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Green Building News

Subdivision in Illinois Strives for Efficiency, Affordability

Financed by stimulus funds and low-income tax credits, Lexington Farms will feature single-family homes with good insulation and renewable-energy sources

The houses planned for Lexington Farms, a 32-home subdivision being built in Jerseyville, Illinois, by Capstone Development Group, will be constructed and equipped to operate at net zero energy, says the developer, who broke ground on the project on September 14.
Image Credit: Capstone Development Group

The Illinois Housing Development Authority has applied federal stimulus funds, and in many cases low-income housing tax credits, to finance the construction of almost 2,500 affordable rental homes in the state. So far, the agency notes, the initiative has created about 3,000 jobs.

One of the newest projects in the IHDA lineup, announced this week, is Lexington Farms, a subdivision in Jerseyville, Illinois, that will include 32 single-family homes, each with three bedrooms, two baths, an attached two-car garage, and about 1,230 sq. ft. of interior space.

The homes will rent for $590 a month and are specifically intended for families earning 60% or less of the area median income. For a family of four, the income cap would be $40,980. Median family income in Jerseyville, a rural suburb of St. Louis, is about 36% lower than for the median for the rest of Illinois. Approximately one-third of all families in Jerseyville earn less than $25,000 per year.

IHDA says that the subdivision also will offer families who qualify financially the option to purchase their homes through a rent-to-own program.

Aiming for zero

The performance goal for the homes is as ambitious as the project’s affordability target. The developer, Capstone Development Group, has designed the houses with a number of energy efficiency and renewable-energy features that are expected to keep annual energy costs near zero for each house. Exterior walls will be built to R-21 and attics to R-49, with a high degree of airtightness throughout, Capstone says.

The houses will be equipped with solar power and wind power systems (no word yet on their power capacity), and will feature other green amenities such as water-saving fixtures and irrigation systems, low-VOC finishes, CFL lighting, and extensive use of recycled materials.

Other components of the subdivision, including its system of streetlights and its community center, also will be powered by renewable-energy sources.

Incentives to go green

For affordable-housing developers in Illinois who want federal low-income housing tax credits, IHDA imposes several green-development mandates, including water-conservation measures, the use of Energy Star appliances, native and draught-tolerant vegetation in landscaping schemes, and information for each home’s occupants on how to maintain its green features. The agency awards higher tax-credit scores to developers who include in their proposals energy conservation features such as solar power and wind power. The federal tax credits applied to Lexington Farms were a result of a special allocation for counties hit by severe flooding and generated an additional $6.7 million in private equity for the project, IHDA says.

The agency touts past successes with its green-construction initiative, including Wingate Manor, an affordable-housing development for seniors in Shiloh that earned the Multifamily Affordable Award in May at the National Association of Home Builders National Green Building Conference, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Groundbreaking at Lexington Farms took place on Tuesday. The first homes are scheduled to be completed and available for leasing before the end of the year, Capstone says.

One Comment

  1. marty | | #1

    R value, as a measure of thermal performance, is a fairy tale
    The article does not say what type of R-21 walls are going up, although since they mention air tight, and bathroom exhaust fans, I assume the walls are structural insulated panels (SIPS). Green designers would be best off by educating themselves to the fact that R-values are not the best measure of a walls thermal performance, and that equal R-values do not always mean equal thermal performance.

    Compare three high R walls- Structural Insulated Panels(SIPS) , Insulated Concrete Forms(ICF), and insulated concrete block. They are all high R value, but only one offers the most energy efficient insulation configuration, and also allows fresh air to flow freely in a non-airtight, yet energy efficient structure. That is insulated concrete block, which features a continuous expanded polystyrene insert that completely separates the interior of the block from the exterior block, creating insulated thermal mass.

    This interior insulated thermal mass has a high heat capacity, and a long thermal lag time, so it absorbs and stores large quantities of energy, acting as a giant storage battery for energy. These walls typically deliver HVAC energy savings of over 60%, compared to conventional wall systems.

    The insulation configuration in truly (continuous EPS barrier) insulated concrete block has been found by the scientists at Oak Ridge National Labs to be "substantially" more energy efficient than either conventional (interior insulated) wall systems or ICF(insulated concrete form) wall systems. Unlike SIPS, insulated concrete block can have a four hour fire rating, with no toxic flame retardants needed, Insulated block lets the structure breath and still maintain energy efficiency. Plus, insulated concrete block is extremely durable, maintenance free, and very quiet. Remember the story of the three little pigs?

    Green design professionals, the evidence is out there, and not a fairy tale. However, the marketing campaigns that fuel the growth of the SIPS and ICF industries tend to obscure the view.

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