Land trust breaks ground on affordable, energy-efficient housing site

EMMA GOSALVEZ/THE EXPRESS Joel Morrison of the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF) presents a $450,000 check to Colleen Ritter, executive director of the State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT). In early June, WPPSEF awarded SCCLT with a $100,000 grant and a $350,000 construction loan to help fund the construction of GreenBuild.

STATE COLLEGE — The shovels have dug in and construction will soon begin on a site that will benefit homeowners in the Centre Region and beyond.

On Sunday, the State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT) broke ground on GreenBuild, located at 1394 University Drive, a duplex that will serve as a model for affordable, energy-efficient housing in Centre County. The two homes, each approximately 1,400 square feet, will use advanced, cost-effective green technology, with heating alone to cost less than $200 per year and all electrical use to cost less than $1,000 per year.

“We’re here today because we’re committed to building efficient homes, energy-efficient homes, for middle income homeowners,” said Peg Hambrick, chair of GreenBuild, “[Which will provide] long-term affordability for individuals working in education, health care, technology. These are people who are often priced out of the State College housing market. We want to attract and retain those who prize living and working in the Centre Region and this is one step toward helping them buy a home, which will be affordable in the long-term.”

Construction of the duplex is planned to begin in the fall, with occupancy of the homes to take place in the spring of 2018.

“The energy usage of the GreenBuild homeowners will be studied,” SCCLT Executive Director Colleen Ritter said to The Express. “Evaluating the effectiveness of the technologies used in GreenBuild to meet that goal and disseminating this information broadly will impact the Centre Region’s current and future homeowners, developers and builders.”

To help with construction of the duplex, the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund awarded SCCLT with a $100,000 grant and a $350,000 construction loan in early June. The project also received funding from the county and State College Borough and was developed in partnership with the State College Borough, Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture and the Hamer Center for Community Design/Energy Efficient Housing Research Group.

For each unit, the homeowner will pay between $175,000 and $185,000. Ritter said that the SCCLT will keep the land in a trust and it will be leased to the homeowner for a nominal monthly charge.

This is significantly lower than the cost of the average State College home, which costs approximately $275,000.

For almost three years, SCCLT has been working on turning the GreenBuild project into a reality. Ritter said that it was in December 2014 that then-executive director Ron Quinn and volunteer Hambrick met with Lisa Iulo, associate professor of architecture at Penn State, to discuss making SCCLT homes more energy efficient. Iulo had experience on a similar project that had taken place in Union County.

Shortly after the meeting, a local resident, Lassie MacDonald, approached the SCCLT about buying a lot she owned on University Drive. After the SCCLT decided to pursue the project, Ritter said that State College Borough approved a grant for SCCLT to purchase the land.

While putting the project plans together, the SCCLT board and volunteers met several times with Penn State College of Architecture students, Iulo and other faculty to discuss homeowner needs. The Penn State team then went on to develop plans for the green duplex, plans which students entered in the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Race to Zero Student Design Competition, Ritter said.

At the competition, the team, which called themselves “H4 | Heritage Homes: High Performance Living in Harmony with Community” and was made up of more than 30 architecture and engineering students, won two awards for the model: one for design excellence and the other for systems integration excellence.

Once these plans were drawn up, the SCCLT board launched a fundraising campaign to receive funds from residents, local government, along with private businesses and foundations.

“There was great enthusiasm for a model project and we successfully raised what we needed to break ground,” Ritter said. “However, we still are accepting additional gifts to ensure that all of the green technology can be installed.”

For more information about GreenBuild, including details of its green technology, or to donate to the project, visit http://www.scclandtrust. org/greenbuild.html.

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