After weeks of dismal budget updates, UC Davis got a bit of good news last week. The California Energy Commission announced a grant of nearly $2 million to support the development of the West Village community housing project.
University officials say the grant, which totals $1,994,322, will help planners analyze, design and implement new energy technologies with the ultimate goal of having a “zero net energy” community.
When completed, the $280 million West Village project will house an estimated 4,350 people, including 3,000 students along with 500 faculty and staff and their families.
“When it became clear that we were serious about this project and that we were going to commit a sizeable amount of campus land to this new community, we strived to create a plan that was a model of sound environmental design,” said outgoing Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef at a press conference.
West Village will be a “living laboratory” for UC Davis affiliates studying all aspects of sustainable development, Vanderhoef said.
For example, buildings will be designed to take advantage of cooling breezes in the summer and the warmth of the sun in the winter. Bicycles and buses will be the focus of the transportation design.
In addition to solar-generated electricity and solar-heated water technologies, planners will also evaluate more experimental renewable methods. These include a biodigester that was developed at UC Davis and the use of biogas coupled with a fuel cell to generate electricity.
The energy commission is “very pleased” to see this development at UC Davis, where it will serve as an example for students, researchers and other communities, said commission chair Karen Douglas.
“This grant looks to incentivize building that builds together a community-scale system,” Douglas said. “This project is a manifestation of community-scale energy thinking and design that could enable us to significantly reduce our dependence on imported energy, particularly fossil fuels.“
Chevron Energy Solutions is leading an energy team that will develop a strategy to meet the university’s goals. The team also includes Pacific Gas and Electric and local energy consulting firm Davis Energy Group.
UC Davis experts from eight research centers are also contributing to the project. These include the UC Davis Water Efficiency Center, the UC Davis Energy Institute, the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center, the UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center, the UC Davis Biogas Energy Project and the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship.
Last week’s press conference officially marked the start of construction on the project, which will take several years to build. Workers are paving roads and installing other infrastructure that will connect the community on the west side of Highway 113 to the central UC Davis campus.
Construction on the first phase of student apartments – housing 600 students – will begin in spring 2010 with expected occupancy by fall 2011.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.