solar panels on my building?

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Sometimes you don't have to look very far to find a story. I've got a great example of an architect getting involved in his community, right in my own condo building in northwest Washington, D.C. One of my fellow residents, Joe Harris, is an associate at Miche Booz Architect in Brookeville, Md. Harris has embarked on a mission to install a solar hot-water system on the roof of our 285-unit building. 

He's worked out a deal with a local solar company whereby they'll install the system at no charge, in exchange for a 65% cut of the money we save from the system over the next 10 years. The total savings are estimated at $300 per month, and the company will operate and maintain the system. "Essentially, they become our utility," Harris says. Not only will using solar hot-water help us residents save money, it will offset over 150,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. And it's a natural for our large building, with its underutilized roof and east-west orientation. "Buildings with high demand are the sweet spot for solar," Harris adds. "That's where it makes sense."

Our forward-thinking condo board seems receptive to the idea, and will vote in September on whether or not to go ahead with the project. I hope it votes yes--so that the building can save money, and so that it can take a huge step toward becoming a model of environmentally friendly multifamily living.--m.d.



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