Ali Kriscenski

SOLARA: CA's First Solar-powered Apartment Community

by , 12/05/07

solara, solar energy, community housing works, global green usa, Poway, California, affordable housing, energy star, energy tax credits, energy tax incentives, smart growth development, solara_2.jpg

A new apartment community in San Diego County is proving that green is both beautiful and affordable. SOLARA is a part of a mixed-use development from Community Housing Works that includes 56 fully solar-powered homes. Sun power is only a part of this smart green growth development which also features energy-efficient designs, healthy materials, water conserving equipment, and high recycled content throughout – even in the community art installations.


This model project is the result of collective efforts between the city of Poway, Community Housing Works, and Global Green USA. Together with Rodriguez Associates Architects & Planners the development team produced one-, two- and three-bedroom units priced between $388-$1,075 per month, depending on occupants’ income.

SOLARA apartments are affordable upfront and in operating costs with energy saving features like passive solar orientation, cool roofs, low-e windows, Energy Star appliances, and tankless boilers for hot water. The homes save water with low-flow restrictors, dual flush toilets, and native (low-allergy) landscaping.

Inside, choices like linoleum, green label carpet (with carpet pad from recycled clothing), Trex decking, and fly ash in concrete are some of the ways SOLARA has incorporated recycled materials into the components. Healthy indoor environmental quality is provided by natural cross ventilation, low-VOC paints and finishes, formaldehyde-free insulation and cabinets, chlorine-free air conditioning, and ample mechanical ventilation.

SOLARA is designed for smart growth with proximity to public transportation, shopping, schools, a library, and recreation facilities. The development is oriented to pedestrians and has a 2,100 sq. ft. community center, and Community Housing Works provides programs on job training, financial fitness, learning, and civic leadership.

Smart and sustainable throughout, SOLARA is the first project delivered under the California Energy Commission’s Zero Energy New Homes program. The project’s renewable energy systems were financed almost entirely by energy rebates and tax credits, including rarely used state and federal financial incentives for multifamily housing.

+ SOLARA
SOLARA at Affordable Housing
SOLARA at Global Green

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9 Comments

  1. Reggie Rasmussen December 13, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    Sorry, typo on first submission on the web link. Please delete this submission and the first one with the incorrect link. Thanks.

  2. Reggie Rasmussen December 13, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    It is a low income housing project (rental) in Poway. Poway is located about 15-20 miles Northwest of Downtown. Poway does have an industry – especially for the folks that would inhabit low income housing. The downside to this is that low income housing has a reputation of bringing in undesired elements into a community. The story from the San Diego Union Tribune story can be found on my Blog at http://www.solarjoules.com.

  3. M December 13, 2007 at 3:47 am

    Stucco is pretty much a defining part of so cal architecture so I understand why they took that route. Also, it seems that they were focusing on affordability and stucco is….well…much less expensive to use. The mission, adobe, spanish, whatever you want to call it, style is popular in so cal so although it’s not my personal taste, I get it and I think it looks great and serves its purpose.

  4. Kat December 12, 2007 at 5:13 am

    i’m with you citicritter. not at all my style, but it may look a little better in person?? no, it’s pretty icky. i might find myself settling, though, to live in such an eco-friendly complex.

  5. citicritter December 10, 2007 at 2:47 am

    “Outstanding”? this looks straight out of the 70s school of bad design (i.e. the worst era for architecture in memory): shed-roofed adobe-esque stucco boxes, festooned with ‘woodsy’ trellises and tones of beige blandness. As such, its also reminiscent of that era’s attempts to justify extremely cliched, mediocre design simply through claims of environmental friendliness. I frankly am amazed to see this on a website that claims to care about the environment AND design.

  6. d. nice December 8, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    c. smith, I think the kind of people that move into these will most likely own a bike and also be the first to buy a fully electric car they can charge with solar electric energy. if Urban can be green enough its not bad, its Great!

  7. c. smith December 7, 2007 at 3:51 am

    i wonder where in san diego county this is located. i applaud the effort to be “green”, however, if it is part of the urban sprawl/car culture that is endemic to the area all of it’s green efforts will be for naught.

  8. Christopher P. December 6, 2007 at 3:33 am

    Outstanding! Solara points the way to xera-greening So Cal., wedded to smart growth AND affordablity, well.

  9. Charlotte Albright December 5, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    I love the look of this community. This is the first apartment community i’ve seen in my quest for green. thank you for this article.

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