Energy-efficient homes come to fruition

PHOTO PROVIDED Several of the individuals who helped bring the GreenBuild project to life cut the ribbon for the new duplex. From left are Peg Hambrick, GreenBuild chair; Joel Morrison, fund administrator for West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund; GreenBuild homebuyers Christina Taheri and David and Rachel Culbertson; Anna Childe of Weber Murphy Fox; Jack Matson, founder of Envinity, Inc.; Elizabeth Goreham, former mayor of State College Borough; Mimi Barash Coppersmith of Barash Media; Susan Venegoni, State College Community Land Trust Board president; Jason Grottini, owner of Envinity, Inc.; and State College Mayor Donald Hahn. Not pictured are Colleen Ritter, executive director of SCCLT, and Lisa Iulo, director of the Penn State Hamer Center.



STATE COLLEGE — Affordable, energy-efficient homes are becoming a reality in State College.

A ribbon-cutting was held last month, followed by two open houses to showcase two completed energy-efficient homes. They mark the beginning of saving money and energy for the Centre Region’s current and future homeowners, developers, architects, and builders. The two prototype homes are at 1394 and 1396 University Drive, where ground was broken on the project last June and construction began last fall.

According to Peg Hambrick, chair of the GreenBuild project, “The ribbon-cutting gathering for GreenBuild celebrates the past and the present, but the GreenBuild team also looks to the future when our two new families move in and when Centre Region architects, home builders and homeowners incorporate the principles we have learned through this project.”

GreenBuild will yield many cost and energy benefits for its first home buyers. A certificate of occupancy is anticipated this month.

Subsequent home buyers will also benefit from the homes’ lower operating and maintenance costs.

Each GreenBuild home is 1,360 square feet in size and will use cost-effective green technology. For each unit, this will result in less than $200 per year for heating and less than $1,000 per year for all electrical use. Monthly energy costs per unit are anticipated to be no more than $15 per month.

Homeowners will pay $187,500 for each unit, which is significantly lower than the average State College home, which costs approximately $275,000.

Over the course of the project, construction costs for each home came to $250,000. The land for each unit cost $79,000 and is kept in a trust by the State College Community Land Trust (SCCLT).

Funding for the project was made possible through a variety of sources, including State College Borough, West Penn Sustainability Energy Fund, the Centre County Commissioners, S&T Bank, and many community members. The overall project was done in partnership with SCCLT, Envinity, the Penn State Stuckeman School, and the Penn State Hamer Center for Community Design/Energy Efficient Housing Research Group.

For the past few years, SCCLT has been working on turning the GreenBuild project into a reality. SCCLT Executive Director Colleen Ritter previously said that it was in December 2014 when then-executive director Ron Quinn and 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 that meeting, 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 the State College Borough approved a grant for SCCLT to purchase the land that would become home for the GreenBuild duplex.

During the beginning stages of the project, the SCCLT board and volunteers met several times with Penn State College of Architecture students, Iulo and other faculty to discuss homeowner needs, Ritter said. A team of more than 30 Penn State architecture and engineering students then went on to develop plans for the new green homes. These plans were entered into the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Race to Zero Student Design Competition and won two awards: one for design excellence and the other for systems integration excellence.

After these plans were drawn up, SCCLT launched a fundraising campaign to receive funds from residents and local government, in addition to private businesses and foundations.

In the future, the GreenBuild team plans to conduct further research to determine how initial construction costs can be reduced while still maintaining ultra-high energy efficiency. The homes will serve as a model for anyone in the Centre Region who is seeking new ways to reduce their energy costs to support affordable home ownership.

For more information about GreenBuild, visit http://www.scclandtrust.org/greenbuild.html.