Lopez Common Ground: A Zero-Net Energy Community

Lopez Common Ground: A Zero-Net Energy Community

Trent Johnson
Sep 25, 2009

Off the coast of Washington State on Lopez Island is a new 11-home community designed for sustainability, energy efficiency and affordability. Key specs include straw bale construction, organic plaster, rainwater catchment, solar hot water and a 33.8-kW solar power system...

Construction of the Lopez Common Ground residential project was completed this past July and combines the best of efficiency and sustainability, at reasonable cost. Ownership in the 11-home development is retained by the developer, Lopez Community Land Trust, in order to maintain affordable home prices in the area. The $3.5 million development project, including the land, was designed by by Seatle-based Architecture firm Mithun.

Mithun's goal was to maximize solar exposure on the south side of each house, while maximizing insulation on the remaining sides of each home. Straw bale construction was used, anchored and aligned by rebar, and then packed with a mixture of local mud, lime, llama or horse poop, and more straw. The exterior is then covered with layers of organic plaster.

Other features include:


  • Rain catchment system as a source of water for the community's toilets, washing machines and garden irrigation.

  • Straw bale and earthen plaster construction

  • Solar hot water systems

  • 33.8-kW shared solar power system.

Each of the homes' electric and water meters are easily visible, allowing the homeowners to gauge their progress toward maximum energy and water efficiency. We'll have a better sense of the overall performance of the community by this time next year.

Via GreenBuildingAdvisor.

Photo credits: Mithun, Juan Hernandez;

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