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Three flavors of multifamily solar at Grow Community

Condos, apartments, townhomes – three flavors of multifamily construction, each with its own challenges for reaping the power, and financial benefits, of solar investment.

Asani development company is tackling all three at once at Grow Community.

On buildings dubbed the Salal, the Juniper and the Elan, now complete in the project’s expansive second phase, solar arrays will benefit both homebuyers and renters alike.

One roof apiece, with many beneficiaries beneath.

“Our investors said, ‘let’s go for it,'” said Greg Lotakis, Asani president and Grow Community project manager. “Without their desire to be the largest solar community in Washington, and wanting to plant the solar flag in the ground, we wouldn’t be doing this. Without their support, it wouldn’t be possible.”
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The Salal condominiums, with 12 units spread over three stories, is effectively a “community solar” project on a rooftop. Solar was included in the purchase price – no option – and incentives from the State of Washington will be apportioned equally among condominium owners, with each owning a one-twelfth interest in the array.

Asani worked with state officials and the local utility provider to craft a program that satisfies the complicated provisions of Washington law.

The opening was a provision allowing common use of single roof for solar in multifamily buildings. Asani banked on prospective buyers seeing shared solar as a good investment as they bought their condo units, one that promised annual paybacks while lowering operational costs of their building through solar harvest.

Solar was designed into the Salal building. A single production meter monitors total system output, while 12 sub-meters track consumption in individual units for utility billing.

Buyers are rolling the cost of solar, about $15,000 per unit, into their mortgages to take advantage of low interest rates at the time of purchase.

“We wanted it very clean and divisible by all the owners,” Lotakis said. “I think it would be pretty difficult for six, 10, 12 people to come together and agree upon how the system would work after the fact. This gave us a chance to just deliver it.”

Lotakis expects the 44kW array to produce about $1,500 in incentives per unit annually – cumulatively much higher than the state’s $5,000 cap on incentives for a single-family residence.

Next door at the 12-unit Juniper apartment building, the 44kW rooftop array is similar but the equation is different. Renters will enjoy the benefits of solar production through net-metering, but not the annual state solar rebate. That will go to the building’s single owner, and will max out at the state’s $5,000 cap.

The two-story Elan townhomes presented the most straightforward challenge. Individual 6-9kW solar packages are offered for each section of the common roof. No modules will cross the “virtual lot lines,” making each system self-contained within the owner’s patch of rooftop. Three systems have been installed so far.

Growing neighborhood solar

From project inception, Asani set out to build the most environmentally friendly development possible.

Relentless sourcing of renewable materials and low-impact fixtures, and close connection to the island’s town center, have positioned Grow Community in the marketplace for healthy lifestyle-conscious buyers.

The project’s first phase is noted for its shared pea-patch gardens and winding footpaths through close-set homes. The second and third phases are oriented around a woodland grove and open greenway.

The project has earned recognition in national magazines and won awards from local and national homebuilder associations. It is only the second planned community in North America to be certified under the One Planet Living standards.

Grow’s first phase of 23 detached units sold out immediately, and every homeowner chose to add the solar package.
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Asani has also showcased Made In Washington components to support the state’s solar industry.

Modules at the Salal are by Itek Energy of Bellingham, while the Juniper and Elan arrays include APsystems microinverters manufactured and distributed by Blue Frog Solar of Poulsbo.

Using a mix of in-state and out-of-state components allows Asani to achieve different price points for buyers while optimizing local incentives where possible.

Lotakis cautions that Grow Community’s multifamily solar program relies on particularities in Washington law. Multifamily programs elsewhere would face their own challenges, although he believes Grow offers a useful model for developers nationwide to consider.

With the Salal building only recently certified for occupancy, new residents have no comparative data on their energy savings. But the solar component was attractive, as it has been to buyers throughout the three-neighborhood, 142-home project due to be completed in late 2017.

“Solar was a factor,” one new resident said, “along with a development that encourages a sense of community.”

Between the federal tax credit and annual rebates from the state, Lotakis said, owners buying into the Salal condominiums could have their share of the common array paid off within five years.

