Windsor approves $100 million apartment complex featuring advanced energy efficiency

Town leaders touted The Mill housing development as being zero net energy, meaning energy used by apartment tenants on an annual basis will be renewable and generated on-site.|

After five years of planning, Windsor officials have approved construction of an apartment complex that will be the town’s most eco-friendly housing community.

Called The Mill, it will include 360 apartments built over the next two years with all electric mechanicals such as heat pumps for water and cooling and appliances powered by solar panels installed throughout the 20-acre property. Also, residents will have electric vehicle charging stations and the ability to store excess solar energy, among other amenities. There will be no gas lines anywhere in the apartment community.

Town leaders touted the $100 million housing development as being zero-net energy, meaning energy used by apartment tenants on an annual basis will be renewable and generated on-site. It is believed to be the largest apartment project with such aggressive energy efficiency set for construction in Sonoma County, said Peter Stanley, a project manager with ArchiLOGIX, a Santa Rosa design and consulting firm.

Stanley is working with Bob Bisno, a Southern California developer that recently got the go-ahead from Windsor Town Council to build the housing project on the south end of Windsor River Road.

It will be walking distance from the planned Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station.

The development represents another key piece of the town’s leaders renewable energy agenda to contend with climate change. Last month, Windsor officials said the town will use solar energy to power its water facilities, by teaming with a French company that’s installing floating solar panels this summer across a large pond on the town’s public works property.

The town council approved The Mill in hopes Windsor will get ahead of a California state law that will require all building permits issued for most new homes and multifamily residences after Jan. 1, 2020 to include rooftop solar panels. Also, state officials last year announced a goal of having all new commercial construction achieving zero net energy by 2030.

“Zero-net energy is a fairly new initiative that came on the scene only about six to eight months ago,” Stanley said. “This is a game changer and it is very complicated.”

Last month, The Mill project got a green light from council members after a strenuous process of many discussions between the town’s leaders and the developer and adjustments to the development plan. Councilman Sam Salmon scrutinized the project closely, focusing on whether the apartments would be affordable for people in the town earning the median annual income. The median annual household income in Windsor in 2017, the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, was $91,032.

“We have been trying to get this approved for five years and when you are in the midst of a housing crisis that is a long time,” Stanley said. “This is a big thing for a small community to take on and zero-net energy is new to all of us.”

Earlier this year, Councilwoman Deborah Fudge led discussions about the importance of Windsor integrating greater energy efficiency in residential development.

The council also has approved The Oaks, a 32-unit apartment complex slated to have advanced energy efficiency.

Fudge recommended months ago that Stanley and his team at ArchiLOGIX collaborate with Sonoma Clean Power to create an initial strategy on how best to build The Mill apartments with no gas utility service and no fossil-fuel emissions.

“I met with the developer (Bisno) multiple times for more than a year and had to convince him that it was OK to not have gas and that electric stoves are becoming more mainstream,” Fudge said. “Now, the whole (Windsor) community is working together to try and move the ball forward on this since the climate change debate is over and it is time to take action.”

The main goal during the construction of the 360 apartments will be to balance the cost of building the complex to be energy-efficient, while also being accessible to the community, Stanley said.

“Sustainability is just one piece of it, which is why we have to do this as a community to solve the larger problems of housing and climate change at the local level,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or On Twitter @CrossingBordas.

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