Washington Village includes the former Washington Elementary School and the land around it at 1215 Cedar Ave. in Boulder.
Developer Jim Leach, owner of Wonderland Hill Development Co., is collaborating with Cornerstone Homes Inc. in Longmont to build the project and with Norbert Klebl, developer of the energy-efficient future Geos Neighborhood in Arvada, to provide many of the energy efficiency ideas, among others in the green-building industry.
The term net-zero refers to homes that produce heating, cooling and electricity with energy-efficient systems like geothermal pumps and solar panels without needing to use outside energy sources.
Homes in Washington Village will feature special insulation panels, solar electric panels, geothermal heat pumps, and a host of other green-system amenities to make them net-zero, Klebel said.
The Icenogles want to live in more energy-efficient housing, but they’re also interested in Leach’s reputation as a developer of co-housing, a term that refers to neighborhoods that foster a sense of community by getting neighbors together for a meal on a regular basis or to work on a common project.
“We wanted to put our money where our mouth was, rather than argue with people about it,” Darrell Icenogle said. “We wanted to find something good and become part of it.”
The first six single-family homes being built in Washington Village will range in price from $1.2 million to $1.5 million, driven by the high land price for a parcel close to downtown Boulder, and the 5 percent to 10 percent additional building costs needed to build homes energy efficiently, Leach said. Condominiums to be built in the existing historic school in the future will range from $600,000 to $1.2 million; town homes also are planned to be built at the site.
“Buyers have an affinity for this construction and will understand the quality difference,” Leach said.
In the meantime, Klebl can break out the future return on investment of current increased construction costs on the homes. For example, installing geothermal heat pumps and “earth tubes” used to heat and cool the homes is estimated to cost $5,000 to $6,000 more than installing conventional furnaces and central air conditioning systems, Klebl said. Such systems pay for themselves in the form of reduced energy bills in about seven years, he said.
The special heating and cooling system is about 2 percent of the total building cost, and returns an estimated 20 percent in getting the home to its net-zero state, Klebl said. Beefed up insulation and windows cost another 5 percent or so of the total building cost, but return an estimated 60 percent of the “net zero” cost, Klebl said. Finally, solar panels cost another 2 percent or 3 percent in building costs, but put out the final estimated 20 percent in energy to make the home 100 percent self-sufficient or net-zero, Klebl said.
Homebuyers seem to like the net-zero concept. In addition to the Icenogles, two other buyers have paid earnest money on homes.
Darrell Icenogle likes the idea that lower utility bills will essentially pay back the higher cost of the heating and cooling system. But he also loves that the community is within walking distance of Ideal Market and the Pearl Street Mall.
“We were looking for the New Urbanist thing, where everything is walkable. We also like the ‘intentional community,’ where everybody comes with the intent of meeting their neighbors and getting to know them and sharing meals while still protecting your privacy,” Darrell Icenogle said.