Monday, September 24, 2007

High Density Downtown

A spiffy, and very green, project for those few hardy souls who love living in the high density downtown area, is coming online.

Bob Shallit: Town homes downtown to use geothermal system
By Bob Shallit - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, September 24, 2007

Not many housing projects have geothermal heating and cooling systems. Just a few "higher-end, wacko-hippie homes," according to Bay Area architect and developer Jeremy Drucker.

But Drucker, neither wacko nor hippie, is making geothermal one of the key selling points of a high-density, nine-unit town-home project he's building at 1419 F St. in downtown's Mansion Flats district.

The system, which uses a closed loop to circulate water underground, then bring the 65-degree water to heat exchangers within each unit, is 50 percent pricier than conventional heating-and-cooling alternatives. But, Drucker says, it's also 50 percent more efficient.

"If you amortize that out, it's a net positive from Day One," he says.

The geothermal system is just one of the "aggressively green" features of the so-called "9 on F" project, which is designed by Sacramento's Vrilakas Architects.

Drucker is using wood flooring from sustainable forests. Water is heated electrically, eliminating the need for a more wasteful gas water heater. Solar panels are included in some units.

The first of the nearly finished town homes, which range from 1,350 to 1,550 square feet and are priced at $460,000 to $560,000, go on the market in November.

"This is a big step forward," says Paul Menard, an architect who sits on the local Smart Growth Leadership Council, which endorsed the project.

Menard likes the project's energy efficiency. But he also raves about a high-density layout that still manages to offer "privacy and an open, livable feel."

Says Menard, "Design was in the front seat driving the bus."