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Tread lightly on the earth, live healthy at Grow Community

When we set out to design the most sustainable, future-friendly community possible, we knew we were building more than homes. We were creating a whole new way of living, and a model for the world.

We started with the principles of One Planet Living – promoting sustainable, healthy lifestyles through low-impact construction and high-quality materials. Culture, community, equity and economy were our guiding principles, health and happiness our end product.

salal-2We haven’t backed down from the challenge. Homes in our first two neighborhoods, the Village and the Grove, have earned national and international acclaim for their thoughtful design and construction. Each neighborhood is designed around vegetable gardens, fruit groves or open spaces, with native plants and vegetation creating natural and inviting places for children and adults to enjoy.

Grow offers a “five minute lifestyle” where residents can walk/ride/roll to local amenities and urban attractions in Winslow town center, reducing dependency on the automobile. Spacious designs offer room for families, while single-level living options mean owners can age in place in security and comfort.

We’re all about bringing people together – a new community center will provide a space for classes, gatherings and community events, bringing residents and neighbors together throughout the seasons.

Along the way, Grow has become the largest planned solar community in Washington state – with more clean energy-producing rooftop PV systems being added all the time.

As we enter our third and final phase, the Park neighborhood, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. A healthy community of satisfied residents and, we believe, an inspiration that others can follow for forward-thinking, sustainable urban design.

Visit Grow Community today, and let us share it with you – a new way of living, at one with the future and the world.

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.”

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.

One planet, one community, and one goal: a new model for sustainable living.

Grow Community was founded on the principles of One Planet Living, proving that from design and construction to the choices we make as neighbors, we can live within the productive capacity of the earth.

How are we doing? Find out in our “One Planet Annual Verification Report,” now available for download HERE.   Bio_BioOPL_Colour_RGB_A-01

It’s Grow’s report on itself, a self-assessment of our progress toward Health and Happiness, Local Food and Sustainable Water, Culture, and other key indicators of a forward-thinking community.

1planet-reportDid you know:

  • 85 percent of Grow residents say they’re walking more, and 31 percent are biking more, since joining our community
  • More than 65 percent participate in our bountiful shared garden program
  • Every resident in our first neighborhood, the Village, has invested in a home solar system, making Grow the largest planned solar community in Washington State – and still growing as our next two neighborhoods build out!

We’re proud of our success so far, and will strive with our residents to meet the goals of One Planet Living. It’s built into Grow Community by design, and comes with the lifestyle.

Download and read the report HERE, and find out more about what Grow has to offer the earth, and you.

Salal goes solar

Washington’s biggest planned solar community is getting bigger.

With completion of the Salal building in the new Grove neighborhood comes our latest solar array – and it’s a big one.

Installers were on the Salal’s roof last week finishing putting up 157 – 280watt high-output solar panels by itek Energy of Bellingham, a genuine Made In Washington product.

salal-solar-install

System output will be 44 kilowatts. For perspective, the individual home arrays in Grow Community’s first neighborhood, the Village, add up to about 150 kilowatts capacity. So we’re boosting our solar output dramatically on a single rooftop, with more to come.

The array is expected to offset at least half of the Salal building’s energy use. Net metering will give residents financial credit for their interest of the array’s production, proof that solar is a great match for multifamily construction.

Remember that the Salal’s model home is now open by appointment. Contact live@growbainbridge.com to visit our newest building and find out more about our outstanding solar program.

The sun always shines on Grow Community!

See Grow on HouseSmarts TV

Grow Community will be featured on HouseSmarts, the “reality show for real homeowners,” Aug. 1 on KONG-TV in the Seattle area.

The HouseSmarts crew and contractor/host Lou Manfredini (NBC’s Today Show, WGN Radio) visited Grow for a day this past spring and really liked what they saw.

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The popular 30-minute weekly home improvement program “answers the questions homeowners really want to know,” the producers say. “Nobody adds on a room in one weekend, or lets their neighbors decorate their living room. HouseSmarts follows the progress of real people and lessons learned.”

HouseSmarts’ Grow Community segment airs at 10 a.m. Aug. 1.

For information see www.housesmartstv.com, and you can find the KONG-TV programming guide here.

 

Happy Earth Day from Grow Community

We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, the Native American proverb goes, we borrow it from our children.

The wellbeing of our planet and the quality of life that we’ll leave to future generations is what Grow Community is all about.

Grow-village-kids1Every facet of our design, planning and construction asks a simple question: How can we build a healthier, more sustainable community?

The success of our first neighborhood, the Village, says we’re finding the right answers. Now, as work progresses on our next two phases, the Grove and the Park, word is really getting around.