“And because they’ve rolled the cost of solar into their mortgage, they don’t really see it,” he said.
“Those production checks will be like a dividend.”

The Grove is wrapping up, now on to the Park

Summer finds us buttoning up – that is, putting the finishing touches on Grow Community’s second neighborhood, the Grove.

Setting the pace is the Juniper at the north end of the grounds. New residents are now moving in, and the rooftop solar system is online and producing energy to offset the building’s needs. The largest planned solar community in Washington state keeps raising the bar!

The Tsuga now has its roof, with siding following in short order. Before July ends the building will look finished from the outside as work turns inward, with completion and move-in dates set for fall.
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The Woodland Homes at the south end of the Grove are nearing completion and should be finished by August. All of our buyers to date are adding solar, and you could be next – one home remains available, with an expansive 400 sf. outdoor deck among its many fine features and appointments.

And if you’ve not visited the Grove lately, you’ve missed the generous plantings that give this neighborhood its name. Landscape touchup is slated for the end of summer as the swath of young trees and shrubs begin to settle in for the cooler months.

Attention now turns to our third and final neighborhood, the Park. Work has commenced on the Sage and Lilac, where foundations are underway and should be completed by the end of this month – framing to follow, and pre-sales to be announced soon as well.

Intrigued? Why wait! Comfortable and inviting units are still available for purchase throughout the Grove. Three-bedroom homes are available for move-in today, with more 2-bedroom units coming online this fall.

Rentals, too: 2- and 3-bedroom units in the Juniper are ready immediate move-in. Visit Grow Community and see our model home today!

Accessibility, ‘aging in place’ guide Grow Community design

The most comfortable retirement home is your own home.

On this point, older Americans widely agree: three-quarters surveyed say their number one goal is to stay in their own home as long as possible, in the familiar environment of connections, routines, heirlooms, memories, and friendships.

Independent living is a primary concern for both the older generation and their adult children, studies show.

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“Aging in place” has become the mantra for “baby boomers” and those who follow, describing a long-term goal once aspirational and now, at Grow Community, quite reachable.

“From a real estate perspective, we are seeing that boomers are a group that expect sustainability, community, and simplicity and wish to live those values,” says Greg Lotakis, Grow Community development manager. “I believe that many of our buyers want to ‘live intentionally in a community,’ and it seems they are choosing to invest in a place where they can enjoy aging in place while living intentionally.”

Maintaining a healthy generational mix is a foundational goal of the Grow project.

Helping residents age in place — and keeping older homeowners an active, vital part of the social blend — guides the layout and amenities. Long-term accessibility is being built into new Grove and Park neighborhoods from the ground up.

That starts with single-level living in most units, keeping bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms and utility spaces united on a single floor. Residents will have no cumbersome trips up and down stairs through the day.

On the outside, elevators connect underground parking areas with the entryways of each home.

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Asani LLC, hired to develop Grow Community, worked to provide as much of the accessibility options into the design as possible.  Features like Walk-in showers large enough for seating, open floor plans with minimal hallways, and taller comfort toilets are standard design elements at Grow Community.  These can be enjoyed at any age and have been identified as key to independent living.

Grow Community is in the vanguard among residential projects bringing innovative strategies for independent living to market.

Situated in the heart of Winslow town center, Grow homes are close to grocers, restaurants, merchants and professional services, eliminating the need for regular automobile use.

A community center will allow neighborhood activities, while being flexible enough to fit the communities own programming desires.  The eight-acre grounds boast spacious community gardens and gathering places.

Together these amenities fulfill goals identified by Congress in 2006 with reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which urged locally based initiatives to meet aging citizens’ needs including services, social opportunities and recreation.

“It’s all part of our goal to create an intergenerational community, which has been our thinking from the beginning,” Lotakis says.

Aging in place also makes sense for seniors for whom long-term financial independence is a paramount concern.

