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Work Begins on Devens ‘Green’ Townhouses

December 21, 2011 : The Lowell Sun, by Hiroko Sato

DEVENS – Ask Marty Jones how to make the world a more sustainable place to live, and she will point to the mounds of freshly dug up dirt off Bates Street.

Forget that it’s the season for groundfrost, said Jones, president and CEO of MassDevelopment. The tractor trailers are working hard to set the foundations for a 12-unit “green” townhouse complex designed to produce almost all the energy one needs to live in it, including the power to heat home in the dead of winter.

“To make our energy sources last longer, we need more zero-net-energy housing,” Jones said.

Besides, said Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg, the energy-efficient features of the “affordable” townhouses, being developed by Metric Corp. of Boston, will help residents cut spending on utilities.

“It’s not only affordable at the onset of the purchase, but also for the future of the family,” Benson said of the complex.

Officials from MassDevelopment and those involved in the agency’s zero net-energy-housing project celebrated the groundbreaking of Metric’s “super-energy efficient” townhouses at a 1.2-acre lot on Bates Street yesterday.

Metric is one of two developers selected out of four firms that applied for MassDevelopment’s green-housing pilot program, which is intended to promote sustainable lifestyle in the former Army fort community.

While Transformations of Townsend, the other developer chosen for the pilot, builds eight single-family homes, Metric will construct the multifamily complex featuring highly insulated double-walls and south-facing roofs where residents may choose to put solar panels. MassDevelopment, a quasi-public economic development agency, provides municipal services in Devens and sells and leases local properties owned by the state.

Metric has acquired the 1.2-acre lot for $120,000.

Speaking to the crowd, Benson noted that Devens, which has promoted environmentally friendly building methods over the years, is becoming “a model for the commonwealth” in energy efficiency and green economy. It will now be also known for affordable housing, she said.

Zero-net-energy homes refer to houses that are equipped with power-generating devices, such as solar panels, to produce energy needed to live while cutting down on energy consumption with super insulation and other design features. Metric’s project will be “near zero” net energy rather than “zero.”

Geoffrey Caraboolad, CEO and president of Metric, said building such homes isn’t difficult or expensive; it just takes “a lot of efforts and commitment.” The 30-year-old company has the experience needed to make it happen, he said.

If things move along smoothly, the first unit will be ready for sale in the spring, according to MassDevelopment. Each of the 12 units will have two bedrooms. Caraboolad said the starting price will be about $225,000.

© Copyright 2011 The Lowell Sun.