  In the two years we’ve been growing, there’s been over 3,000 pounds of food harvested from all of the farms by the hands of more than 1,000 newly made friends – many of whom never have stepped foot on a farm or in a garden. All that produce that was grown? It went right back to everyone who helped it grow, along with one of three neighborhood based food banks that are close to each farm which is delivered by bicycle.

At the heart of our organization is the belief that  food is more than what we eat. To all of us,  it’s a medium through which we can forge intimate, meaningful relationships between people and place. Farming is a medium that reconnects us, both mentally and physically, to our surroundings. Our entire work is based on the collective belief that neighborhood powered urban food systems are key in creating healthy people and healthy places.

With every carrot we harvest, the promise of a better future is visible. Together, as we’ve learned, we can grow forth.

Check out more from Scott McGowan here at the Alleycat Acres Website and on Facebook, as well as his previous blog post on the Grow Blog here.

Grow Solar Part 3: Incentives for Solar

Click here for Part 2 of our Grow Solar Series, where we talk about the energy efficiency measures we’ve taken to make solar power feasible in each home.

When we set out to build Grow Community, we committed to creating a One Planet community that would allow its residents to live a zero carbon lifestyle without spending extra money or compromising the comforts or quality of life that they desired.  We set an immense challenge for our team:  to design and build zero-carbon houses that could sell for less than or equal to market price.  Our incredible team met that challenge and exceeded our expectations, not only designing zero-carbon, solar powered homes that met our price requirements, but creating homes that are incredibly comfortable and pleasant to live in.  The homes are amazing spaces to be in.  Seriously.  If you haven’t been to the models homes for a tour, check it out.  We think you’ll agree.

We have an even bigger challenge now. To encourage each and every resident to join us in meeting the One Planet Zero Carbon goal for the community.  We think we can do this by making the option to add solar panels to each home an easy choice.  With no-money down financing available for the solar package, and a well-established federal and state incentive program that essentially pays for the solar, there really is no reason not to add solar to each house.  It is our hope that over time each and every building within Grow Community can be powered by solar, bringing the community as a whole closer to the goal of zero carbon living by 2020.  We know it can be done.

The idea of tax credits and incentives for the solar package may at first seem complex, but really it is quite simple.  The incentives available for renewable energy can be broken down into 3 major parts:

1. The most notable of these incentives is a 30% tax credit provided by the federal government to anyone installing renewable energy (Solar, wind, geothermal, etc.) at their place of residence.  As an example, say you purchase a $40,000 solar package.  In the first tax cycle after your purchase, you will receive a tax credit (actual cash – not a deduction) of approximately $12,000.

Here is some additional information from EnergyStar on this tax credit.

2. The second important incentive is provided by Washington State Department of Revenue’s solar power purchase incentive,through Puget Sound Energy (the energy provider on Bainbridge Island). In order to promote both energy efficiency AND Washington manufacturing, solar owners can receive up to $5,000 per year in production incentives until 2020 if they use renewable energy technology manufactured within the state. Grow Community uses solar modules manufactured by Washington-based iTek Energy and solar micro-inverters manufactured by Blue Frog Solar, also a Washington business, in order to maximize this production incentive.

3. Last, but not least, Puget Sound Energy has  a net-metering program where residential homes that use renewable energy can actually provide electricity back to the power grid. Based on typical modeled energy use, by sizing our solar for each home at Grow, and expecting average weather, each resident can end up producing as much as they use.  The result?  Your averaged annual energy bill – Zero.  With potentially rising energy costs over time, the ability to live in a home and not pay for energy has a significant positive impact on annual cost of living – no small consideration.

By working with iTek, Blue Frog, and PSE, to craft a solar package specifically tailored for each house, Grow Community homeowners are able to realize all three incentives: tax credits, power production incentives, and no electric bill each year.   All this results in a payback of 7 to 8 years and a better return on your money than many current investment opportunities.

We think it’s a no-brainer, but we are interested to know what you think.  Does it make sense?  Do you have questions?

Click here for more information on Washington State solar production incentives.

Stay tuned for Grow Solar Part 4: Financing and Paying off Your Solar Panels.

