Ithaka Terraces Condos Offer Fossil-fuel-free Living

While the hillside location of Ithaka Terraces was a challenging spot for construction, developer Ed Cope and architect Noah Demarest make creating an all-electric Net Zero Energy condominium complex look surprisingly do-able. Prospective homebuyers, and energy geeks, have a chance to tour and learn more during Open House events on May 12 and 13. Read our interview with developer Ed Cope below.

The twelve new homes at 215 Spencer Rd, just 3 blocks from the Ithaca Commons, are inspired by the traditional architecture of the Greek island of Ithaka half a world away. They also demonstrate what best practices in green building make possible. The building designs are so energy efficient that an off-site solar farm will generate all the electricity needed to heat, cool, illuminate and power appliances in all the homes.

Ithaka Terraces exterior with all-LED lighting
Ithaka Terraces exterior with all-LED lighting
Ithaka Terraces interior with solar-powered heat pump
Ithaka Terraces interior with solar-powered heat pump

In the last two weeks, both the City and the Town of Ithaca accepted a new Green Building Policy report, creating a framework to promote sustainable development. While that is a vision that extends to 2030, Ithaka Terraces embodies many of the attributes today that the Green Building Policy seeks to encourage. STREAM Collaborative and Taitem Engineering authored that policy report, and the two firms had the opportunity to walk their talk on the design team for Ithaka Terraces.
We recently sat down with the developer Ed Cope to learn more about his vision:

When you started thinking about this project, what were the goals you had in mind?

EC: All my life I’ve been an environmentalist, particularly committed to energy efficiency and alternative energy. I live off the grid and installed solar panels back in 1984. I volunteered on the County’s Environmental Management Council. And I got into real estate, owning and renting properties through PPM Homes, an Ithaca property management company. Ithaka Terraces was a chance to build homes for people who want to enjoy an active urban lifestyle and do the right thing for the planet.

Why did you choose this spot for the Terraces?

EC: It’s a convenient location close to the Commons, parks, Ithaca College, Wegman’s and big box shopping areas along Elmira Rd. I agree with the City that urban infill is important as the City grows. This steep brushy hillside was part of the land the City had purchased to widen Spencer Rd. They tore down the rundown old apartment building, and the only new re-use that made sense was multifamily.

How did you prioritize the sustainability features for the overall design?

EC: My motivation is to provide the maximum possible state-of-the-art sustainable living with the highest emphasis on achieving net-zero energy while keeping the condo cost competitive with the market. Our solar farm 15 miles east made it an easy choice to go all-electric and avoid fossil fuels completely. Sustainable features include the use of air-source heat pumps, conduction ranges, LED lighting, electric water heaters, Low-E windows, super-insulated walls and roofs, smart temperature monitoring devices, and other energy-saving devices. We worked with NYSERDA’s New Construction Program, which provided some design guidelines to help achieve our goals.

For instance, the foundation is constructed of R23 Insulated Concrete Forms, providing continuous insulation on both the exterior and interior of the walls below grade and partially above grade. The slab is insulated with R15 rigid foam. The building features nominal 12-inch thick double stud exterior walls with a total of R39 continuous dense packed cellulous insulation and 18 inches of R63 loose fill cellulous insulation in the attic.

As led by Javier Rosa, PE, Taitem’s structural engineering design process supported maximum energy efficiency, by continually evaluating impact on the building’s energy performance. Two examples are:
• Wood wall studs were spaced farther apart than usual, to accommodate more cavity insulation
• Window and door headers were designed with 2 plies of wood members to ensure enough insulation to avoid thermal bridging (often headers are left completely uninsulated, causing a significant amount of heat loss.

What do you think your condo owners will like most about the Terraces?

EC: These homes support an active and climate conscious lifestyle so people can live their values every day. They support trends of the future that say we will be driving less, own fewer cars (and those will be electric) and be actively connected to the walkable urban community. Homebuyers will appreciate that they can get some clean energy options at half price – for example, I’m splitting the cost of optional Electric Vehicle charging stations and upgrades to induction stove tops.

What’s your favorite walk from Ithaka Terraces?

EC: The first is heading over to the west end of the Commons, the gateway to downtown. I walk that all the time. The second is up the hill to Turner and Hillview Place. It’s like a little Europe, with buildings up the hillside leading to two lovely, tucked-away pocket parks.

It’s clear that PPM Homes and the design team behind Ithaka Terraces are committed to empowering homeowners to live sustainably, and to enjoy all that downtown living has to offer. Ten of the twelve condos are still available, and visitors can tour them during the Open House on May 12 and 13.

Ithaka Terraces SQUARE