This section is devoted to anything and everything related to sustainable energy.

Is This The Most Sustainable Neighborhood In The U.S.? – Fast Company

Fast Company | November 13, 2013 | Adele Peters

A new neighborhood on Bainbridge Island, Washington, has all the aspects of a resilient community–like net zero homes, community gardens, and car sharing–built in from the beginning.

A new urban neighborhood on Bainbridge Island, Washington, is arguably the most resilient–and healthiest–in the entire United States. Grow Community is not the first place to have net zero energy homes, community gardens, carsharing, or any of its other features, but it’s the first community to have all of those features, by design, from its inception.

Each home in the new development, from apartments to single-family homes, can run entirely on solar power. The ultra-efficient buildings are insulated to save energy, and include heat pumps and heat recovery ventilators. Wood siding comes from local, sustainably managed forests. But green buildings are only a small part of the community’s design.

“The average footprint for food and transportation is three times the footprint of a home,” says Jonathan Davis, the architect who led the project. Both were considered as integral parts of the development. The location was carefully chosen to be a short walk or bike ride from the ferry to Seattle or nearby shops. Residents will have access to community bikes and a shared fleet of cars–the first car being a Nissan Leaf that plugs into its own dedicated solar panel. Those moving to the area bringing their own vehicles may want to consider getting a car or motorcycle shipping quote to help them figure out the cost of transporting their vehicles during their busy move.

The homes are bordered by community vegetable gardens and fruit trees, and residents will also have the chance to participate in a working farm within walking distance.

The design also aims to help neighbors actually meet each other. The site is divided up into “microhoods” that are grouped around a common yard, and each of the grouping is connected by a series of pathways. No one can drive home; the parking lot is deliberately remote so that people have to walk home, and have the chance to run into each other. Each home has a front porch, and the common yards have community gardens and other shared spaces for people to interact.

Right now, the development is partially completed–22 out of 24 single-family homes are underway or finished, and construction will begin shortly on two small apartment buildings. Eight homes are occupied. The new residents include the architect and his own family. “Someone recently said it must be like my own personal Sim City, and it is,” Davis says, as he watches his creation unfold.

The development is the first in the U.S. to meet the stringent requirements of the One Planet Living program. “It’s a really big-picture look at sustainability,” Davis says. “In a way, Grow Community provides an easy basis for everyone living there to reduce their environmental footprint.”

Grow Solar

This month A&R Solar is installing solar arrays on more homes at Grow.  Our community is on its way to being the largest solar neighborhood in Washington State, proving that solar really does work in our cloudy state!

As a One Planet Community, Grow is intended to achieve Net Zero Carbon from buildings by 2020.  We have been monitoring one of the occupied homes in the community since January of this year and it looks like the numbers are coming out positive – the solar is providing more than enough energy to power the house over the year!  This not only reduces the owners’ carbon footprint, it also saves them a whole lot in power bills.

Here are a few reasons why you might also want to consider solar for your home:

  • Receive Washington State renewable energy incentives
  • Get a 30% federal tax credit
  • Reduce your electric bills forever
  • Support your local economy
  • Increase your homes resale value
  • Reduce your carbon footprint

 

the Everett Becomes Part of NEEA’s Pilot Project: Next Step Homes

The Everett model home was selected to be part of NEEA‘s (Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance) pilot project: Next Step Homes.  We at Grow Community are excited to have a home that will help set this new standard of efficiency. The purpose of this pilot – partnering with a select group of builders across the Northwest – is to determine the most cost-effective ways to build homes that will achieve the greatest energy savings.

NEEA plans to use the findings from the pilot to set the next level of high performance home efficiency standards for the Northwest region.  The Everett has been selected as one of ten homes in the four-state region, including Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and will be monitored for efficiency performance for 13 months to determine if the home operates as designed once occupied.

NEEA works in collaboration with its stakeholders and strategic market partners to accelerate the sustained market adoption of energy efficient products, technologies and practices. Its mission is to mobilize the Northwest to become increasingly energy efficient for a sustainable future.  Grow Community is proud to partner with NEEA, leading the way towards a more sustainable future of home-building.

Backers see $60M Grow Community as prototype for going super green

Daily Journal of Commerce
May 20th, 2013

click here to read article

Sustainable Business: Washington state’s largest solar community tests the marketplace

Puget Sound Business Journal
May 10th, 2013

click here to read article

Grow Community homes are 5-Star Built Green!

We are very excited to announce that Grow Community homes have achieved 5-Star Built Green status, the highest rating for Built Green certification. Built Green is designed to help homebuyers find quality, affordable homes that offer opportunities to protect the health of their families and the Northwest environment. This is a great step forward in our efforts to create cost-effective, energy efficient One Planet homes on the cutting-edge of today’s sustainable development practices.

Click here to read Built Green’s case study on Grow Community.

NW Green Home Tour

Saturday, April 27th 2013, 11am-5pm
Grow Model Homes  |  428 Grow Avenue NW, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Come visit our Built Green 5-Star Homes on April 27th! Grow Community will be one of the stops on the NW Green Home Tour. Co-produced by Northwest Eco Building Guild Seattle Chapter and Built Green this tour is a FREE spring event. This will be the 3rd Annual NW Green Home Tour for Seattle, Bainbridge Island + Eastside.

 

To learn more about the tour go to the NW Eco Building Guild website.

 

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.

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?”

 

Net-Zero Home Revealed on East Coast

A new Net-Zero residential test facility has been revealed this week by the National Institute of Science and Technology. This is great news for the advancement of sustainable housing in the United States, however they have an interesting take on it: the four bedroom, three bathroom house will be occupied by a “virtual” family.

“Helping scientists test the home’s systems and determine whether it’s truly “net-zero” is a virtual family of four. Energy use by the family will be simulated by computers that turn on and off various household appliances according to daily routines.”

The Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility in Gaithersburg, MD.

The goal of the company is to eventually sell energy back into the grid, offsetting the electricity used by the family and making it a truly net-zero home.

“Building the home is just the first phase of the project. This fall, NIST scientists and engineers will begin a two-year long research project designed to put the net-zero home to the test. Computers will simulate everything from cell phone charging, to vacuum cleaner use, to the amount of water used to cook meals and bathe.”

While similar to the goals of Grow Community, there are several differences between these two projects. Grow Community, based on the ten guiding principles of One Planet Living developed by BioRegional, aims to address entire lifestyle impacts, with the goal of reducing overall ecological footprint. Grow Community is the first of its kind in the United States to start construction on sustainable homes using these One Planet Community development guidelines. From zero carbon homes and transportation strategies, programs that increase local food consumption and procurement policies that support a local green economy, the Grow Community is applying One Planet Living solutions to create a cost-effective, creative, inspirational and replicable community on the leading-edge of sustainable development practices.

Jonathan Davis, Owner of Davis Studio Architecture & Design, and Lead Designer for Grow Community, likes the goals of the NIST test facility, but thinks the plan has its own limitations.

“We’re doing something more real, for a lot cheaper.” says Davis, “They’re saying the house prices are about $600,000 for a house with state-of-the-art technology in it, not including the land. So we’re creating homes that are more affordable, with the same claim to Net-Zero energy usage, and we’re testing it with real people.”

“It’s great that someone wants to study something like that and get some useful information, but essentially we are doing it in the real world. And we’ll know in a year, just like they will, whether or not it will work.”