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The average cost of residence in an assisted living facility, for one bedroom and single occupancy, is approaching $40,000 per year, the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons reports – a prohibitive amount for fixed-income seniors, who have already spent years building up equity in their own home.

The multigenerational family under one roof is another American trend.

A significant number of older residents have had a grown son or daughter, often with children of their own, move back in. In these families, the younger generations themselves become a resource for aging in place – not an option if their elders have moved into retirement homes or assisted living facilities.

With spacious two- and three-bedroom floor plans, Grow Community’s new Grove and Park neighborhoods anticipate these needs for a range of homebuyers, beginning with those in middle age who are looking to downsize and settle in for the long term.

For those already in their senior years, Grow Community offers some very good reasons to move just one more time.

 

Grow ‘hits the Easy button’ for sustainability

It takes a lot of work to make sustainability simple.

But making the choice of a low-impact lifestyle easy for buyers was the goal at Grow Community from the very start.

In an article titled “We Only Have One Planet,” Reserve Magazine explores the history of Washington’s largest planned solar community, and the thoughtful features that have earned it the prestigious One Planet Living certification.

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“We wanted to hit the Easy button for people,” Asani President Greg Lotakis tells the magazine, “so they could get in and just focus on the things we can’t control, which are creating community, enjoying community and enjoying each other.”

Leading elements of Grow’s high-performing homes include rooftop solar arrays, airtight construction and insulation, and nontoxic construction materials, among other low-impact features. Grow homes use 30 to 40 percent less water than a typical Pacific Northwest home, the magazine notes.

It all adds up to a formula for sustainable, intergenerational living. Grow does the hard work, so residents can get on with the fun stuff: living.

“This idea that we can start to create places where generations share space, where elders pass along wisdom, where you have children who are being looked after by friends or grandparents and where young couples or single folks get a chance to live in a community where there’s a mix of support — to us, it’s a recipe for success in the future,” Greg says.

Read the whole story online here.

Construction is apace and sales are brisk at Grow phase 2, the Grove!

We are excited to report that Salal building solar went live on April 29. It has been a long road to this point, but the building’s rooftop is now producing energy. And there’s more to come – the first round of Elan owners should be seeing solar installed later in May.

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The Woodland homes at the south end of the Grove have taken shape, along with the Tsuga bilding, with completion expected from late June through August.

Sales-wise, our rental building, the Juniper, is now fully reserved. The building should be completed with first move-ins by the end of this month.

Two units remain available in the owner-occupied Salal building – the current model home, and a three-bedroom unit. Inquire within!

Finally: Big news on our Community Center will be coming soon, and permits for our next phase the Park are now in hand. Our construction crews will continue their steady migration south to this final phase very soon.
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French TV Feature – A quest for the greenest residential developments

French TV came to town last summer looking for the greenest residential developments in the USA, and their quest led them straight to Grow Community.

Over the course of four busy days, Echo-Logis program host Anthony DaSilva and his crew interviewed Grow residents and the folks from our project developer Asani.

Watch the Echo-Logis half-hour feature here.

Even if you don’t speak French – there are no subtitles, Hélas! – the videography of Grow Community and our Bainbridge/Seattle land-and-seascapes is simply stunning. The Echo-Logis crew made extensive use of aerial photography with a small drone, and the footage is well worth seeing – whether or not you live at Grow, you’ll be reminded why you want to live here.

Thanks again to Anthony and his very talented crew for visiting Bainbridge Island and taking the Grow Community story to the globe. We know your storytelling will inform and inspire!

A Bee Brigade is born

78baad8f-7254-45bb-a8bf-5c22ac5bd1a6Bainbridge Island students are learning to “bee positive” on the environment, thanks to the efforts of local educators and volunteers like Carl Lindbloom.

We noted earlier that Grow Community has signed on to the Pollinator Improvement Plan, an island-wide effort to bolster living and foraging space for bees, birds and other pollinators that are the linchpins of a healthy ecosystem.

