In 2010, Rural Development, Inc. (RDI) completed construction of Wisdom Way Solar Village (WWSV), a community of 20 homes (ten duplexes) in Greenfield, MA. RDI was committed to very low energy use and sustainable building practices from the outset as they assembled a committed design and construction team. The team worked together closely to optimize site planning, home design and envelope systems, IEQ strategies, sustainable materials, and HVAC and solar systems.

Most of the homes were reserved for low- and moderate-income buyers, and most of the buyers were first-time homeowners. RDI coordinated outreach and training for buyers about the homes' design and advanced systems.

The homes' design, orientation, and excellent building envelope allowed for very simple HVAC systems—saving RDI $4,000 or more per home when compared to their standard HVAC systems. All of these building systems—combined with active solar electric and thermal systems—resulted in average gas and electric bills of less than $350 per year (14% of the regional average, EIA). The homes also achieved LEED for Homes certification at the Platinum level.

The author (an engineer with Steven Winter Associates, SWA) worked with RDI through the design and construction process and conducted evaluations of several building systems before and during occupancy.

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Author notes

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Senior Mechanical Engineer, PE, Steven Winter Associates, Inc. raldrich@swinter.com.