Affordable Housing. Often the topic of newspaper headlines, local radio stations, or conversations at the coffee shop. It’s also been a thorn in the side for our communities, struggling to diplomatically address the issue. How do we build it? Where do we build it? Who is going to pay for it?

Over the years many affordable options have broken ground, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Not to mention the amenities aren’t aging well for some current inhabitants. And with the effects of climate change, the newest consideration to the housing shortage is creating sustainable, affordable housing.

A local organization, Habitat for Humanity, is up for tackling that challenge with a new housing project in the mid-valley. The project – Basalt Vista – located in its namesake town, will be a new neighborhood aspiring to feature 27 units of net-zero housing. To truly achieve affordable housing that’s sustainable, the Habitat team and its partners are aiming high by creating housing that fits net-zero building principles. It may be ambitious, but it’s essential in lowering the neighborhood’s carbon footprint – not to mention it will keep monthly utility bills low.

A net-zero energy building produces, on-site, as much energy in a year as it consumes. Getting there means you need to build as efficiently as you can upfront, by meeting or beating new energy codes; then install onsite renewable energy systems to produce the power you still need to operate the all-electric home.  “All-electric” is exactly what the name implies, everything in the home is powered solely with electricity. This project proposes to provide heating, cooling and water heating with very efficient electrical equipment. Heating the units with electricity enables the Basalt neighborhood to power itself with rooftop solar, which is key to getting to zero. It also allowed the team to forgo installing a natural gas line, resulting in less consumption of the finite resource and added financial savings.

“We were excited to partner with the Habitat team and come in at the ground level to help develop and brainstorm how to achieve a net-zero energy neighborhood,” commented CORE’s program and grants director, Marty Treadway.

Treadway first learned about the Basalt Vista project in 2016 when CORE approved a Design Assistance grant that looked into the feasibility of creating a net-zero neighborhood. When the project resurfaced on his desk early this year, Treadway knew he wanted to do whatever he could to guide Habitat towards a net-zero build. That meant countless hours spent with stakeholders and the local design team. It also meant a $100,000 commitment from CORE to help fund the project. That commitment led to something innovative: air source heat pumps (to provide both heating and cooling). This heat-pump technology is designed to create a modern and efficient home – it’s not your average all-electric house featuring traditional baseboard units. Using 50% less energy than electric baseboard, the heat-pumps will help create the foundation for ensuring the Basalt Vista project meets climate goals and net-zero building standards.

The creation of this neighborhood is intended to be a blueprint, a community showcase to be used throughout the valley. Sticking with the community theme, the Habitat team has hustled to lift the project off the ground by bringing multiple players to the table. The Roaring Fork School District donated the land, Pitkin County funded infrastructure and rooftop solar, the Town of Basalt is reducing permitting fees, and Holy Cross Energy is donating research time and equipment for the first four units (designed to inform a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study on the impacts of distributed energy).

“We view this as a community project where Habitat can be the catalyst to galvanize key partnerships,” said Scott Gilbert, president of Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork. “Going net-zero is the cherry on top of an awesome community collaboration that will provide aspirational homes for teachers and others in our workforce.”

That idea of a net-zero energy, sustainable affordable housing community will soon be a reality. The Basalt Vista Housing project will break ground this Fall with the help from their local design and construction team: 2757 design+build co, Sunsense Solar, and FCI Construction. Check back in to hear about the progress and lessons learned. In the meantime take a virtual tour of Basalt Vista, learn how to donate to the project (so it can hit net-zero goals!), or apply for housing by visiting Habitat’s website here.

Interested in building a net-zero home or housing community? Check our website or chat with Marty Treadway (970.925.9775 ext.504) to learn more about how CORE can help you save energy and achieve a net-zero building.