UC Davis Unveils Big Net Zero Development

This spring we brought you news that the University of California Davis (UC Davis) was set to unveil its new West Village net zero development this fall. Now the leaves are falling from the trees, students have already begin moving into the community’s Viridian and Ramble Apartments, and the largest planned carbon-free community in the nation is now officially open to the public.

Designed to integrate student housing with single-family homes and educational facilities, this “visionary development” spread over 130 acres will be home to about 3,000 people in 662 apartments and 343 single-family homes — which is, essentially, net zero building on a scale that has never before been attempted. If the community achieves its energy goals, it is expected to set a national precedent in sustainable development design.

west village square

image via UC Davis

How do you go this big and still achieve net zero? According to UC Davis, by focusing on aggressive energy efficiency measures incorporated with onsite energy production. Energy efficient features include solar-reflective roofing, radiant barrier roof sheathing and extra insulation, as well as energy-efficient lighting fixtures, indoor occupancy sensors and “daylighting” techniques that will help the community use about 60 percent less energy than if standard lighting had been used. A convenient web-based tool enables energy monitoring by unit, and a smart phone app allows residents turn off lamps and plugged-in electronics remotely.

As far as onsite energy goes, a four-megawatt photovoltaic system is expected to meet the energy needs of the first 1,980 apartments and commercial spaces, and a new biodigester (based on technology developed at UC Davis, of course) is planned for installation in later phases of the project that will convert campus table scraps, animal and plant waste into power.

The developer, West Village Community Partnership, has a 65-year lease for the acreage with the university; the project is expected to be complete in fall of 2013.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply October 24, 2011


    Nice information about web development.

  • Reply August 27, 2012

    Evan Adams

    The contractor on the project is out of Colorado and much of the materials were bought out of state to avoid local California costs. Eco yes, socially responsible no.

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