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Raising the sustainability bar with NoLibs net-zero development

In recent years, Northern Liberties has become synonymous with ultra-sleek, upscale residential infill development.  Whether its been contemporary row houses, bougey mid-rises or industrial lofts, Northern Liberties has come to define its niche in modern, urban living.  And it doesn’t seem this neighborhood has any intention of ending its residential real estate offerings there; the area is getting its feet wet with sustainable development and will soon welcome Philly’s first net-zero energy housing development at 720 N. Fourth St.   
The project, called Foundry Courts, will consist of five townhouses starting at $799,000 each and will be developed by Nexus Energy Homes, a Maryland based homebuilder that has found a way to build green homes at costs comparable to conventional ones.     
So what exactly is a ‘net-zero building’ and how does it work?  The answer to those questions are relatively simple: Through a number of features including solar power generation, a net-zero home feeds power back to the grid on sunny days and draws minimal energy at night  or when its cloudy, resulting in a net energy cost of zero.  
On top of this, the homes will feature other sustainable features including geothermal wells and solar power, as well as green roofs and rainwater harvesting.  The ultra green-fest doesn’t end there: all homes will be developed to Emerald Certification standards – the highest green building certification offered by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
Perhaps more importantly, this project is getting major props from the City’s Office of Sustainability and is seen as a major step towards their goal of making Philly the greenest city in the nation. Considering Nexus has played an important role in Maryland’s North Pointe eco-community, and with the University of California, Davis pushing the envelope with its recent net-zero community, expect Foundry Courts to be replicated throughout Philly in years to come.  And who knows, if Northern Liberties wants to continue to push the envelope and developers are on board, perhaps the neighborhood can harness the net-zero concept on a community scale and become America’s first net-zero urban neighborhood.  Now that would truly raise the sustainability bar nationwide. 

Writer: Greg Meckstroth
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