I’ve mentioned this idea of “net-zero” before. It’s a term that means exactly what it’s saying: that an input is equal to an output. This is the true goal of sustainability.
Too often the idea of sustainability is construed as an expensive endeavor with costs that outweigh benefits. The argument against that has always been that building sustainably does indeed have an upfront cost, but that it will eventually pay itself back. And while this is definitely true (we here at Amble constantly perform cost calculations based on the lifetime of a product and often find that the payback is more cost-effective than the upfront cost) not everyone can immediately afford that more expensive route. The next logical step would be to completely eliminate the give-and-take game of a budget.
Enter Austin, TX and the first affordable net-zero energy subdivision. From the University of Texas’ Daily Texan:
UT’s Center for Sustainable Development in the School of Architecture is partnering with a variety of local organizations to build the world’s first affordable net-zero energy subdivision.
The center will work with the Austin Community Design and Development Center, the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation and the city of Austin to provide 90 or more homes for low- to moderate-income families. Equipped with solar-electric and solar-thermal energy, the homes will be completely carbon neutral…
What makes this project so ambitious and noteworthy is the fact that it aims to be completely affordable by “following the standard of affordability set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.” If successful, this will mean great things. There are already projects out there proving that an entire community can be green and sustainable, but this would be the first to show that it can also be done on the skinny and by everyone.
Visit the UT Center for Sustainable Development to be amazed by the simple, ingenious solutions that support a sustainable community.