Construction Update: Trees

The following is a blog post written by Asani President Marja Preston in March 2012 on the subject of trees on the Grow Community construction site. With the second phase of construction beginning, this is again an important subject to explore. Now that construction has begun, we can share more on how we plan on saving and re-using trees on the site.

Protected tree on Grow Community construction site

1. Working with professional arborist Katy Bigelow, we walked through the property to designate significant trees to save and to remove trees that presented a danger to the neighborhood.

2. Several trees that required removal have been used as stream bank restoration for salmon habitat by the Kitsap County Surface and Stormwater Management Program.

3. Much of the cleared material will be re-purposed on-site for construction material, playground sites, and erosion control.

4. We will be replanting more trees (~250) than we remove.

Here is the original blog post:

Part of the careful planning we’ve put in place for this project includes everyday environmental choices that incorporate the beauty of our surroundings. This project is in the R-14 zone, which, under the new land use code, does not require retention of existing trees on the site. The Grow project will meet Built Green 5-Star certification, which requires substantial tree retention. In addition, we are committed to contributing to the long-term tree canopy goal of 50% coverage in Winslow, as outlined in the Bainbridge Island Urban Forest Management Plan.

Lead Architect Johnathan Davis marking trees to be re-utilized in the Grow Community playground.

In order to meet all these goals, our plan is to retain existing vegetation as much as possible. To accomplish this, we continue to work with a professional arborist, Katy Bigelow, to identify the maximum amount of trees that can reasonably be retained with the urban density that is planned. From here, once all trees have been identified, a service such as Gosnell Tree & Landscape or a similar company will be contracted for the removal of the selected trees.

We have focused on retaining trees in clusters and larger areas, for instance, at the corner of Grow Avenue and Wyatt Way, to maintain native vegetation areas, preserving habitat and maintaining existing green corridors. In addition, we are planting more than 250 new trees throughout the site. The new vegetation will enhance the existing green corridors and contribute to stormwater uptake and carbon sequestration, absorbing more than 900 metric tons of carbon over the next 100 years, almost double what the existing trees would have absorbed over that same time period.

As with all projects designed for urban densities, some trees must be removed, as preserving large trees next to new construction rarely works in the long-term. For the trees that do need to be removed or relocated we are taking the utmost care. All trees marked for preservation have been fenced at the dripline and no root systems will be disturbed by heavy equipment. Several Vine Maples have been saved for reuse in the project, a Dogwood is going home with one of our Contractors, several other plants will be going to a local landscaper, and we are working with the Kitsap Conservation District to salvage evergreens for Salmon Restoration projects.

Grow Solar Part 2: Solar Power and Energy Efficiency

Click here for Part 1

So how can solar cover all our energy needs?

Well, traditionally it wouldn’t. Most houses you see around you draw more energy than solar panels could provide.

In our case, the homes of Grow Community have been designed from the ground up with solar in mind. This includes electric wiring specifically designed for easy installation of solar panels on the roof. If you take advantage of the solar option, the panels will be enough to meet the energy demand of your life due to the energy efficiency designed into every square inch of the house. You can click here to look at the options available to add onto it if so desired.

So just how energy efficient are these homes? Well, until we get people living in the homes full time we won’t know this exactly, but we’re happy to talk about how they have been designed. Plus having this option may give people some flexibility when they learn more about their utility options. Here are some of the features that make these homes as efficient as possible:

Heat pump: The ductless minisplit Greensboro heat pump by mitsubishi in each home is twice as efficient as a gas or electric water heater. There are many different types of water heaters available on the market, from electric to tankless, you have an array of options when obtaining a water heater for your home. Whether you’re moving to a new home, or just want to have your heater replaced, you can look online on sites similar to Water Heater Reviews and check out their vast catalog of water heaters. You can visit homepage for more information.

Ventilation system: Every home in Grow Community is outfitted with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), which provides a great compliment to our ductless mini split heat pump by keeping the temperature range consistent within the home and allowing our heating system to work less and more efficiently. (This is very cool technology, and worth it’s own blog post in the future)

Lights: Most of the lights use high-efficiency LEDs, which are many times more efficient than conventional light bulbs. Almost all of our lights are LEDs and we’re pushing to have a 100% LED lit home in the future.

Windows: We use high quality energy-efficient windows, which are generally where houses lose a majority of their heat.