Over this past year, we were honored to present the community at the Northwest Eco-Building Guild Green Building Slam event.  The Urban Land Institute made Grow a prominent waypoint on its roadmap to healthy neighborhoods, the excellent “Building Healthy Places Toolkit.” And we were featured in the new eco-focused publication Conscious Company.

As we reached 100 percent solar participation among our single-family homes in the Village, Solar Builder magazine named Grow one of the nation’s top residential solar installations, and we were named 2014 Home of the Year by Green Builder Magazine.

Perhaps the best accolade of all came from the National Association of Home Builders, who gave Grow its very highest honors – the prestigious Platinum Award and Best In Green Award in the 2014 Best In American Living contest.

We think we’re really on to something – a new model for healthy, sustainable urban living, one that offers the template for new neighborhoods and multi-generational living around the country and the globe.

We’re thinking ahead, and we’re thinking big. At Grow Community, we know we borrow the earth from our children – and we want to return it to them, with interest.

From all of us at Grow Community, Happy Earth Day!
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2014 Roof-Mount Project of the Year Runner-Up: Grow Community

Grow is a runner-up in Solar Builder magazine’s 2014 Project of the Year contest in the roof-mount systems category. We earn a nice feature in the glossy magazine’s new issue, and you can read the story online here or scroll down.

“We wanted to deliver a product that both was designed to be extremely energy efficient but also had the idea of solar in mind at the time of design,” project manager Greg Lotakis tells Solar Builder. “We started at the roof, asked how many panels we could get on it, designed the roof for that, [estimated] what we expected [to] produce, and then we used that energy budget and worked backwards into the house. What we are really striving to do: deliver a really healthy, energy-efficient home that has the ability to be net zero with solar.”

It worked! Grow is already the largest planned solar community in Washington, with more solar on the way in our next two neighborhoods, the Grove and the Park.

It’s also a great success for local manufacturing. Grow Community uses Made In Washington solar components including microinverters by Blue Frog/APS and solar modules by itek Energy

Oh, by the way: The winning project is Solar For Seals, a rooftop system powering a Luguna Beach, CA, environmental center that rescues and rehabilitates injured marine mammals. We don’t mind finishing second to those guys!

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SOLAR BUILDER MAGAZINE
October 21, 2014 by

If you could create the perfect community to live in, what would it look like? What would be essential to your happiness?

Grow 3A group from Bainbridge Island, Wash., asked these questions when embarking on a new housing development a few years back. Stacked apartment complexes and cookie-cutter houses had been done before; you probably live in one right now. But given the chance to live in a new and unique community that puts the planet first, would residents be on board?

The answer was an overwhelming, “Yes, please!” Grow Community’s first batch of sustainable, solar-ready homes sold out almost immediately, and the next round expects the same result. The largest solar community in Washington (currently at 112 kW and growing), Grow consists of 23 homes and two 10-unit apartments, and more houses are coming. Along with open green spaces and underground parking, the neighborhood has shared community gardens and energy-efficient everything (insulated walls, quality windows, everything). This housing development’s impressive community impact led to it winning second place in the roof-mount category of Solar Builder’s 2014 Project of the Year awards.

Grow Community is the brainchild of Bainbridge Island investors, including Asani LLC, an integrated real estate development services and investment company, and PHC Construction, a building contractor with a strong passion for sustainability. Together, they envisioned an urban community built on the principles of One Planet — a global program for green neighborhoods based on living within the resources provided by “one planet.”

Grow playersThe One Planet idea first started in the United Kingdom with help from BioRegional, an entrepreneurial charity that initiates and delivers solutions to live within a fair share of the earth’s resources. For example, BioRegional estimates that North Americans use about 5.5 planets of resources to go about their daily lives; residents of the United Kingdom use 3 planets. One Planet communities (there are only nine endorsed in the world, and Grow Community is now one of them) use 10 guiding principles to develop appropriate sustainability solutions through design and construction to bring society’s usage down to one planet: zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, sustainable materials, local and sustainable food, sustainable water, land use and wildlife, culture and heritage, equity and local economy and, finally, health and happiness.

“One Planet is very much focused on creating an opportunity for communities to support each other in meeting the goals of living a one-planet lifestyle,” says Greg Lotakis, Grow Community’s project manager with Asani. “One of the principles is health and happiness, and that’s obviously hard to quantify. How can you make it fun and healthy to pursue zero carbon?”

Grow’s developers felt that working toward the zero carbon and zero waste goals would eventually lead to health and happiness; residents would be happy they were living a sustainable life. One of the easiest ways to get there was to incorporate solar power into the plans.

