Getting SEER-ious

Thursday, March 29, 2007

At first it seemed little more than an academic exercise, an international design competition to design - on paper - environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient and, maybe most important, affordable housing reflecting the principles of the Cradle to Cradle or C2C school of architectural design principles.

[Photo: Module being dropped]
Module drop

Funded by a $100,000 CDBG grant from the City and hosted by the local C2C and the Roanoke Regional Housing Network, the competition was wildly successful, drawing more than 650 entries from 40 countries. A jury of distinguished judges was convened, entries evaluated and a press conference held to announce the winners. It even made news in The New York Times.

But then things turned serious. "SEER-ious" as in the energy-efficient, 3-bedroom, 1800 square-foot modular house with a wraparound porch being built on a vacant lot by Southern Heritage Homes for the Blue Ridge Housing Development Corporation at 325 Gilmer Avenue in the historic Gainsboro neighborhood of Roanoke. Though designed by local architects Stephen Feather and Richard Rife, for the C2C cutting-edge design competition, The Roanoke Times noted, it doesn't "look like something from the space age."

Indeed, it's "not the appearance that makes it special," The Times added, but "what you can't see - the lumber harvested from sustainable managed forests, the toxin-free wood laminates and piping, the special ultra-violet ray and heat-reflecting paint to improve energy-efficiency" and the "high-efficiency, low-energy appliances." It is, observed C2C founder and architect Gregg Lewis, ""exquisite."

Better still, it's affordable. Thanks to support from the Carillion Foundation, donations of building materials and HOME down-payment assistance and below-market financing, when finished the Spring it will list at under $100,000with payments expected to be as low as $675 a month.

And, befitting the historic nature of the neighborhood, the house is making its own history - the "first" C2C home sponsored by the Blue Ridge Housing Development Corporation; the "first" house within Roanoke city limits "dropped" by Southern Heritage Homes; the "first" new construction on Gilmer Avenue in decades; and the "first" new construction on this block in Gainsboro in more than 100 years.

"I think this is a huge step for affordable, efficient housing," said Blue Ridge Housing Development Corporation President Alvin Nash, "and demonstrates environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient housing works in Roanoke. We've had great response from the neighbors with regard to the design and once a family moves in everyone will start to ask why we didn't get serious about this sooner."


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