Our Grow landscaping boasts pollinator-friendly native plants with a sequential bloom season to provide food and habitat all year for pollinators – from hazelnut in late winter/early spring to Oceanspray in late summer.

f5f3c84e-6b70-4bf7-a256-a56158c635e3Now we’ve even diverted some construction waste to help the cause: cedar scraps and plumbing pipe discards, from which Carl and some very clever students have fashioned 160 “Mason Bee House Kits.”

Un-bee-lievable!

Each kit provides new refuge for Mason bees, so named for their skill at making little mud compartments in their nests.

“Since the construction of the houses required hammering, I enlisted the help of the 7-8 graders to assist the 1-6 graders,” Carl says. “That was very fun to watch those interactions. The older kids took their job very seriously and the younger kids loved it.”

The new Mason Bee Houses have now gone home with the kids, along with instructions that give them everything they need to set up the houses and start raising Mason bees in their own yards.

“Because we draw students from all parts of the island, we have now introduced Mason bees to the same,” Carl says.

Way to go, Carl and Bainbridge Island students in the Pollinator Improvement Plan – our community’s own little Bee Brigade.

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What’s the Grove all about?

woof3As we welcome our newest residents to the Grove neighborhood, we should pause to reflect on what’s drawing discerning buyers to the latest homes in our award-winning Grow Community.

We promised urban living with nature at every doorstep, and that’s what we’re delivering.

Homeowners in Grove buildings will enjoy close connection to the signature woodland that gives this corner of Grow its name. A mix of native trees and understory will bring the Northwest forest into the very heart of the neighborhood, complementing the fruit trees and gardens thriving elsewhere around the project.

Ultra-efficient home construction, renewable materials and low-impact fixtures promise a healthy lifestyle within each of these 5 Star Built Green homes, while our rooftop solar arrays allow residents to ease their reliance on the grid – and even put power back into it for others to use.

Our generous open spaces and community gardens – inspired by centuries-old European towns, designed around central squares and greens – promote connection and interaction, really putting the “neighbor” in our neighborhoods.

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We put the focus on intergenerational living in the Grove, imagining homes as inviting to a 73 year old as a toddler. Sixty percent of homes will be fully accessible, with convenient single-level living and private elevators from our parking garages that will let residents “age in place” by design. Oh, and about that parking – it’s underground, keeping vehicles off the street and out of sight while letting us preserve so much open space between homes.

Proximity to Winslow’s urban core means local merchants, services and amenities are just steps away along the public paths that radiate out from Grow Community’s neighborhood core.

As the Grove takes final shape and we turn our attention to our third and final neighborhood, the Park (centerpiece: yes, a park), we are proud of what we have accomplished and how our vision has translated in the market.  Most of all we’re delighted for our many new neighbors and friends of Grow Community.

 

Construction Update: New lights, and other highlights

Grove-construction-update2.2016Completion of the Salal building has brought some comment about the exterior stair lighting on the north side of the building along Wyatt Way. The present lights are only temporary, put in to allow the building’s first residents to move in safely.

The finished lighting design will be completed within a few weeks. We’re excited about the final look – lighting that’s both functional and subdued – and we think the community will be satisfied as well.

Meanwhile, elsewhere around the Grove:

The Elan building will be completed this month, with new residents moving in. We’re planning a “Solar Social” to introduce these homeowners to Grow Community’s solar options.

The Tsuga roof and windows all be installed in early March. Also completed in the next few weeks: finishing touches on the underground parking. The Salal’s garage elevators are already up and running.

Interior work at the Juniper is well underway and should be complete by mid-April, while the first Woodland Homes are “dried in” and ready for interior work and exterior siding.

Finally, the Grove is becoming a grove. Landscaping progress has been dramatic, with new plantings in areas behind the Elan and elsewhere around our newest neighborhood really taking shape. Expect to see new swaths of green through March – just in time for spring.

It’s move-in day!

The Grove neighborhood has some new faces with the move-in of it’s first residents in the Salal building and Elan townhomes. Here’s a big Grow Community welcome to these newest neighbors! We look forward to meeting you all, and sharing the excitement and satisfaction that comes with settling into your new homes in this amazing community.

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