Public Power Weekly
September 17, 2012: No. 37

Sacramento Municipal Utility District partners with builders to deliver "home of the future" technology now

Two recent projects in downtown Sacramento, Calif., are examples of designs aimed at near net-zero energy potential, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District said Sept. 12.

A low-income housing apartment complex and a high-end residential housing complex, built in downtown Sacramento in the middle of a downturn, both emphasize near net-zero electrical energy use. In other words, the projects are designed and built to produce almost as much electrical energy as they use.

SMUD, which said it has been the driving force behind this approach to building in the region, calls these dwellings "homes of the future."

In 2008, SMUD completed its first home of the future, a LEED platinum-certified home in suburban Folsom. That demonstration project "intrigued other builders, and in the years since, despite the region being one of the slowest to recover from the housing downturn, projects are being completed and more are being planned," the utility said.

For example, the La Valentina apartments are Sacramento’s first near net-zero multifamily apartment buildings. The apartment complex, which consists of two buildings, uses rooftop solar photovoltaic panels, Energy Star appliances, water-saving fixtures, and on-site water retention basins. There are 81 apartments, ranging in size from studios to three-bedrooms. The apartments are affordable to households meeting income eligibility guidelines. After nearly 20 months of construction, the complex opened in August. SMUD supplied financial incentives of nearly $487,000 that paid for the solar and efficiency measures. SMUD collaborated with the National Renewable Energy Lab and the builder, Domus Development.

Residents at the La Valentina North building can expect to save $521 annually as a result of energy efficiency and solar production, SMUD said. The building will use an estimated 63 percent less total energy (electricity and natural gas combined) than new buildings that meet the state’s minimum Title 24 building standards.

The adjacent La Valentina Station utilized Savings by Design, a statewide program encouraging high-performance design and construction. La Valentina Station is aiming for LEED silver certification. It exceeds the state building code requirements for energy measures by 26 percent, SMUD said. 

A few miles south in this downtown area is the mIhomevstreet community. "The unique name is hardly the only aspect that makes this housing development different from just about everything else in California or in the nation," SMUD said.

This new energy-efficient community is currently under construction in the Northwest Land Park area. Like La Valentina, these homes of the future are an infill project designed with the potential for net-zero electrical energy use. SMUD is providing research and development incentives for these technologies, including:
•   Rooftop solar photovoltaic systems and combined photovoltaic and solar water heating systems;
•   Advanced structural insulated wall and roof panels;
•   "Green switches" to control dedicated plug loads;
•   LED lighting throughout the entire house and garage with estimated 40,000-hour life utilizing only 10 percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs;
•   High performance heat pump heating and cooling system; and
•   "Energy harvesting" wireless switching for lighting control.

Other forward-thinking features include a wireless home control system that allows energy monitoring; control of door locks and lighting; and a video camera monitoring security system for real-time use by the homeowner through a smart phone, smart tablet or personal computer.

Another appealing and energy-saving aspect is the community’s location, SMUD said. Its proximity to downtown Sacramento, just a mile from the front steps of the state Capitol, provides easy walking, biking, or public transit to work, recreational activities and major attractions. The homes there have a smaller "carbon footprint" than conventional new homes. It is estimated that, on average, the homes will deliver emissions reductions of more than 900 pounds of carbon dioxide, compared to an average home, SMUD said.

"In addition to providing customers better value and comfort, especially long term, the entire SMUD customer community benefits from the La Valentina and mIhomevstreet developments in terms of lower power costs for all customers," SMUD said. "The homes produce the most energy when it’s most needed—on hot summer days—so less electricity will be needed to serve them."      


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