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2017-07-14 / News

Projects aims to keep housing costs low with high efficiency

By Spencer Myers

State College, PA – Creating more energy efficient homes is key to paving the way to a clean energy future. After all, the less energy we use, the less generation we will have to replace.

The State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT) recently broke ground on its Greenbuild project that aims to push the envelope on how affordable energy efficient housing can be. Penn State students from the Hamer Center for Community Design started the project and continue to be an integral part of the process.

“As a model project, GreenBuild will provide valuable insight into ways to lower the costs of home ownership over the long term. In a community that already has a shortage of affordable housing, the SCCLT will eliminate another barrier to homeownership by reducing the energy cost burden,” said Peg Hambrick, chair of the GreenBuild Project, in a release.

Aspects of the project’s design that will contribute to its efficiency include: high-efficiency heating and cooling, sustainable building materials, water- efficient fixtures, passive solar and a photovoltaic panel array.

The project was funded in part by a $100,000 grant and a $350,000 construction loan from the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF)

“We are proud to welcome WPPSEF as a key partner in this town-gown collaboration to address one of our community’s most well-known challenges: affordable housing,” Hambrick said.

On June 25, the SCCLT along with WPPSEF, Envinity Inc., who is the project’s principal contractor, and other local leaders, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new project, which is located at 1394 University Drive.

Construction of the duplex is planned to begin this fall, with the first owners moving in sometime in the spring of 2018.

According to Jason Grottini, driector of design and energy services at Envinity, although solar panels are part of the initial plan, they are not an integral aspect of its energy efficiency. The first step is to get the building to be Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) certified by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

When granting the certification, the DOE looks at a building’s size, quality of insulation, HVAC system, water management, energy efficient appliances and high-performance windows. The certification is tied in with the Energy Star program.

“Our financial support will help this community to showcase the benefits from a project that began when SCCLT met with the Penn State Hamer Center and challenged the architecture and engineering students to form a team to compete in the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Race to Zero Student Design Competition,” said Joel Morrison, director of West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund, in a release. “This competition challenges and inspires the next generation of building science professionals to design an affordable, net zero energy home that meets DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home guidelines.

“By definition, these high-performance homes are so energy-efficient that renewable power can offset most or all of the annual energy consumption. This design program will foster existing and future collaboration with university architectural and engineering students to deploy high performance construction practices in their local communities,” Morrison said in a release.

According to Grottini, if the design can meet the requirements, this would be the first ZERH project in the area.

Currently, the energy model each unit in the duplex requires approximately 10,374 kilowatthours (kWh) per year (or 20,748 kWh/year for the two together), but Envinity hopes to bring that down by the time it is constructed. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer in 2015 was 10,812 kWh/year.

At that level of energy use, the duplex would likely require two eight kW solar arrays to become independent from the grid, which translates to about 48 solar panels mounted to the roof of the structure. .

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