Sustainable housing community takes shape in Mass.

Ground has been broken on a first-of-its-kind urban agriculture-focused, solar-powered community, designed to combine an energy-efficient lifestyle with affordable housing.

Hillside Center for Sustainable Living is a concept that fuses green living and low market prices for Newburyport, Mass., residents, reports the Newburyport News

Hillside will construct 48 units that will incorporate solar power, homegrown agriculture, shared electric vehicles, secure bicycle storage, charging stations, recycling and composting, among other green techniques.

The 48 units will be split up into seven “main buildings” including one-, two- and three-bedroom homes. There will also be a common building that contains guest rooms for people who may want to downsize or who need additional space. In some buildings — the Cottage Extension, for example — there are four townhouses that make up one building, developer David Hall said.

The common house will also provide composting toilets, a gathering space and a commercial kitchen.

In 2010, the four-acre site was purchased with little ecological potential, city officials noted. More than 300,000 yards of contaminated topsoil and coal ash, among other harmful debris, was left sitting atop a small section of the space.

With a $400,000 loan from MassDevelopment, Hall was able to develop a community that produces more energy than it consumes. Hillside’s mission began with target testing the three largest emitters of carbon dioxide — housing, food and transportation — accomplished through a 460kW solar array, advanced green building, on-site growing and food production, and shared electric vehicles, he said.

The staff developed a concrete tilt-up wall system that achieves Passive House and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certifications. On the coldest night of winter, designers predicted it will require the energy equivalent of a blow dryer to heat one two-bedroom home, Hall said.

To reuse and recycle materials, more than 2.5 million pounds of granite were salvaged from the Whittier Bridge reconstruction project to build retaining walls, officials noted.

Walking through the property, residents will be surrounded by an edible landscape which promotes healthy soil, biodiversity, native species, natural pest management and food growth. There is also a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse planned for the site.

“I think it’s the obligation of community members who have the ability to create this,” Hall said. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”


Topics: Building Green, Going Green, Heating & Cooling, Passive House, Solar Power

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