homes grow: Solar-powered complex shines in Watsonville
Jones Santa Cruz Sentinel 2003.8.29
When Rafael and Silvia Diaz went looking for a new home to house
their growing family, location was uppermost in their minds, and
they liked the view of the mountains from the new development going
up on East Lake Avenue.
Robin Murray and husband, Sean, a California Department of Forestry
firefighter, feel lucky to have won a below-market housing lottery
that will allow them and 16-month-old daughter Mikaela to move into
their first home in about a month.
But both couples say they got a bonus when they discovered their
new homes are part of the nations largest zero-energy development
a fact that was celebrated by city, state and federal officials
"You never expect to have a new house for a first home,"
Robin Murray said. "And then to have on top of that a home
so technologically superior is pretty exciting."
The Diazes, who will move into their new home today, agree.
"It was a really good decision (to buy in Vista Montaña),"
said Rafael Diaz, who drives a truck for Speed of Light Towing.
"PG&E is going to be buying power from us."
John Suppes, vice president of Clarum Homes, the builder of Vista
Montaña, said people tend to buy homes based on location
and look, not energy efficiency, but his company is out to change
While other builders may offer solar panels or energy conserving
appliances as an option, at Vista Montana, every home is "green"
home. All 257 single-family dwellings and town houses come standard
with an array of environmentally friendly features, including electricity-generating
solar panels on the roof, sustainable building materials such as
bamboo and cork flooring, special insulation and gas-bill busting
tankless water heaters.
"Were looking more globally, for the long term,"
he said. "In the next 10 years, everyone is going to the renewables.
Wed like to be a leader in that."
That leadership role is what drew officials from state and federal
energy departments to Vista Montanas grand opening Thursday.
"This is the largest housing development in the nation with
homes designed to use almost no electricity," said Mark Ginsberg,
who sits on the board of directors of the Energy Efficiency and
Renewable Energy project of the U.S. Department of Energy. "In
the future, people will look back and say subdivisions like
this started in Watsonville."
Home builders are a conservative bunch, he said. As long as they
are selling homes like the ones theyve always built, they
are unlikely to take risks with new technologies. Thats where
companies like Clarum can make a difference.
"We hope all home builders will look at the lessons learned
here," Ginsberg said.
Suppes said builders worry that theyll have to eat the added
expense of the green features, which drove up constructions costs
of the Vista Montana homes about $20,000 each. But he believes the
cost can be passed on to consumers. Education will convince them
that the extra expense is worthwhile. He estimated the systems on
the Vista Montana homes will pay for themselves in seven years.
For Marcia Franich, visiting the model homes Thursday and watching
others rise from the ground nearby, the moment was bittersweet.
She recalled when the her grandparents and uncle farmed apples on
the 72 acres that comprise housing development, the adjacent Martin
John Franich Park and nearby Ann Soldo Elementary School. She would
have like to see the apple trees still in bloom, but shes
pleased the development will serve the community.
"I hope it succeeds and provides needed homes," she said.
WHAT: Housing development with 257 solar-powered, single-family
homes and town homes, plus 132 energy-efficient apartments without
FEATURES: Three- to five-bedroom homes, eight floor plans, double-car
WHEN: Models and sales offices open 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thursdays
WHERE: Off East Lake Avenue in Watsonville.
COST: Prices range from $379,000-$499,000.
Vista Montana http://www.clarum.com
CLARUM OPENS CALIFORNIA'S LARGEST ZERO ENERGY HOME COMMUNITY
Enviro-Home at Vista Montaña is Designed to Reduce
Homeowner Energy Bills by up to 90%
PALO ALTO, CA - August 28, 2003 - Clarum Homes announced today
that it is opening California's largest Zero Energy Home community.
Every home in the builder's Vista Montaña community in Wastonville,
CA is an Enviro-Home, Clarum's state-of-the-art energy-efficient
and environmentally friendly home. The Enviro-Home is designed
to reduce homeowner energy bills by up to 90%.