Appliances: All of the appliances in our homes meet or beat current energy star performance requirements.

Double Walls and Insulation: Walls in each home are twice as thick as standard walls, and are doubly insulated, reducing heat energy waste through the sides of your house.

All these energy-efficiency improvements greatly reduce the amount of power your home requires (saving 2-3 tons of coal per year), enabling the power created by solar panels to cover the rest.

Check out part 3, where we describe the incentives available to homeowners to help cover the costs of installation.

Grow Solar Part 1: How Grow Community Will Be Zero Carbon by 2020

Before we ever broke ground building Grow Community, we the Grow Team had a vision for the perfect neighborhood. We wanted to create a One Planet community that took environmental, economic, and social sustainability into account. Working toward this vision has been an adventure, and has helped us reach for our goal of being a Net-Zero carbon community by 2020.

A big part of achieving this goal is the option for each homeowner to install solar on their homes.

In the following blog series, we will explore this solar option start to finish. What makes this a viable option?  What are the benefits of solar? How much will it cost? Will financing be available?

So stay tuned and head on over to Part 2: Solar Power and Energy Efficiency where we answer the question “How can solar cover all our energy needs?”

 

Growing A Concept

Gardener holding wooden seedling tray in vegetable garden, with plants for cutting garden and vegetable patch (zinnia and pea).

The concept for Grow Community began with a question:  If you could imagine the ideal place to live, what would it be like?  We began to answer this question as we talked with friends and colleagues.  But the idea for Grow really took shape when we reached out to the wider community and challenged people to think about how a neighborhood could be intentionally designed to improve their quality of life.

Over the last two years we have created a vision of a neighborhood where people of all generations and a diversity of economic means can live mindful of their impact on the planet.   An intentional community where environmental, economic and social sustainability are equally valued and where all people can focus on creating abundance, in their relationships to others, to nature and to the community.

This vision is only just the beginning.  We have designed a site plan for the first phase of the community and built three model homes to invite people to learn about the project, about the community concept and the sustainability goals that we have adopted through the One Planet Living program.  These homes are prototypes, representing the various living opportunities that we plan to build throughout the project.  We encourage you to stop by, walk through the community garden, experience the homes and tell us what you think.

Over the last three weeks we have had more than 850 visitors and we have learned an incredible amount of information, about the homes, the community design, the community programs.  We are already incorporating this feedback in to the final house designs and will continue to improve the plans as we learn more from our visitors.

We are now getting ready to launch the next planning phase to create the Community Center and the other spaces that might be associated with it, including non-profit cultural and educational uses, a large open space and community garden.

We have only just begun, and the one thing that we are certain of is that this community will grow and evolve along with the people who contribute to it.   Our vision, our plans, our designs are just the seed.  We are looking forward to seeing what it grows into.  Whether you are a friend, neighbor, visitor or potential resident, we hope you will join us in shaping this community.

 

Now Taking Reservations.

We are now taking reservations on homes in the first 3 phases. We are also taking back-up reservations, and creating a wait-list for rentals and homes in later phases. Regardless of your timeline If you are interested in living at Grow we encourage you to schedule an appointment soon.  Please contact our Sales/Leasing Director, Joie Olsen at 206.452.6755.

Model Home Tour Schedule.

Our Model Homes will be open for tours on the weekends through September from 1-4pm (with extended hours for Labor Day weekend 10am-4pm) and by appointment. Contact us 206.452.6755 to schedule an appointment.

Grow Community Sustainability Tours.

Interested in a sustainability tour? Join us Thursday afternoons at 4pm for a sustainability tour with our Architect, Jonathan Davis (Davis Studio Architecture and Design) or a member of our development team. We can walk you through all of the sustainability features incorporated into the designs of the homes and the community at Grow. Please RSVP here or call 206.452.6755 to schedule this tour.

Share Your Thoughts With Us.

Already toured our Model Homes? Would you like to share your thoughts? We would appreciate your feedback. We have only just begun, with an expectation that this community will grow and evolve along with the people who contribute to it. Our vision, our plans, our designs are not yet complete. Whether you are a friend, neighbor or resident, we hope you will join us in shaping this community. Please share your thoughts, reactions, ideas about the home designs, the community, anything really.