City looks to experiment with energy efficient, accessible home

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 | 9:35 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Department of Community Development is hoping to experiment with a new type of energy efficient and universally designed home.

The department showed off its idea in a presentation Wednesday night at the Daniel Boone City Building in the hopes of getting feedback on the project before it releases a final proposal in January.

The goal is to increase the affordability of a house by lowering utility costs and to make a more accessible home that appeals to a broader market of potential homeowners.

If the project moves forward next year, the city plans to study the house's effectiveness to incorporate energy efficient features and universal design into future homes in Columbia.  

The houses would be more energy efficient by improving insulation and ventilation, and by adding geothermal heating and cooling. In addition, the house would utilize active and passive solar design. The houses would also be designed for maximum access, by increasing door and hallway widths, open sink bases and minimal barriers in the bathroom while sticking to a one-story design with no steps at the entrance. 

The proposed area for the project is city-owned property at 413 W Ash St. and the first home construction project to be completed by the end of next year. 

The city plans to provide the land to a nonprofit agency to sell, and any profit that is made from the house would go back into future housing projects. At this point, several local nonprofit housing agencies are eligible to become a developer for this project including Job Point, Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity, Central Missouri Community Action, Community Housing Options and Columbia Community Development Corporation.

The city's Community Housing Development Organization plans to contribute $65,300 to the project, along with funds from one of the nonprofit housing agencies and a construction loan. In addition to these proposed funds, Columbia Water and Light has expressed interest in funding around $40,000 to onsite or offsite solar production. Boone Electric also plans to fund around $4,000. 

"(Boone Electric) being interested is an exciting new development," Randy Cole, Community Development coordinator, said. "They're interested in the geothermal developments and gaining data on how effective that is."

Once the house is completed, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has income guidelines for potential buyers. Potential buyers must be under annual gross income levels, ranging from $37,000 for one individual to $57,050 for five individuals.

On Wednesday, Cole said the property-value of the first house is estimated to be around $90,000 to $120,000, but homeowner assistance up to $30,000 is possible for potential buyers. 

The community department plans to release its final proposal Jan. 2. Upon council approval on March 18, the project would be set to begin next summer and the first home to be completed by December 2013.

Cole said some of the common feedback he's received through city surveys has included relocating the driveway of the house to Stanford Drive because there is heavy traffic on Ash Street, including a garden in the home's plan and maintaining the home's affordability. 

"Well the energy efficiency means it's more affordable to live in," Columbia resident Don Love said Wednesday. "Someone doesn't have to pay high utilities. During the summer it's easy to cool, during the winter it's easy to heat. This one is going to be so efficient that a solar panel might be enough to make it so the energy needs are zero. And every house should be like that, I sure wish my house was like that. I'll vote for that."

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.

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