Homebuilder plans net-zero energy housing in Lansing

first_imgAs planned, the $15 million Lansing project would be for-sale, single-family “semi-detached” homes – nearly all the homes share a rear wall. Units come in a variety of one-story modular configurations, from an 850 square-foot 2-bedroom/1 bath house, to a 1550 square-foot 3-bedroom/2-bath with garage. Prices on the houses will run from $275,000-$395,000, which is on the premium side of the county’s overall housing market but about average for new homes in the area. Included in the plans are a community garden, a reclaimed barn with adjacent community room, walking trails, and a loop road from Northwood Drive. A cleared path exists between the loop road and Dart Drive, but that path would only be for emergency vehicle access. Tagged: for-sale housing, net-zero energy, ryan wallace, solar home factory, solar village, sustainability, village of Lansing Enter the Solar Home Factory. “We have a lot of connections to Cornell, my wife’s family has lots of Cornell grads,” said Ryan Wallace, CEO of the Solar Home Factory. “We know the area, we love the area, we’ve explored the gorges. We also think there’s a lot of compatibility with our product. Ithaca and Tompkins County are forward-thinking when it comes to energy.” Though a young firm, business has been very good. The company’s first large-scale project, 20 for-sale homes and eight vacation rentals on the lakeshore in the city of Geneva, sold at a brisk pace. The first phase was sold out within two weeks. The Geneva-based modular home builder plans to launch its first foray into the Ithaca-Tompkins County market over the few months with a 43-unit single-family home subdivision in the village of Lansing, on a vacant 24.46-acre parcel at 680 Warren Road. The property was put up for sale back in August for $595,000, and according to online listings, the status was updated to pending sale by late September. The property is zoned medium-density residential. On the balance, this project would check off a lot of desired qualities in new housing – it’s modestly-sized for-sale housing, it’s net-zero energy thanks to the solar panels and heavy-duty energy-efficient features, and it’s attainable for a sizable portion of the local home buying market. Wallace and firm will need that goodwill, because the village planning board, not known for leniency, will have to approve a cluster subdivision for the site – the housing is clustered on smaller lots to limit wetland disturbance, and to provide a natural buffer between the project and its Dart Drive neighbors. The Solar Home Factory combines two submarkets – modular homes, which are built in a factory and assembled at the home-site, and net-zero energy homes, houses that produce all their own energy from renewable sources, therefore having a zero carbon footprint. However, given the success of the Geneva project, and plans for a second Geneva project as well as this first crack at the Ithaca market, Wallace’s outlook is sunny. “I think that there’s strong demand for new single-family housing among families and retirees …We’re really happy with how the homes are built.” Their facility in Geneva employs 20 living-wage staff, where a union construction crew assembles the basic modular components like framing, insulation and windows, as well as the kitchen, bath and solar energy system installations. This allows for greater cost control through a climate-controlled environment, and it saves time. In the case of the Lansing build, the pieces will then be trucked to the construction site for assembly onto concrete pad foundations, and later-stage construction work. That subsequent on-site work allows for things that can’t be completed in the factory, such as taller ceilings, gable roof installation and architectural details. As for concerns about pulling off net-zero energy homes in Upstate New York, Wallace said he has heard a few. “The most common misconception is that we don’t get enough sun or that the winters are too cold. We get more sun than Northern Europe, and yet they’re installing solar at a record rate,” Wallace said. “Our homes are designed with upstate winters in mind. We use SIP (structural insulated panel) walls and the construction method gets us an extremely air-tight home. In our Geneva village, our bills so far this fall have averaged 20 cents per day in heating costs before solar credits are even considered.” Brian Crandall LANSING, N.Y. — Now more than ever, there is a push for energy sustainability in housing. However, the problem has long been doing it at scale – that is to say, not just a house here and there, but someone with the ability to construct many eco-friendly homes. “We’re trying to maintain neighborhood character with single-family homes. We felt this was a good compromise, small lots that are easier for homeowners to maintain. This is only our second development, and I believe in transparency. You can avoid a lot of opposition by being transparent, we’re willing to work with neighbors if they have concerns about the plans,” Wallace said. Wallace has made a career out of renewable energy. Getting his start at age 15 helping his uncle put up solar panels in his native New Mexico, Wallace would work his way into owning and managing a solar panel installation business, QwikSolar. His wife Tracey, a Geneva native, turned him on to the charms of life in the Finger Lakes, and they relocated to Upstate New York a few years ago. After growing their company into a $4 million enterprise, the Wallaces sold the business (QwikSolar continues on in Penn Yan) and turned to their next career move, launching the Solar Home Factory. According to Wallace, the project would be built out in two phases, with the first phase tentatively starting in spring 2020, pending village approval. The first phase would also need to pre-sell at least a dozen housing units before moving forward with construction. The 2-bedroom/2-bath 1,050 square-foot home model. (Provided Photo) “The origin of the company comes out of trying to address the heating issues in our region. A lot of people use natural gas, coal, wood pellets. We tried to move homeowners to air pumps, but many of their homes weren’t efficient for that. I went to a home in Dundee where you could see outside through the cracks in the walls, this poor old couple was spending thousands on coal, and I thought, good lord, what century are we living in?” The 2-bedroom/2-bath 1,050 square-foot home model with garage. Perhaps to that point, this might be the first time an out-of-town developer has actually reached out to talk about a project before paying a trip to a local planning board. Speaking from experience, getting information about a project from a developer is usually about as easy as pulling teeth. The Solar Home Factory will present their initial plans to the village planning board Tuesday night, and for the curious, home plans and further information about the Lansing project can be viewed on the company’s website here. Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at [email protected] More by Brian Crandalllast_img

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