Foundation Communities to open first commercial net zero-energy building in Austin

Foundation Communities has been providing low-income housing to Austin residents for 25 years, and in May it will also operate the city’s first commercial net zero-energy building.

The building, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation Learning Center, is located on the site of the nonprofit’s newest community, Lakeline Station Apartments, which opened in December at 13635 Rutledge Spur, Austin, off RM 620 in Northwest Austin.

“[The center] will produce at least as much energy as it consumes on a yearly basis,” said Sunshine Mathon, the design and development director for Foundation Communities.

The facility is equipped with solar panels on the roof; LED lighting; and an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit, he said.

The nonprofit also is planning to install a large-scale Tesla Powerwall battery that would help keep energy costs low and allow the building to operate during a power failure, Mathon said. Foundation Communities is the city’s largest private provider of solar energy, he added.

Part of Foundation Communities’ mission is to provide residents with resources “right at their doorstep,” said Peachy Myers, the nonprofit’s director of community engagement. The center will also provide after-school and summer programs for children as well as financial and health classes and tools for adults.

Sprinkled throughout the apartment complex are native plants and 2,500-gallon rainwater cisterns that irrigate the plants and also provide water to flush toilets at the center, Myers said.

Lakeline Station Apartments has 128 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, catering to families, including immigrants, refugees and those formerly homeless, Myers said. The complex is already fully leased.

Residents pay between $378-$1,120 a month for rent based on their income. Units are restricted to those earning 30, 50 or 60 percent of the area median family income, Myers said. The complex has a large center lawn with two children’s play areas and a basketball court.

Foundation Communities owns and operates 22 communities for low-income residents.

“You probably drove by some in Austin and not known some were ours, and that’s how we like it,” Myers said.

In December it also opened Bluebonnet Studios on South Lamar Boulevard. Although the facility has 107 studio apartments, more than 900 residents were interested in living there, Myers said.

“The demand is so high in Austin,” she said.

One other Foundation Communities site is under construction: Cardinal Point, located at 11011 1/2 Four Points Drive near the intersection of RM 2222 and RM 620 in Northwest Austin. That project will open later in 2017 with 120 units.

The nonprofit is also planning an expansion of 20 new units at Garden Terrace in Southwest Austin.

Source: Community Impact Newspaper, Amy Denney

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