Published on October 29th, 2012 | by Silvio Marcacci2
Gray Goes Green: First U.S. Net Zero Senior Community Opens in Texas
Seniors are getting sustainable at the Paisano Green Community in El Paso, Texas – the first net zero energy public housing project for senior citizens in America.
The 73-unit community is the latest example of net zero construction, where a facility generates at least as much energy as it consumes. Paisano combines energy efficiency and renewables generation, burns zero fossil fuels, is a certified Enterprise Green Community, and is expected to receive LEED Platinum certification for construction and operation.
Making It Net Zero
Clean energy factors into every facet of the Paisano complex. Rooftop solar panels and two 80-foot wind turbines generate all the electricity needed by the facility, and excess power is sold back onto the grid via net metering rules with the local utility in order to lower operating costs. Considering El Paso sees 300 days of sunshine annually, the complex expects to turn a tidy profit, and some units will have annual utility bills as low as $8.
Each living unit features air-source heat pump water heaters and EnergyStar appliances, is insulated with a hybrid of three types of insulation, is optimized for solar passive design with large overhangs between units and above windows, and maximizes natural daylighting to reduce energy demands.
Sustainable Design, Construction, and Operation
Sustainable practices were also a major factor during community design and construction. Paisano was built upon a 4.2-acre lot that had been vacant for 10 years, the wood framing was prefabricated off-site to minimize on-site waste, and as much waste as possible was recycled during construction. In addition, the complex features desert landscaping to reduce water needs, and is served by several bus stops so seniors can get where they need to go without cars.
Project funding was split between the federal and local governments, with $8.25 million of the project’s total $10.9 million cost coming from a competitive federal stimulus grant and the rest coming from the El Paso city government and housing authority.
Planned developments like Paisano truly represent the sustainability ideal – especially in arid settings. By combining renewables, efficiency, and public transportation, residents can rely on their own energy sources while keeping energy costs low and reducing their carbon footprints.