The Cannery Not Quite Zero Net Energy

The Cannery, which may be Davis’ last large development, is emerging on the site of the old Hunt-Wesson tomato processing plant. The New Home Company, the developer, expects to be showing homes in August, 2015.

The Valley Climate Action Center wanted Zero Net Energy, but the development which the Davis City Council approved doesn’t quite get there.

In its development agreement with the New Home Company, the city required a long list of green features, exceeding state energy standards by 40% by implementing the following measures:

  • high performance windows, walls and roofs
  • ducts in conditioned place
  • high efficiency heating, cooling, and water equipment
  • state-approved testing for efficiency
  • photovoltaic solar collectors on on variety of outdoor and common use energy users
  • two demonstration Zero Net Energy homes, one all-electric and the other with some gas appliances
  • build NZE homes for the first 25 buyers
  • offer NZE options for the remainder of the of the 547 single family homes, at a cost estimated New Home at about $16,000 per home.
  • provide a variety of other sustainable features, sufficient to qualify for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED silver certification.

Davis has a goal, adopted by the City Council in 2006, of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We have a long way to go to achieve this goal. We make the task more difficult with each new structure we build in Davis whose carbon emissions are more than net zero.

There is still time to take the final steps to zero net energy for The Cannery.  The developer has asked for city approval of a Community Facilities District, which would impose a tax on property owners to pay for much of the development infrastructure.  Mace Ranch residents will tell you that these additional taxes are substantial.

In exchange, the developer should give home and property buyers a chance to save on their energy bills to help pay for the added taxes.  The developer says these features will add to the cost of the homes, possibly making them unaffordable to many groups that should live in Davis, such as our teachers and other public employees. But will they? Or will they sell at market price, regardless of their cost of construction? That market is strong and, with so few homes for sale, it is likely to get stronger.

But another compelling reason to require a net-zero standard is simplicity. When buying new homes, customers appreciate choices in things that show, where they have the opportunity to express their own taste. But the features which affect energy performance are mostly invisible, hard to explain to the average homebuyer.

The sales team would need to be fully educated on the energy features, and some would sell the options harder than others. Most of the options are way more expensive to add later, so if a buyer realizes their value after moving in, it is too late to add them cost-effectively or finance them in their principal mortgage.

If net-zero electricity is standard, almost everyone wins. The buyers get lower monthly costs and the personal satisfaction of helping our community reach its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  The developer gets better pricing from the subcontractors because of volume and standardization. Further, the developer’s sales costs go down because there are fewer options. Finally, they will sell more houses because most people would like to buy and live in an affordable, comfortable net-zero home. The city and we citizens are rewarded by positive steps toward a key city goal. OK, PG&E has lower revenues, but they still have the rest of us as a huge revenue base!