Clarum Homes has partnered with several program partners in the
development of the Enviro-Home, including AstroPower, Inc.
of Newark, DE, with its SunLineTM solar electric home power systems,
Rinnai Corporation, with its Continuum tankless water heating system,
and ConSol of Stockton, CA, through its ComfortWiseSM energy-efficiency
Featuring the Zero Energy Home designation from the U.S. Department
of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), each Enviro-Home
has been professionally designed, certified, and inspected to reduce
energy consumption and use sustainable resources while improving
Each Enviro-Home in the Vista Montaña community features
an AstroPower solar electric home power system, a Rinnai tankless
on-demand water heater, and a high-efficiency furnace as standard
features. The homes also feature a foam-wrapped building envelope,
increased insulation, radiant roof barrier, advanced HVAC technology,
tightly sealed ducts, and low-E energy-efficient windows. Ceiling
fans, fluorescent light bulbs, water conserving plumbing fixtures,
and water conserving landscaping are also incorporated, providing
homeowners further utility savings.
"The Enviro-Home features that are included as standard
equipment will provide more than $20,000 of added value to homebuyers
at no cost," says John Suppes, Vice President of Clarum. "The
Zero Energy Home is no longer a concept. It is a reality today thanks
to the collaboration of several partners. With a combined goal of
bringing the value of solar electric power, green-building products,
and energy efficiency to homeowners, Clarum, AstroPower, and ConSol
designed and built a home that will serve as a benchmark within
the community - and within the industry."
AstroPower's solar electric power system enables homeowners to
generate their own electricity, reduce their utility bills, and
protect the environment. The systems range in size from 1.2 to 2.4
kilowatts, and are available for upgrade should homeowners wish
to generate even more electricity.
In addition to its energy-efficient features, the Enviro-Home
incorporates sustainable building materials, such as engineered
lumber, recycled decking material, fiberglass doors, and offers
recycled content carpet, bamboo flooring, cork flooring, environmentally
friendly paint as optional items.
The Enviro-Home has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency's ENERGY STAR® seal, ConSol's ComfortWiseSM designation,
and the California Building Industry Institute's California Green
Builder certification. These are all in addition to the Zero Energy
Home designation from NREL.
Vista Montaña is located in Watsonville at East Lake Avenue
and Bridge Street. When completed, the community will consist of
177 single-family homes, 80 townhomes, 132 apartments, a 14-acre
City park and the Ann Soldo Elementary School. Prices range from
$379,000-$499,000. Homebuyers who are interested in learning more
about the Vista Montaña community should call the Sales Center
at 831-763-9484. The Sales Center and decorated model homes are
open Thursday - Monday from 11am-5pm.
About Clarum Homes
Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, Clarum Homes is a family-owned
company devoted to building quality and innovative communities.
Clarum constantly seeks the newest and the best building materials
and products to accommodate homebuyers' changing tastes and desires
and is always in touch with customers in an effort to further enhance
its homes and services. Clarum Homes was the first builder in Northern
California to provide solar electric systems as standard equipment
in their homes and they are now taking the concepts of green building
to a new level with the introduction of zero energy and environmentally
friendly features as standard equipment in all the homes they build.
For more information, please visit www.clarum.com.
ConSol, energy consultants, has been working for builders since
1981 providing a full range of services to improve quality control
of energy-related features in new homes. ConSol created ComfortWiseSM
from its experiences developing successful resource-management programs
and training more than 200 builder companies on quality construction.
ConSol is heavily involved in the building industry at the local,
state and national levels and won the Energy Star Homes Ally of
the Year award in 1997. ConSol is committed to assisting the builder
in cost-effectively achieving the highest level of quality. For
more information, please visit www.ComfortWise.com.
Vice President, Marketing
P.O. Box 60088
Palo Alto, CA 94306
650-322-7069 ext. 24