Homes in the Verde Village subdivision will be environmentally friendly from the ground on which they sit to their roofs, according to the team that designed the development.
Land owners Greg and Valri Williams recently won approval from the Ashland City Council for the 68-unit subdivision just south of the Ashland Dog Park located at the end of Helman Street. Proponents who spoke in favor of the project hailed it as a model for future development, raising the question, just what makes a project “green.”
The dog park will remain undisturbed, although the narrow road leading to the park will be expanded and improved to accommodate traffic from the surrounding subdivision. Greg and Valri Williams are swapping nearby land they own along Ashland Creek for a city-owned finger of land that runs through their property. The land exchange will allow public access and a 1,050 foot extension of the Bear Creek Greenway along the creek.
Joining the once-separated Williams’ parcels with the city’s finger of land not only creates one large block of land for the subdivision, it allows for an integrated plan to deal with stormwater run-off.
“We wanted that finger between our two parcels so we could treat water in a natural way,” Greg Williams said.
Rain that falls on a regular subdivision drains from roofs, driveways and streets into gutters and then underground stormdrain pipes. Even though that water carries pollutants like oil and dirt, it eventually empties into creeks untreated.
In the Verde Village subdivision, rainfall on roofs will flow into cisterns that hold water for flushing toilets and outdoor irrigation, Greg Williams said.
Run-off from driveways and streets will flow into bioswales, which are like shallow ditches lined with plants.
“Normally run-off from roofs and paving super-charges the flow of a creek. It leads to ‘flashy’ flows,” said Kerry KenCairn, landscape architect for the project. “Bioswales reintroduce the opportunity for water to slow down and percolate. It cleans the pollutants out and allows the water the opportunity to percolate into the ground more like in a pre-development condition.”
Water that doesn’t soak into the ground during its journey through the bioswales will drain into wetlands, she said.
Angled toward the sun
In many American communities, streets are laid out in a grid pattern, with roads running east-west and north-south.
Part of the street layout for Verde Village was dictated by making a connection to an existing sewer line, but where possible, the streets are laid out on a diagonal to maximize solar exposure, Greg Williams said.
Some houses will front directly onto the streets, but others are set at an angle so they don’t block each other’s solar access, he said.
The Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation is building 15 affordable townhouses in the subdivision and will seek a grant to add solar panels to those homes. As a condition of approval, the City Council required the homes to be energy efficient so that even without solar panels, utility bills will be low.
For the other market-rate homes in the subdivision, Greg Williams said they will all have up to — kilowatt solar systems.
The smaller cottages may need only 2 kilowatt systems to produce all of their own electricity. The largest homes may need 5 kilowatt systems to generate sufficient energy, he said.
However, state and federal tax benefits help pay for up to — kilowatt home systems, so it doesn’t make financial sense for builders to install larger systems, Greg Williams said.
The couple are hoping to show developers that environmentally friendly homes can be built for the same amount as conventional homes.
All of the Verde Village houses will be “net zero energy,” meaning they have the potential to produce as much energy as they consume.
Greg Williams said buyers of the large homes will start with — kilowatt systems and can add more solar panels at their own expense to achieve that potential, and meanwhile, owners of the smaller homes will be able to produce enough energy to meet typical annual use.
“You will not have an electric bill at the end of the year,” he said.
From the ground up
All of the homes will have solar hot water panels as well as solar electric panels. While those may be the most visible features, many other features are less noticeable.
The houses will be built on insulated concrete floors with no crawl spaces that allow cold air to circulate under homes, Greg Williams said.
Builders will use wood that has been certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council, as well as paint and caulking that emits few volatile organic compounds, Valri Williams said.
Homeowners will need to pay extra to get low-V.O.C. carpeting because it is very expensive, she said.
The homes will be equipped with efficient Energy Star appliances. Greg Williams said the decision has not been made yet whether people can move in with their old appliances.
“They probably couldn’t meet the Net Zero electric use unless they were Energy Star appliances,” he said.
Williams said homeowners will have to do their part by using fluorescent light bulbs, for example.
The open space in the development will be maintained through homeowners fees, and landscaping components like the bioswales will be protected by covenants, codes and restrictions, KenCairn said.
Owners of the cottages will share a community garden, Greg Williams said.
The affordable townhouses will cost about $150,000. The cottages will cost about $250,000, with the larger homes at higher prices.
Greg Williams said he hopes the different sizes and prices of the homes will attract a variety of people &
ranging from young families to retirees &
who all share common values.
“We’re hopeful that people who want to buy these types of homes are really interested in taking care of the environment,” he said.