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Designing an Affordable Net-zero Community

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The twin goals for the Basalt Vista community—to build an affordable community that is also net-zero—represent an interesting challenge for stakeholders.

“It’s more expensive to heat with electricity even if you’re using heat pumps. How do you deal with that?” Basalt councilman Auden Schendler said. “That’s a question the project is going to have to figure out, especially for affordable housing, where people don’t have the money to pay more for heat.”

Solar installations are also expensive, he noted. Holy Cross Energy is donating solar equipment for four homes, but that leaves 23 units that will have to be covered through grants and fundraising efforts.

RELATED: Building for the Future

However, Holy Cross’s Chris Bilby believes that combining solar power with energy storage is an ideal solution for affordable housing.

“Coupling solar and storage with low- to moderate-income housing is just a great marriage,” he said. “That’s where we can see the biggest benefit to people. It doesn’t have to be this 5,000 square foot house to offset their energy usage.”

Another issue? Homeowners really don’t like electric stoves that much. “Do you—and this project is going to do this—put in induction stoves that require special pots and pans?” Schendler said.

RELATED: Net-zero Heroes—Energy-efficient Solutions to an Affordable Housing Crisis

Ultimately, Basalt Vista is more than just an affordable housing project; it’s a learning lab for builders who are interested in seeing how net-zero homes impact the people living in them and the environment around them.

“They should be watching this closely, because everybody’s going to have to do this and we need to start thinking about the challenges and how to get it done,” Schendler said.

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