When you think about community housing for low-income residents, you do not necessarily envision a green building with an emphasis on energy efficiency. However, when Napa Valley Community Housing
(NVCH) developed Arroyo Grande Villas, they took the lead in implementing an environmental responsibility program that now serves as a model for all housing, not just affordable housing.
“Napa Valley Community Housing’s dedication to sustainable building demonstrates to our residents how they, too, can help the environment — while at the same time saving money,” said Kathleen Dreessen, executive director of NVCH. “Our mission is to keep rents low and affordable without lowering our high standards for property maintenance.”
The Bardessono family sold the 1.25-acre affordable housing parcel, now known as Arroyo Grande Villas, to NVCH for $1 dollar in 2007. The sale was an inclusionary requirement for the 62-room luxury hotel, Bardessono, which opened in 2009.
Taking a green approach from its LEED Platinum hotel neighbor, the Arroyo Grande designs incorporated many green building and energy-efficiency measures, including Trex fencing, benches made from recycled plastics, and drought-resistant landscaping. All 25 units feature tankless water heaters, paints with low volatility, dual-paned windows, and Daiken split heating/cooling systems to improve energy efficiency.
Additionally, through a generous grant from Sustainable Napa County (SNC) and the Gasser Foundation, and with the help of no-cost consulting from SNC, NVCH was able to install a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system on the roof of the community building. The system is used to power the community room, manager’s office, laundry room and site lighting. “We are saving thousands of dollars in energy costs,” Dreessen said. “SNC’s help was invaluable.” In turn, SNC cited its appreciation for the work NVCH put into the project to secure the best pricing using rebates and incentives from the New Solar Homes Partnership through the California Solar Initiative.
“Arroyo Grande is our only property with solar panels,” said Bob Machado, facilities manager for NVCH. “When we compare it to other properties of similar size, we can see significant savings on the PG&E bill. The savings allow the property to spend money for other things that we couldn’t do otherwise.”
One of SNC’s strategic objectives is to support local nonprofits in identifying and building capacity to make changes and implement environmentally responsible programs. “After talking with SNC, we were able to implement energy-efficiency upgrades on many of our other properties, at no cost to us, that have lowered our overall usage and energy bills,” added Machado.
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Napa Valley Community Housing plans and builds new housing, purchases existing run-down properties and rehabilitates them, and manages affordable rental units for Napa County's low- and moderate-income residents. The premier developer and provider of affordable housing in the Napa Valley for 36 years, NVCH manages 16 properties housing 1,750 residents, including 650 children and over 200 seniors.