The West Village is a ZNE (zero net energy) village that is home to Two Thousand Live Net-Zero and Love It. Living close to UC Davis means that both students and employees can commute to work on foot. They ride their bikes everywhere, from errands to college to leisure activities, in one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the United States.

New apartment structures, usually no more than three stories tall, are being constructed in West Village, which will eventually be surrounded by parks and open areas. The typical dwelling is an apartment with one to four bedrooms.

In a year, a ZNE home generates the same amount of energy that it consumes. Most modern homes are solar-powered and operate at peak efficiency. This building is exceptionally energy efficient because of its tight construction, triple pane windows, excellent insulation throughout, Energy Star appliances, and LED lighting. These houses are insulated and well-ventilated so that they maintain a comfortable temperature all year round. Rather than using conventional HVAC, which is inefficient and constantly running, we use heat pumps and other methods of cooling the interior space to make sure Two Thousand Live Net-Zero and Love It. Solar power is highly efficient and can satisfy most energy requirements.

Also Read: Solar Power to Triple During Next Five Years

The construction industry consumes a disproportionate share of the nation’s total energy output. Zero-net-energy structures have shown how to speed up the shift toward low energy use and the introduction of renewables as a substitute for fossil fuels, particularly coal. We have progressed from zero-energy buildings to ZNE neighbourhoods.

ZNE construction moves beyond individual structures and into neighbourhoods with West Village, one of the largest planned ZNE housing developments in the country. Two thousand students, instructors, and staff live in West Village. There will be a total of 662 apartments, 343 single-family homes, 42,500 square feet of retail space, a recreation centre, and educational facilities when construction is complete. A location for a preschool or daycare is included in the plan as well. Some single-family residences and mixed-use buildings will be built in the next years.

Maximum energy efficiency; 4 MW solar on roofs and solar canopies over parking; biogas generator that turns waste into electricity; and smart energy management let the first 2,000 residents achieve net zero energy consumption even on the hottest days of the year.

It’s the worst drought in California in 1,200 years. West Village has smart water management, which includes drought-resistant landscaping to reduce the need for watering plants. Greenbelts, which are a part of natural drainage systems, filter rainwater before it enters the storm drain. The average flush of a water-efficient toilet only uses 1.28 gallons of water, and the average flow rate of a water-efficient shower faucet is just 1.5 gallons per minute.

There are more than 35,000 students at the University of California, Davis. Energy, transportation, and biotechnology are just a few of the areas in which it is a leading research institution. The following academic units at UC Davis have contributed to West Village and are continuing to gain knowledge from it:

  • Transportation Research Board
  • Producing Energy from Biogas
  • The California Lighting Technology Centre’s Water and Energy Efficiency Research and Development Centre
  • Efficient Energy and Cooling Western Centre

While it is one thing to plan for a zero-net-energy community, it is quite another for a community to really live up to that goal by using only as much energy as it generates sustainably. West Village residents have been poorer than expected at leaving lights on and having many electronics plugged in, but they have outperformed projections in decreasing appliance use such as clothes washing and drying. All communities in the ZNE will probably face similar challenges. Intelligent thermostats that turn off lights, TVs, computers, and games when nobody is home and that follow people’s instructions to schedule appliance use when utility time of use rates are lowest are likely to be part of our long-term solution.

Also Read: Drilling Deeper into California’s Drought and Water Distribution

It’s not a Transitory Thing

JAN 23 Two Thousand Live Net-Zero and Love It 2

Cars should not be the focal point of life in ZNE neighbourhoods. If they only have to walk a quarter of a mile to get to shops and public transportation, many individuals would rather not use their cars. The West Village is conveniently located two miles from downtown, supermarkets, and a rail station with easy access to Sacramento, San Francisco, and the Tahoe ski resorts. In contrast to some mixed-use complexes, those who aren’t cyclists will likely opt to use their cars to get to the supermarket, restaurants, and shops. To go to Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, or a few restaurants, some students won’t mind walking the 1.5 miles round trip. Many people will rely on delivery applications on their phones. The walkability of West Village is rated at 9 out of 100, and public transportation access is rated at 41 out of 100.

Davis has long been seen as a leading example of U.S. bicycle cities, despite the fact that it is not a sustainable transportation strategy by conventional standards. Bicycles outnumber automobiles in Davis. Davis led the fight in Sacramento, eleven miles away, to modify California rules after opponents claimed the city’s inaugural bike lane in 1967 broke the law. Over the years, infrastructure for bicyclists like bike lanes, protected bike paths, bike traffic signals, and even a cycle-only roundabout, has expanded greatly. Riding a bike is a great way for people of all ages to move around campus and the rest of the city instead of driving.

Cities like Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco, as well as college towns like Boulder, Eugene, Madison, Austin, and Ann Arbor, have all taken cues from Davis when it comes to creating bike-friendly environments for their residents to make sure Two Thousand Live Net-Zero and Love It.

Positive Outlook for Areas with No Net Energy Consumption

West Village Community Partnership put $300 million into the project and has a 65-year ground lease with the university. California-based Carmel Partners and Colorado’s Urban Villages have joined forces to form the Partnership. From California to Connecticut and Washington State to Washington D.C., Carmel Partners manages nearly $3 billion in multi-tenant residential buildings. Urban Villages finances multi-family and student housing in urban cores. If these companies are able to turn a profit at West Village, it will likely spur them to create similar net-zero energy neighbourhoods elsewhere.

The adoption of zero-net-energy practices is facilitated by technological advancements. Insulation materials, smart windows, energy efficiency, solar panels, and batteries are just a few examples of cutting-edge technology that has emerged in recent years.

Thousands of people are now achieving zero net energy in their homes, workplaces, neighbourhoods, campuses, and islands; millions will do so in the near future.

The Zero Net Energy Action Plan of the CPUC mandates ZNE for all new California single-family homes beginning in 2020. New commercial development in California must be ZNE beginning in 2030. By 2020, the state of California is mandated to get 33% of its energy from renewable sources, with a further increase to 40% by 2030. 80 percent of California’s energy needs might be met by renewables by 2050 if ZNE communities, energy efficiency, renewables, energy storage, and demand response all continue to expand at their current rates.

People who are seeking to live in alignment with their ideals will feel at home in a zero-net-energy community. Numerous college students and faculty members are actually practicing what they preach. When they want to hang out with individuals who share their beliefs, they don’t drive, they walk or ride bikes to their favourite spots. The residents of West Village are proving that it is possible to improve one’s standard of living without resorting to the use of fossil fuels for encouraging Two Thousand Live Net-Zero and Love It .


John Addison is the author of two books - Save Gas, Save the Planet that details the future of transportation and Revenue Rocket about technology partner strategy. CNET, Clean Fleet Report, and Meeting of the Minds have published over 300 of his articles. Prior to being a writer and speaker, he was in partner and sales management for technology companies such as Sun Microsystems. Follow John on Twitter @soaringcities.

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