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
nearly $487,000 that paid for the solar and efficiency measures. SMUD
collaborated with the National Renewable Energy Lab and the builder,
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
• 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
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
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
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