A site near West Palm Beach could be developed with one of the first net-zero-energy apartment complexes in Florida.
Net-zero means the amount of energy produced on site is enough to cover the building’s demand for energy. There are net-zero single-family homes in Florida, but not whole apartment buildings.
Palm Beach County officials received a land use amendment from Net Zero Project LLLP for the 2.42-acre site at 2707 and 2688 Old Military Trail, near Keiser University’s main campus. It currently has a single-family home owned by Vernon L. Osteen, but it’s under contract to Net Zero Project.
The new “multi-family residential” land use, plus a workforce housing density bonus, would permit 62 units.
Architect David Gillis, managing member of Net Zero Project, said the building would be connected to Florida Power & Light Co.’s electrical grid, but it would model buildings across Europe that utilize self-sustaining energy. This would be achieved through “passive house” insulation about 20 inches thick to reduce the cost of air conditioning, solar panels, and batteries to store energy and power the building when there’s no sunlight.
Gillis said the project wouldn’t require as many solar panels as a typical building of that size because the passive house insulation, keeping the building almost airtight, would dramatically reduce the number of solar panels needed.
“This has been a dream of mine my whole life,” Gillis said. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a park ranger, but my mom said, ‘No, you won’t make any money.’ So I got into architecture school and all I wanted to do is save the planet and make beautiful things. I’m now 46 and this is my moment.”
Gillis said he plans to move into the building.
The architect of the project is New York-based PH Design. While the site plan is preliminary, it shows two two-story buildings, 125 parking spaces, a green roof and a pool, which Gillis said would be open to the public
Attorney Steven E. Wallace, who represents the developer in the application, said the project would also provide workforce housing for the community, especially tenants who value the environment.
“The fact that is building will leave a net-zero carbon footprint is important, and there is a market for it, especially among millennials,” Wallace said.
Under the county’s comprehensive plan amendment schedule, this application will go before the County Commission on May 5, followed by review by state officials. A second County Commission vote may be held in July.