This UK design emphasizes green homes and community

Eco-Towns began in the United Kingdom, a design competition by a government agency. To qualify as an “eco-town,” a rigorous set of criteria must be met: They must provide affordable housing (30% of units); and be zero carbon; with a minimum of 40% green space; adhere to home efficiency standards (eg. the UK’s Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4); provide for one job per housing unit that is accessible by mass transit, biking, or walking; and provide services, shops and primary schools within walking distance of every single home.

Mueller, Texas is forming an Eco-Town on a 700-acre site vacated when the Austin Airport relocated in 1999. The Eco-Town is intended to maximize sustainable living. The integrated, master-planned community will be home to 13,000 people, featuring commerce (fully 13,000 jobs), and 140 acres of open space.

A U.S. Department of Energy $10.4 million research project there is beginning to measure the impact of an influx of electric vehicles on the electricity grid. General Motors reports that Eco-Town has the highest concentration of its Volts in America. So far there are nearly 40 Volts there, plus a few Leafs, with 75 anticipated by year-end and many more to come as the community is built out.

Pecan Street Inc. a research group based at University of Texas at Austin is responsible for “heavy instrumentation” of homes. So far, 10 homes have been monitored and researchers say findings thus far are “predictable:” Unprompted, and in that absence of time of use rates, people get home and turn on the air conditioning and plug in their cars to recharge. Few are aware that AC units and EV chargers use about the same amount of power, dwarfing all other uses and taxing utility grids at peak periods. San Diego Gas & Electric does report that EV owners are more likely to have solar systems, offsetting late afternoon household demand.

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