In the best way possible, Stanford professor Mark Jacobson‘s new house is like a giant Erector Set, snapped together in less than a week on an irregular, pie-shaped lot near the university. It’s a 3,200 square foot modular home, and the frame is made entirely of steel.
Dr. Jacobson, head of Stanford’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, says he didn’t want to build a new house, but nothing on the market right now was quite up to his standards insofar as green building goes. So he called BONE Structure, a Canadian prefab homes company that opened a San Francisco office last year, to see if they could do better.
The house, reportedly costing an estimated $1.5 million, is designed with zero emissions, operating off of solar panels on the roof and storing juice in an enormous lithium battery designed by Tesla Motors. If it works right, it will use no consumer electricity at all, making it a passive house.
The steel frame is made from 89 percent recycled material. BONE’s sales pitch is that, although the parts are all manufactured in Canada (delivery takes five or six weeks), the clip-together design means that you can customize the size and layout of the house, rather than picking from prefabricated rooms.
Amy Fahey tends to a backyard garden at her suburban Chicago home, growing tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, peppers, Brussels sprouts, beans and herbs. But never squash.
“Three years in a row I’ve been struggling to grow squash,” she said. The reason it won’t take, she thinks: There aren’t enough bees to pollinate the plants. “We’ve killed off parts of the environment that could naturally make this happen,” said the retired J.P. Morgan executive who lives in Elmhurst, Ill., with her husband and teenage daughter.
But the neighborhood in which the Faheys are building a home offers new hope.
Set in Hampshire, Ill., about 50 miles from downtown Chicago, Serosun Farms is a new home-conservation development, restoring wetlands, woodlands and prairie, and preserving farmland throughout. Already, the frog population has grown exponentially from the conservation work done onsite, and monarch butterflies are also on the rebound, said Jane Stickland, who is working on the project with her brother, developer John DeWald. Their efforts also are boosting the bee population.
It’s very early in its development, but Serosun plans to incorporate about 160 acres of working farmland, making farm-to-table a way of life for residents through regular farmer’s markets. The community also offers eight miles of trails, an equestrian center and fishing ponds: 75% of the development will be reserved for farming and open space.
The 114 single-family homes range from $700,000 to $2 million; the median listing price for homes in Hampshire, Ill., is about $238,000, according to Realtor.com.
We know that we’re running out of land in San Diego County – here’s a story from the VOSD about Americans going to Tijuana for real estate development.
“What is really misunderstood is that Tijuana is very important to San Diego. It’s actually where our affordable housing is,” said Shannon.
That is, working-class residents have already realized they can escape San Diego’s high housing costs by crossing the border.
More than 36 million people came through the San Ysidro border crossing in 2014, according to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. And the San Ysidro trolley station is also the second-most active on San Diego’s network, with about 17,955 riders daily. Given that San Ysidro is home to only 20,000 people between 20 and 60 years old, it’s a safe assumption that many of those riders come from Tijuana.
It’s an international version of what real estate agents call “drive until you qualify.” Facing unaffordability, residents fan out ever farther, trading cheaper housing for longer commutes.
In a lot of housing markets, increases in housing prices force wage increases, but that hasn’t happened in San Diego, said Erik Bruvold, president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research.
That’s partly because people can instead live in Tijuana and Temecula and work in San Diego, he said.
“Sometimes the figures for housing and housing prices in San Diego County can be a bit misleading,” Bruvold said. “They don’t help us understand how housing prices in Temecula and Baja are and how they interact with the San Diego economy.”
Much of Murrieta and Temecula were built because housing costs in San Diego pushed lower-wage residents to the area, said Greg Strangman, a developer working on a hotel project in Tijuana.
“That’s how that Inland Empire came about,” Strangman said. “And in the same way, you could have the same situation in Tijuana. It’s a shorter commute coming from Tijuana to San Diego than Temecula to San Diego.”
Encinitas will explore ways curb the construction of oversized homes that neighbors call “McMansions,” while attempting to balance the rights of property owners.
Councilman Tony Kranz, who brought the idea forward at a council meeting Wednesday night, said that people who own smaller homes in the city’s older neighborhoods shouldn’t have to worry that someone will buy a neighboring home, demolish it, and then build a new structure that towers over all the other houses.
“I just don’t think that’s good for the community,” he said.
His proposal to restrict home sizes divided the council on Wednesday. Council members voted 3-2, with Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Mark Muir opposed, to direct the Planning Commission to explore the idea and bring back some recommendations.
Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, who voted with the majority, said she supported the concept, but had some concerns about whether the proposed new restrictions might impact home remodeling projects as well as new home construction. If a couple wants to build an addition to their home to accommodate their growing family, they’re not going to be happy if the city bans them from doing so, she said.
Gaspar said she and Shaffer were on the same side when it came to that issue, adding that restrictions limiting home sizes will outrage many property owners.
“The moment you start suddenly talking about decreasing a homeowner’s property value, we’re going to have some problems, I can tell you that,” she said. “So, I would say tread lightly on any ordinance that you’re looking to put in place.”
Imagine a home that could recycle two-thirds of the water it uses. No need to imagine. New technology to do just that was recently approved for use in drought-parched California, and the company behind it claims it could be looking at a $15 billion business ahead.
“In five years time, every new home will have a water recycler in it,” said Ralph Petroff, chairman of Nexus eWater, the Australia-based company behind the technology.
The system, which lives under two manhole-like covers on the side of the home, pulls in soapy water from the house—that is shower, dishwasher, laundry and sink water, not toilet water—and then sends it into a cleaning system. What comes out, so-called “gray water,” is water that can be used for irrigation and for flushing toilets. The water cannot be used for washing or drinking.
California-based KB Home bought into the technology and just announced that it will be standard in over 50 homes in a new San Diego development. It is also demonstrating the system in model homes in Sacramento and Lancaster.
The cost is just under $10,000 per home to install, but Petroff said that price should go down as more builders buy in and the technology becomes more common. He sees it as having even more potential than solar panels.
“There is no alternative to water. That’s what Californians are discovering every day,” said Petroff.
They are wrapping up the TB Stonebridge tract, and the models will probably be hitting the market before the end of the year – with prices close to $2,000,000. Here’s a video preview of the two main features:
People are clamoring for more on the La Costa Town Square:
Arterro is the name of the Davidson tract. From their website:
Located off Rancho Santa Fe Road just east of La Costa Avenue, Arterro is a 22-acre residential element of La Costa Town Square, a planned 285,000-square-foot shopping center being developed by the Safeway division on 83 acres.
“A big plus for our homeowners is the ability to walk to several markets and other specialty services,” said Davidson, who noted that the anchor tenant is a 60,000 square foot Von’s store. La Costa Town Square is scheduled to open in mid-2014.
Hat tip to ocrenter who sent this in from Bloomberg – a prototype new home that generates its own energy that they think they can sell for around $250,000:
The youtube remarks are somewhat critical of the idea – you still have to purchase the natural gas to run the ‘powercell’, so can you sell enough excess electricity back to the grid to cover?
They talk about systems, but didn’t flat out say that these are modular homes. They show the prototype house being stick-built towards the end of the video, but isn’t the natural progression to build the houses off-site and deliver?
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