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Developer looks toward green future

The houses that developer Don Fultz wanted to build would have fed into an already overburdened sewer system. So he looked into methods for cutting sewage production, and discovered green construction.

Fultz recently stood inside a 970-square-foot house, the nearly completed prototype for 22 affordable and sustainable houses he hopes to build in Penn Valley through his company, Capital Investments.

The house has dual flush toilets (with a button for solid or liquid), that will use 25 percent less water than traditional commodes. A tankless natural-gas water heater saves both water and the energy to heat it. Energy-efficient appliances, extra insulation in walls and ceiling, a whole house fan and solar-powered attic fan, a 40 plus year fiberglass roof and long-lasting Hardiplank siding all give long-term saving.



Eight solar panels on the roof generate 300 watts of electricity on a cloudy day.

“The meter’s running backwards right now,” said Fultz. The panels generate more than 1,800 watts and the electricity can be sold back to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. “It’s like a bank see?”




Bottom-line sustainability

The idea of sustainable building is to use techniques and materials that have low environmental impacts and long-term bottom-line benefits.

The idea has been kicked around for 20 years, but now is becoming mainstream. Nevada County contractors and developers like Fultz are looking at ways to integrate “green” technology into their construction projects.

Fultz was a developer in Santa Cruz before coming to the county in the 1980s. He said oil was $10 a barrel back then, but recently has hit highs up to $70 a barrel. He predicts the next century’s escalating oil costs will cause ordinary people to embrace alternatives.

“When I look at projections of energy, it’s going to be a major factor in housing,” Fultz said.

“Essentially, he’s put this house on a diet,” said Martin Webb, owner of Plan It Solar, the local company that consulted with Fultz and installed the solar system at the prototype house.

At the same time, the technology for sustainable building has evolved to a point where alternatives are available on a large scale.

Webb said solar power has reached the point where it’s not just for people living too far from the power grid. It’s becoming more common to see panels on neighborhood roofs.

Financing for systems on new homes can be included in the mortgage, and monthly payments are comparable to an average electric bill. The difference is: The cost per month will never fluctuate, and the system eventually will pay for itself.

There’s a lot of red tape and hurdles, but Martin said his company insists on taking the headache out of the process.

“It takes people who are willing to break the mold,” said Martin.

Alternatives for everyone

Fultz plans to sell the homes for under $300,000. He is gearing them to first-time buyers and retirees looking to downsize.

“They should zero out their (utility) bill,” Fultz said.

Though the house is small and efficient, it still upscale features. The kitchen has granite countertops, tile floors and stainless steel appliances. The energy efficient features lie out of sight and out of mind. Owners won’t have any interruptions in the normal patterns of their lives.

“You don’t have to sacrifice standard of living,” Fultz said.

The one-bedroom, 1-1/2-bath prototype house will be ready for sale later this month, Fultz said. He still has to obtain his permits from Nevada County for the rest of the subdivision.

For more information on the house, call Fultz at 265-3175.

Webb and Plan It Solar can be found online at http://www.planitsolar.com or by calling 432- 3776.

Next week, the second installment in the series will focus on Nevada County’s first commercial building that will be certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or L.E.E.D.

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To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion.com or call 477-4230.


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