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netZero apartments set example for future development

netZero apartments set example for future development

Living in a solar-powered home isn’t just a way of the future.
netZero apartments set example for future development
Seen on the top of apartment building, David Bruns, owner of Bruns Realty Group LLC, is building netZero Village, a 156-unit apartment complex on 17 acres off Burdeck Street in Rotterdam.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Living in a solar-powered home isn’t just a way of the future.

Last summer, the $20 million netZero Village apartment complex at 994 Burdeck St. in Rotterdam completed its first six apartment buildings, or phase one of the project.

The construction of phase two, an additional 84 units, a clubhouse and green space is currently underway. When completed in September, the complex will have a exercise and community room, walking trails, athletic field and more.

Dave Bruns, the owner of Bruns Realty Group LLC and owner of the complex, said the next building is set to be ready for more residents to move in next month.

The 72 units built last year were leased very rapidly.

There are 14 thermal solar panels on the roof of each building that supply most of the buildings’ hot water and heating needs while 220 photovoltaic solar panels on carports in front of the buildings provide the electricity.

“The whole concept is that we can live off the grid and that it can produce enough power that we don’t need to use the fossil fuels,” said Patti Young, 48, a netZero resident who moved in last August. “It’s very low carbon footprint.”

Carolina Salerno, 88, moved into the netZero Village with her 91-year-old husband in September. She said the residents range in age, but are mostly young professionals.

“We’re very lucky, it’s quite comfortable,” Salerno said. “We like it very much. You don’t have to worry about electric or gas — you really don’t have to worry about anything.”

Young and her husband live in the largest netZero model: A two-bedroom apartment with a study, which is a space of about 1,093 square feet.

Utilities, a washer and dryer, Internet service and cable TV signal are all included in a monthly rent of $1,435.

“I love it — I’ve loved it since we came over and saw it during the open house,” Young said Thursday. “It’s a nice little community where the people are friendly. They’re really good people who not only care about the planet, but each other.”

Bruns said he expects the new apartments to be leased just as fast as the first units were, if not faster.

“We’ve been renting the next set of new apartments for about a week now, and we have already 13 rented so far,” Bruns said Thursday. “This is a cutting-edge development. We won’t know for sure that the complex is ‘net zero’ until an entire year has passed, but the data we have now is the buildings are performing as good or better than what as modeled. They’re efficient. Very efficient.”

Each building uses roughly 56,000 kilowatt hours per year including heat and hot water, Bruns said.

The average home in New York uses over 650 kilowatt hours per month, according to insideenergy.org. A netZero apartment uses just over half that, approximately 389 kilowatt hours per month.

Bruns said the netZero Village project is an uncommon concept, especially in the Northeast.

“We are able to include everything because the buildings are extremely efficient and all our energy is coming from a free source, which is the sun,” Bruns said. “We’re connected to the grid, however, we’re dong the whole enchilada. We have efficiency and renewable generation engineered all in one package so our carbon footprint is very, very small.”

Even though the rent bill includes all utilities, Bruns said there is no cap on how much electricity, heat or water residents can use per month.

“I’ve had the temperature up to 78 degrees all winter; I’m a small person,” Salerno said with a laugh. “It’s very efficient during the winter ... it’s saved us a lot of money. It’s a blessing.”

Bruns said the goal of the project is to show that energy-efficient living spaces can be constructed at the same cost as conventional new housing complexes, or even less.

“The whole goal of our project was to say, ‘It can be done,’” Bruns said. “People talk about energy efficiency until they’re blue in the face, but no one’s doing anything about it. We wanted to set an example.

“We’ll never build apartments another way,” he added.

The realty group is looking at another similar project for the area in the near future, Bruns said.

“This is home,” Young said. “It’s efficient for the budget and the environment, and we have to look out for the Earth and for our future generations.

“If there were more people who thought like this in the world, the world would be a better place.”

For information about the netZero Village apartment complex and details about an open house, visit www.netzerovillage.com.

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