Scenic Mountain Developements

It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while, great innovations are made where people and the environment can both benefit. Imagine a community where people can live, work and shop, while at the same time enjoying clean air, low utility costs, and low housing costs. Now imagine this community in Northern California. Most developers and builders would say this is impossible, but one developer, Scenic Mountain Development, LLC, of the Bay Area is in the process of designing and building one of the most ambitious green building projects ever considered in the United States.

The project is called Sierra Meadow Village and is being developed in Lassen County, in a town called Herlong. Herlong is about 40 minutes north of Reno, and about 30 minutes south of Susanville California. The goal of the project is to build a small, truly affordable community that contains a mix of residential, commercial, retail, and light industrial uses that meet the energy and renewable resource requirements of most federal and state programs. Once completed, this project will be historic in proportion, and become a model for the industry to follow.

Sierra Meadow Village is being built on a portion of land that was donated by Sierra Army Depot to Lassen County for public use and development. The overall Village design emphasizes a diverse mix of land uses within walking range of each other, smaller lot sizes along with public gathering spots, and a main community park, all interconnected by a comprehensive street and walkway system. The commute will be short enough for residents to bicycle to jobs, businesses, or shopping. Yet, the true innovations of this development are the way it will be constructed, and the energy efficient systems that will be used in all aspects of the development.

To discuss the innovations of this project, I spoke with Gene Grillo, president of Bullseye Homes, and project manager for Scenic Mountain Development. Gene began by saying, “The beauty of this project is that it employs extensive creativity in its design to exceed most current energy requirements, while using cost saving and green technologies in most phases of construction. And we can do this because we have assembled a team of the best electrical, mechanical, and solar engineers to assist us in the design of this development.”

“The green technologies we will be using include biodiesel for construction equipment fuel, fuel cells, photovoltaic solar and wind power generation to bring electricity to the homes, and solar water and space heating. The buildings in the development will be constructed with energy efficient envelopes by utilizing the Structural Insulated Panels for the exterior skin of the buildings yielding higher than standard insulation values. These panels will be manufactured on site, which will eliminate transportation and handling costs.”

Gene stated that construction innovations will include the use of helical piers to support the residential units. Helical piers resemble huge metal screws that are turned into the soil, and act as foundation supports. Heating options include the use of solar radiant heating in floors, the use of Biomass heaters which use corn pellets for fuel, as well as energy efficient furnaces and duct systems. Solar lighting will be used for all external applications, and interior lighting will be supplied by a combination of fiber optics, and low consumption halogen and fluorescent fixtures. Supplementing interior light will be multiple window openings, skylights, and solar tubes. There will also be the option of gray water recycling where water from sinks and tubs can be filtered and used for irrigation.

When I asked Gene why most builders are not using these technologies, he pointed out, “Most builders do not want to change how they do things unless they are forced to by market demands. The also don’t want to invest time and money needed to be able to incorporate this new technology into their construction without real justification.”

“However, we realized the tremendous opportunity in combining the innovative technologies available today to create a new level of housing that produces very little impact to the environment. The biggest achievement of this development is that the housing will be affordable not only in terms of their purchase prices (condos will start from the low $100,000.00, and homes from the low $140,000.00), but the yearly utility savings will have the ability exceed their mortgage costs.”

Grillo mentioned that part of Scenic Mountain Development’s ability to be cost efficient in building this development is that they are near the near the technological center of the photovoltaic and SIP development. This means access to the skilled labor necessary to install these green systems and components. They are also getting support from Lassen County and the Army.

The project is scheduled to begin construction within the next few months, and when it is finished, it will be a model for the rest of the nation. For more information about this development or the innovative technologies being used, you can contact Gene Grillo at 1-530-827-2001 or 800-495-3544.

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