Gold in Green

Friday, August 04, 2006

For many, the "green" in "green building" traditionally has just been another way of saying "more expensive." But not in the town of Wytheville, Virginia where the local redevelopment and housing authority is nearing completion of the 18 �unit Cassell Pines complex, the first "green" tax credit complex in southwest Virginia.

[Photo 1: Cassell Pines complex while it was under construction.]

"Like everybody else, I initially was pretty skeptical about using green building technologies," said Wytheville Redevelopment and Housing Authority executive director Randy Martin. "I assumed costs would go right through the roof and rents with it. I'm more than a little happy to know there's gold in green building technologies."

Using tax credits and funding from the Town of Wytheville, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and the Virginia Housing Development Authority, the $2.7 million complex will offer 6 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units at rents from $251 to $401 a month. "That's certainly affordable and competitive in our market," Martin commented, "and well within our rental voucher standards."

"Even better," he added, "cost-effective is also energy-efficient," noting that its design reflects "low-impact development" principles with 14 SEER heat pumps, low VOC paint on the interior drywall, "hardiplank" exterior siding, energy efficient windows and ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers and other appliances all meeting Energy Star standards. Five of the units will be fully-accessible to persons with disabilities.

[Photo 2: Outdoor view of the nearly finished Cassell Pines complex]

"We're disproving the old saying that saving energy will cost you money," Martin observed. "Cassell Pines is a perfect, in-the-ground demonstration of how HUD and its partners � even those on the rental side of the market � can use new technologies to achieve the kinds of reductions in energy use and, thus, energy costs outlined in its Energy Action Plan. And do it, I might add, while expanding the supply of decent, accessible and affordable housing."

HUD's 21-point Energy Action Plan was launched by then Deputy Secretary Alphonso Jackson in 2001. It projects that cutting HUD's energy costs by just 5 percent could realize savings of some $2 billion over the next ten years through the kinds of activities that the Wytheville authority and other HUD partners have undertaken.

[Photo 3: Outdoor view of the nearly finished Cassell Pines complex]
[Photo 4: Wooden palettes containing energy saving materials]

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