The mission of Habitat for Humanity has always been to break the cycle of poverty and make homes affordable for all families. A new development that’s just broke ground in River Falls, though, aims to make homeownership more affordable – and more environmentally friendly.
Through a partnership with the City of River Falls, the University of Wisconsin, River Falls and a broad community of sponsors and contributors, Eco Village is planned to be an 18 Unit, LEED-Platinum certified neighborhood with a net-zero design direction. Planners aim to prove that it’s possible to build sustainably, creating homes that are affordable now and well into the future.
The seven-acre parcel, donated by the City of River Falls, will connect with existing neighborhoods, parks, and community using pedestrian paths. A community building will also be built on the campus, adjacent to a neighborhood park to encourage a stronger sense of place among the existing neighborhoods.
When construction is completed by the end of 2014, Eco Village will be one of the first Habitat communities to incorporate on-site renewable energy options many associate with more expensive communities. This includes features like photovoltaic arrays, super-insulated walls, and state-of-the-art window technology using 400 Series windows from Andersen Windows — http://www.andersenwindows.com/ –, which is donating manpower, $100,000 in cash and also the windows for all 18 homes. These features will significantly reduce the year-over-year costs of homeownership, supporting Habitat’s other objective to make the cost of owning a home more affordable by requiring less energy to run each home.
In addition to energy-saving measures, other community features also promote a more affordable and ecologically-friendly lifestyle, such as community gardens that can lower a grocery budget, or an electric car recharging station at the community building that will power shared zero-emissions, electric cars to meet local transportation needs, and relieve residents of the high costs of vehicle ownership. Pervious materials for interior roads, drives and paths to prevent runoff and support ground moisture for greenery, requiring less watering by homeowners.
St. Croix Habitat for Humanity will measure the success of the Eco-Village design concept using the following goals:
Reduce potable water use by 50% through rain/storm water harvest application (barrels/cisterns) in landscaping/gardening
Achieve carbon negative, net-zero energy use for homes; follow “Passive Haus” standards; zero-emissions for community transportation.
Divert at least 90% of the construction waste from landfills; locally source at least 25% of building materials.
Build each homes to be storm/tornado resistant and use fire sprinkler systems.
Increasing the efficiency of these homes and harnessing renewable energy, Eco Village homeowners will slash the high utility bills and other expenses that so often trap them in a cycle of debt and poverty. While designed with affordability and economy in mind, Eco Village also demonstrates best design and management practices that can be transferred to other projects – regardless of financial need.