“We wanted to deliver a product that both was designed to be extremely energy efficient but also had the idea of solar in mind at the time of design,” Lotakis says. “We started at the roof, asked how many panels we could get on it, designed the roof for that, [estimated] what we expected [to] produce, and then we used that energy budget and worked backwards into the house. What we are really striving to do: deliver a really healthy, energy-efficient home that has the ability to be net zero with solar.”

Grow 4Solar was not forced upon any of the first 23 homes; all eventual homeowners were given the choice to install solar modules. All of the homes (except for one, where the homeowner traveled and was away from home enough over the year that saving additional costs with solar didn’t make sense) decided solar was a good option.

“You provide people choice, and you look at the opportunities that exist out there and bring them together, and the result is that (just about) everyone at Grow has chosen to pursue solar,” Lotakis says.

Local, Washington-made solar products — Itek Energy modules, APS America microinverters and SunModo mounting systems — came aboard for the project, along with local installer A&R Solar. Keeping everything within the state helped achieve the “equity and local economy” One Planet principle. Asani also approached local credit union Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union to work out solar loan options for the residents.

“The credit union has a program where they — with as little as 0 down — can create a second loan for your solar system, and they understand the local production incentives and are willing to back the loan knowing that you have the ability to pay off your loan within five to six years,” Lotakis says. “We were able to sit down with homeowners who had just taken out a loan and say, ‘Look, your home is ready to be net zero. This is your proposed system cost, this is who we have lined up to install it and why we chose the products we did, this is the credit union that could help you get into a loan to get this done so you don’t have to have any money out of pocket.’ The result is through their choice, and 80% of the folks did the loan process.”

Residents have been living in their homes anywhere between six and 18 months, and Lotakis says they’re astounded by their $10 or cheaper electric bills for their all-electric homes.

Grow 1“All these things are in place, it’s kind of a moment,” Lotakis says, citing the incentives still available for those going solar in Washington. “We saw the opportunities, we created the opportunities for our homeowners, and they took it. We’re thrilled we gave that choice to people and they ran with it.”

The Pacific Northwest is known for being eco-conscious. Bainbridge Island, just one 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, already encouraged green-living. Lotakis says Grow Community was a sure-thing for people looking to really embrace a sustainable lifestyle.

“The city and the planners have done a good job with smart growth requirements,” he says. “People were attracted to Grow because we were creating an intentional community focused on being eco-conscious. Its location was a sell, the design of the homes was a sell. You could be eco-conscious, but, as a numbers person, it was an easy sell.”

Community spirit bring a bumper harvest at Grow Community

Posted to BioRegional Blog
September 26, 2014

Grow resident Ron Kaplan shares how self-sufficiency and community spirit have come together for a bumper harvest at Grow Community, as edibles sprout up in time for Local & Sustainable Food month.
Grow-gardens

Edibles in the new Bainbridge Island neighborhood are sprouting up in time for Local and Sustainable Food month, even amongst the native landscaping. On one footpath, tomatoes grow side by side with fronded ferns. “Only in the Northwest, huh?” says Ron Kaplan, a resident of the uber-green development now taking shape a short ferry ride across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. Grow Community’s first neighborhood – dubbed the Village, one of three phases in a planned 8-acre project – was designed to reflect and promote sustainability at every turn. Rooftop solar provides much of the power for each home, while the residents share bicycles to reach merchants and services in nearby Winslow town center.

The One Planet Living principles so foundational to the project encourage the sharing of locally grown, organic food. So the signature stroke for both self-sufficiency and a communitarian spirit may be the neighborhood P-patch gardens that nestle amongst the close-knit, architecturally arresting homes. Autumn finds the first three designated gardens a veritable cornucopia overflowing with onions, pumpkins, spinach, peas, eggplant, kale, chard, exotic herbs and other delectables. Grapes and other vine fruits hang from trellises in the wings.

The neighborhood organized a community potluck in late August to celebrate the bounty — and the shared endeavor it represents. “There was a lot of good food, all based on vegetables from the gardens,” Kaplan says. “And it was another excuse for people to get together.” The gardeners are still finding a certain equilibrium between their own tastes and the collective palate. The recent harvest produced a surfeit of beans and squash, says Kaplan, confessing his own complicity in a bumper crop of fiery hot peppers. But any excess just gets carted up the street to Helpline House, the local food bank.

“It wasn’t the Soviet Union model of centralized planning,” Kaplan says. “One of the lessons is, next year there might be more coordination about what’s planted.” More raised beds are now going in next to a just-completed apartment building at the project’s north end, and new residents there will assume their own stewardship of the soil or fall into other neighborhood roles. At Grow Community, Kaplan says, everyone chips in according to their interests and abilities, but the harvest is open to all. “People contribute to the community in different ways,” he says. “I’m putting my time into the gardens, others are putting their time into something else. But they should all be able to harvest – so they do.”