Monday, June 25, 2012

How Foundry Court came to be, and what makes it distinctive

As you may have read by now, Philadelphia’s first net-zero energy housing development will soon rise on the site of a former fish wholesaler at 720 N. Fourth St. (Fourth and Brown streets) in Northern Liberties. To be called Foundry Court, it is remarkable both for its ultra-energy-efficient design and for its price point, which is comparable to conventional homes in its class.

Architect's rendering of the project in its urban setting
Another distinctive feature of the Foundry Court homes is that they combine high-tech energy-efficient construction with neotraditional design - most "green" homes signal their difference through ultra-contemporary style.

Equally interesting is how this project came to land in Philadelphia.

Stevensville, Md.-based Nexus EnergyHomes has been refining its cost-effective construction techniques on a number of net-zero energy home developments in Maryland for several years now. Its track record for innovation and value has captured the attention of the home building industry: the National Association of Home Builders bestowed its EnergyValue Housing Award Builder of the Year honor on the firm this year.
Site plan for the Foundry Court developmentThe firm also captured the attention of Carol Diament, who both invests in and sells innovative homes at the Coldwell Banker Preferred Avenue of the Arts office. “I had heard about this company in my travels,” she told us. “I met Anthony Ingargiola, their co-project manager for Philadelphia, at an event and was so impressed by what his firm had to offer that I went down to Maryland to investigate their developments.”
Site plan for the Foundry Court development
Ingargiola’s presence here was a sign that Nexus was looking to expand beyond its Maryland home base. Diament was in the right place at the right time to put builder and opportunity together. Foundry Court is Nexus’ first development in both the Philadelphia area and in Pennsylvania.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a net-zero energy home is not designed to operate completely off the grid – the weather in the Northeast is too variable for that to be possible. But through the combination of ultra-energy-saving construction and infrastructure and solar power generation, a net-zero home will feed power back to the grid on sunny days while drawing minimal energy from it at night and on cloudy days, resulting in a net energy cost of zero, or awfully damn close to it, over the course of the year.
What makes Nexus’ net-zero homes more remarkable is that they cost only about five percent more to build than conventional homes. A Federal tax credit of 20 to 30 percent for purchasing such homes erases the cost differential. “Nobody else has figured out how to build a house that is so energy efficient without being prohibitively expensive,” said Diament.
Diament reports that Foundry Court has received the blessing of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association and is awaiting Zoning Board of Adjustment approval. That’s expected to be granted in early August, with construction commencing right after that. The four-bedroom, 2.5-bath homes should be completed sometime in December and will be priced in the $700,000 range. Diament is the co-developer along with Nexus; her business partner, Andrew Feldman in the Avenue of the Arts office, is the listing agent for the homes.
-By Sandy Smith for
Architects’ renderings from Nexus EnergyHomes, courtesy Carol Diament