Wentworth Community Housing: A Look at The Upper Valley’s New Solar-Powered, Super-Insulated Apartments

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Green Energy Times, July 2019
Chris Gillespie

Wentworth Community Housing exteriorWentworth Community Housing, a collaboration of co-developers Twin Pines Housing and Housing Vermont, is slated to open this July on Sykes Mountain Avenue in White River Junction, VT, likely to the delight of many of the area’s major employers.

Development and Construction

“We were hearing from employers that the high cost of housing was making it difficult to attract employees to the Upper Valley,” said Twin Pines Housing Executive Director Andrew Winter, citing the area’s historically low unemployment and vacancy rates as the main reasons for the Upper Valley’s high cost of housing—and the resulting thirst for affordable alternatives.

Wentworth Community Housing has thirty units, twenty-one of which will be restricted at or below 60% of Windsor County’s area median income. The remaining nine units will be made available to households earning between 80% and 120% of the area median income. These higher-income units were made possible by workforce housing funding through Vermont’s 2017 Housing for All Revenue Bond. Winter notes that these nine units, although more expensive than the others in the building, are still below the area’s market rate.

All of Wentworth Community Housing’s one- and two-bedroom apartments have amenities sure to appeal to any future tenants, including new kitchen appliances and an underground garage for parking. Heat, hot water, electricity, and waste removal are included in rent. Gossens Bachman of Montpelier served as the building’s architect while ReArch Company, Inc. of South Burlington handled construction.

According to Winter, the views from the building also aren’t half bad, as the property is pushed back into the slope of a hill that overlooks Lily Pond in one direction and the hills of Lebanon, New Hampshire in another. Said Winter, “It feels like you are in a treehouse, particularly in the upper floors of the building.”

Solar Energy

Wentworth Community Housing rooftop solarWentworth Community Housing will be getting most of its energy from the sun, thanks to a 70 kW-DC photovoltaic array designed and installed by Norwich Solar. Expected to go live this summer and be active by the time the first tenants move in, the array will supply tenants’ typical electrical demand as well as power the building’s HVAC system, which includes an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system that will use heat from exhausted air to heat incoming air.

According to Norwich Solar, the solar array will produce 80,500 kWh of energy a year, which will offset the annual carbon emissions of twelve passenger vehicles or seven average homes.

Next Generation Energy Efficiency

Twin Pines took great strides to perfect Wentworth Community Housing’s building envelope as well, installing triple-glazed windows and using R32 and R49 insulation for the walls and roof, respectively. Winter says that Twin Pines has been very pleased with the building’s blower door test scores.

Tpht Artists RenderingIn addition to these measures, Wentworth Community Housing will also be one of the first properties to have all of its major systems’ operations monitored by Housing Vermont’s Parsons Platform. According to Winter, the Parsons Platform will allow Twin Pines to remotely monitor the efficiency of “everything from the solar array, to the hot water heater, to the HVAC and ERV” in order to benchmark performance and identify and diagnose potential issues early on.

“The hope is that, by building more energy-efficient buildings and buildings that use solar for heating and cooling needs, we are able to avoid the fluctuating costs of fuel that typically go along with code-compliant buildings,” said Winter. “We work really hard to minimize annual rent increases.”