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An Incredible Leap Forward for Boston Net Zero

It's no longer cool to be impressed by tiny advances in sustainability. (Remember how powerful you felt putting your finger over the solar cells on a calculator?) Even Net Zero buildings are old hat. Lawyer-turned-developer Jacqueline Nunez, founder of The Wonder Group, hopes to start construction on Boston’s first Net Zero community

She's looking for a green light from the BRA board in two weeks so she can move ahead with construction of the Allandale Residences in West Roxbury in May. For $20M, she’s planning to build a 20-unit luxury condominium development (that will include affordable units) that is LEED Platinum and will be New England’s first development built to FORTIFIED Home certification standards. They aim to reduce the effects of natural disasters by making homes safer, stronger and highly resistant to climate change. Net Zero means the homes produce as much energy as they consume, and some units will be Net Positive, producing more energy than they use.

With a modernist design by MERGE Architects founder Elizabeth Whittaker, the project uses the mostly southern facing site to better manage water and uses rooftop solar arrays to produce energy for electricity, heating and cooling. Jacqueline, who has done many smaller projects in West Roxbury, JP and Dorchester, fell in love with the site near the Allandale Farm.

The building envelopes will have double thick walls (about 13 inches) to accommodate extra insulation. The roof assembly, required to be R38, will be R75. The wall assembly, required by current codes to be R13 to R21, will be R51. The super insulated structure allows for smaller mechanical systems to fulfill ancillary energy needs. Compared to the traditional construction timeline of 16 months to 18 months, the Allandale Residences call for 18 months to 24 months; hence, the development cost of $20M for 20 homes.

The two- and three-bedroom condos will feature double and triple height ceilings—for beauty and energy efficiency—and interior balconies. The highly glazed walls will provide views of the 110-acre Allandale Woods conservation land.