Planned for Aurora: A subdivision of 17 net-zero-energy homes both environmental and affordable

Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity will break ground on a 17-home, net-zero-energy subdivision on Aurora's far west side this June, the organization announced Tuesday in partnership with Nicor Gas.

The 1,500- to 1,700-square-foot homes will have six different designs and all will generate as much energy as they use. Heated with natural gas, the homes will include insulated concrete form walls, tankless water heaters, gas heat pumps and other energy-efficient features.

Since Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1988, it has built or upgraded 70 homes in Aurora, North Aurora, Batavia and Montgomery. With its primary focus being to provide affordable homes to working families, the idea behind Aurora's new subdivision was to also provide affordable living, Executive Director Jeffrey Barrett said.

"The question was how do we make the homes more affordable living-wise from an energy standpoint? That was our concept, and Nicor was all in on this project to try and make that happen," Barrett said. "These homes will all have solar, they'll generate battery backup, and they'll have smart electrical panels."

The subdivision will be at 1921 Jericho Road on the northwest corner of Jericho Road and South Edgelawn Drive. Construction is expected to be complete in three years.

The development, which will cost approximately $5.5 million, was approved by the Aurora City Council in January. The acquisition of the 8.5-acre site in September 2021 was funded by grants from Nicor Gas and Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity.

An additional $1.25 million federal Housing and Urban Development grant will fund the infrastructure for the neighborhood, such as water and sewer lines, utilities, streets, sidewalks and stormwater mitigation.

The design of the homes, from insulation to appliances, is geared to keep energy costs down, Barrett said.

"We're trying to make them all energy-efficient from a standpoint of what kinds of appliances we're using, and also from water conservation. Everything in the home - toilets, water faucets, shower heads - all will be low-flow yet high-efficiency faucets," he said.

The project will also serve as a chance to study the use of natural gas in energy-efficient homes by comparing homes with electric heat pumps, gas heat pumps and efficient natural gas furnaces.

"The study will then see what those differences are," Barrett said. "What is the most efficient, not only in terms of energy usage, but also in terms of actual coverage in the home and comfortability for the people that are living in the home."

Nicor Gas is working with another Habitat affiliate, Northern Fox Valley Habitat, to create a similar, 13-home subdivision in Carpentersville. The project, still in its early stages, is slated for development in 2024.

• Jenny Whidden is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by The Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see

A 17-home net-zero-energy development planned for Aurora has six different designs and will be built over three years. COURTESY OF FOX VALLEY HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
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