Within the next few weeks, the construction of an affordable duplex with green technology will get underway.
The State College Community Land Trust received a $100,000 grant and a $350,000 construction loan from West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund to help make the project possible.
SCCLT aids individuals and families in buying affordable homes in State College borough. They purchases existing houses, renovate them and sell them as affordable housing, but the land trust owns the land the houses sit on.
This is the first time the land trust has built a house, aside from a time it partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Centre County, said Colleen Ritter, SCCLT executive director.
WPPSEF is a nonprofit organization that invests in clean energy products that benefit West Penn Power ratepayers, said Barbara Robuck, WPPSEF marketing and communications manager. Penn State manages the fund.
The duplex will be zero-energy ready homes, which is so energy efficient that renewable power can offset most or almost all of the annual energy consumption, Robuck said.
The units will be air sealed and insulated, Robuck said. They’ll also have airtight walls, roofs and foundations, energy-efficient heating and cooling, LED lighting, high-efficiency appliances and high-efficiency windows.
The duplex will collect rainwater, use low-water landscaping and be designed for passive solar, she said.
Passive solar design includes windows, walls and floors that are made to collect, store and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer, Robuck said.
SCCLT met with Penn State students about designing the duplex for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Race to Zero Student Design Competition, Ritter said.
The project was designed over the course of about 18 months, she said.
The ceremonial groundbreaking is set for June 25, and work will begin at the site along University Drive in the next couple weeks after that, Ritter said, saying the units will be ready for move in next spring.
Ritter said she hopes the duplex will be a model for what could be built elsewhere in the county and beyond.
“We can’t just keep building homes to code,” Robuck said. “We have to be smarter with the energy use of our houses.”
Other partners in the project include State College borough, Centre County commissioners, S&T Bank, Envinity Inc., Henry Architecture & Design, Macht Architecture and Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture, Hamer Center for Community Design and Energy Efficient Housing Research Group.
What you can do to improve your house’s energy efficiency
Most people think energy use in their house is a fixed cost, but it’s not, Robuck said
Homeowners who want to improve the energy efficiency of their houses should consider a diagnostic energy audit, Robuck said.
It can help to find where the gaps and cracks are in a house and where insulation is missing, she said.
The diagnostic energy audit will come with a report to show the homeowner exactly what needs to be done to make the house more energy efficient, she said, adding that it’s common for people to save 20 to 30 percent on their energy bills.
“You don’t have to go out and build a brand new home to get a house that’s really energy efficient,” Robuck said.