By Emma Rumple
A new and different kind of apartment building has been constructed in Rotterdam, New York. It has the amenities people would expect in up-scale homes. It has four basic apartment designs, with one or two bedrooms. It is built to be comfortable.
One thing that makes netZero Village different, just as the name implies, is that it uses net-zero energy. The apartment complex generates as much energy as its occupants can reasonably use. That includes heat, air conditioning, and even the energy for charging electric cars. Year by year, the complex should produce what it needs, with no more dependence on outside resources than it takes to get through short-term energy fluctuations. It is advertised as New York State’s first net-zero apartment community.
There is more setting it apart. It has a different business plan, built on the idea of loyalty. The plan is that tenants should be able to expect loyalty from the management. To accomplish this, management will not merely show its face from time to time. It must be seriously involved. The manager is expected to be willing to drive the snow plow, should that be necessary. Owners and managers will have to be available to people who live on the property.
netZero Village is the brain-child of David Bruns, the General Manager and owner of Bruns Reality, LLC. After spending some years as an electrical engineer for General Electric, Bruns decided to go his own way and went into his present business.
All of the energy used at netZero Village comes from the Sun. There are solar photovoltaics providing electricity. There are solar thermal collectors producing hot water. The buildings have both passive solar heat and very efficient heat pumps. All of the appliances, whether for kitchen or laundry, are of highest efficiency. Shower heads and toilets are of water-saving designs. Lighting is LEDs.
A comfortable home is comfortably, and carefully, insulated. The buildings for netZero Village were designed with insulation and superior windows in mind. Air leakage tests are conducted several times in each building as it is built.
Careful air-sealing requires careful ventilation. Heat recovery ventilation makes it possible to have a constant stream of pre-warmed, very clean, fresh air coming into each unit with minimal heat loss. The old days, when the air was fresh because the wind blew around the window frames, are a thing of the past.
The tenants should expect that no comfort is given up when they live at netZero Village. They should be as warm or cool as they would reasonably like to be. They should not have to think about the energy they consume, beyond taking occasional delight that it is safe and free of the carbon impacts of old technologies.
netZero Village’s website is netzerovillage.com.