The large carport is the second clue this 248-unit apartment community may be unlike any other.
The first? The apartment community name … Solara, Latin for sun. Solara is the largest apartment community in the U.S. to achieve net zero distinction. The entire complex operates off the sun, thanks to solar photovoltaic arrays like the one that forms the carport.
Welcome to the world of Ecoluxury, a resort-like resident experience that treads feathery light on the environment. This 1- and 2-bedroom multifamily community is located in Rotterdam, N.Y., just outside Schenectady. Solara is family-owned and managed by David Bruns, president of Bruns Realty Group LLC.
Bruns, a former electrical engineer, says his next-generation MDU makes more than a compelling earth-friendly statement. Solara is smart brand differentiation, helping attract and retain quality tenants, keeping the rent roll full, and NOI high.
“This project proves that a low carbon development is not only commercially viable but profitable and hugely popular with our customers. This success should convince other builders to join the low carbon movement,” Bruns says.
Leading the low carbon movement doesn’t come without challenges. Chief among them: What materials and processes to specify. “MDUs are cost sensitive, and the green aspect made the challenge harder. I worked with experts to create a value-engineering matrix where each construction component and material was rated Good-Better-Best,” Bruns explains. “We then examined each to determine where the biggest net zero bang for the buck was. We could have never built Solara without this process.”
All Utilities Included
No matter how well intentioned the goal, Bruns knew the project wouldn’t fly unless it was affordable and offered residents a value proposition too good to ignore. For that, Bruns and his team developed a simple one-price-all-you-can-use strategy. “All utilities are included in the rent. There are no extra bills. No heating or cooling bill. No electric bill. No cable, Wi-Fi, water bill, either. This is Ecoluxury living,” he says.
Solara includes the latest smart home technology, all carefully vetted as part of the Good-Better-Best bake-off. This includes smart door locks, thermostats, and Leviton’s Wi-Fi enabled light switches and dimmers so residents can control their lighting using voice command – with Alexa or Google Home – or from a smart phone or tablet when at home or while away. USB in-wall charger outlets are also included to simplify smartphone, tablet, and laptop charging for the resident.
Because of the reliance on sun power, electrical control equipment bears special mention. For that, Bruns singles out Leviton. “We were introduced to Leviton by our electrician. We selected their New York State-approved S8000 Series meters and EMH hub to monitor the energy usage for the entire complex. We also choose to use the Leviton Load Center, which is a great improvement over competing units,” Bruns says. It has an appealing sleek white unit housing and white circuit breakers, an important visual consideration because of the unit’s mid-apartment location. “They look as great as they work,” Bruns reports.
Solara doesn’t overlook air quality, either. Sensors monitor humidity levels as well as heat from cooking ranges to help improve resident comfort.
Today Solara stands apart from the competition because of its sun-powered advantage. Is it a differentiator other multifamily developers and owners should consider? “If we can do it, anyone can!” replies Bruns. To learn more net zero MDU development and construction, visit www.brunsrealty.com.