affordable sustainable community

There’s an exciting announcement out this week — the “first net-zero affordable community” is supposed to break ground on September 14th in Jerseyville, IL.

It looks like a wonderful project in that 32 single-family homes renting for only $590 per month will be powered by solar panels, wind turbines and other clean technology, keeping utility bills at $0.

Furthermore, the homes are expected to be LEED Platinum certified once they are completed. No small feat there.

“Cutting edge green renewable technology has been a cost-prohibitive, inner-city luxury that few could afford. Until today,” said Bill Luchini, President of Capstone Development Group, the company developing the community. “This development will be rented to rural families that earn less than $41,000 per year. And they won’t have a gas bill. They won’t have a heating bill. When they get their electric bill, it is more likely to be credit instead of a cost. Green technology will truly make a more affordable and more sustainable life for everyone in the community.”

Homes to be Affordable in the Long-Term

And while one problem with affordable green-friendly communities is often that the prices may start small but then skyrocket within a certain number of years (due to the great features of the community), that is unlikely to happen here. “Financing from the Illinois Housing Development Authority ensures that the development will remain affordable for working families the long-term,” LEED for homes Illinois reports.

Details on the Green Homes

Before I get into the one issue I have with the project, here are a few more highlights on the details of the homes:

The 32 single-family homes will each have three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and an attached two-car garage. A separate building will house a clubhouse/resource center, community room with kitchenette and bathroom, conference room, computer lab, property manager’s office and a storage room. The site will be landscaped with native plants to reduce water usage and will include a state-of-the-art playground….

Building Highlights

The homes will be approximately 1,230 square feet, and will feature central air conditioning, heat, hot water and other appliances that all run on electric energy, powered by roof-mounted solar panels on all homes, as well as wind turbines throughout the subdivision. Even the streetlights will be powered by wind and solar.

Modern building techniques will reduce construction waste to nearly zero. The design will incorporate highly energy efficient materials, long-term durability and maintenance, and an interior clean air environment.

* Sustainable landscape practices include efficient irrigation systems
* Water efficient faucets, showerheads and WaterSense toilets
* Bathroom and kitchen exhaust vented to the outdoors removing sources of pollutants
* Energy-efficient design, ENERGY STAR appliances, exceeding ENERGY STAR for New Homes requirements
* Wall insulation at R-21 and R-49 insulation in the attic
* Well sealed and air-tight construction reducing drafts
* Low VOC paints
* Energy efficient florescent light fixtures
* Argon gas U35-rated low-e windows
* Extensive use of recycled materials

One Thing Missing from this Super-Sustainable Community

Not taking away from the success of making the homes affordable and green, the community is definitely lacking in one way — it seems to have a heavy automobile focus, despite auto transportation being a leading cause of global warming and other pollution as well as a very expensive form of transportation.

With 2-car garages for every home, (a clear automobile focus in the image above), and no discussion of bicycle paths or transit links in the announcements, it looks like the developers aren’t addressing what is considered to be the 1st, 2nd or 3rd biggest cause of environmental problems.

This project is both a very inspiring project and a big disappointment to me. I would think that any project doing so well on home affordability and clean energy would also address transportation, a little bit at least.

Photo Credit: Capstone Development Group