Boston, Massachusetts, officials are eager to expand construction of some new energy-efficient homes within the city. These homes aren't just green – they actually generate twice as much power as they consume.

The city unveiled four energy-positive townhouses on August 27 in Roxbury. These LEED-certified platinum (the highest accreditation available) units are part of a growing trend in green architecture and design to reduce the global footprint of housing. These units go beyond a zero offset; energy unused in the residence can be put back onto the electricity grid.

The Roxbury townhouses are one of many energy-positive projects around the United States. Industry experts are particularly excited by these townhouses because they are some of the first to be built in a dense urban environment. The energy-positive homes are priced at $550,000, slightly higher than the city's median condo price of $540,000. City officials intended for the homes to sell for below $400,000, but a shift in the housing market forced the prices to rise. To date, three of the four units have been purchased.

Constructed by Urbanica Inc., each unit is 2,000 square feet, three stories tall and has an outdoor patio, three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. The structures are well worthy of the prestigious LEED certification, with triple-glazed insulated windows, low-flow plumbing, rainwater harvesting equipment and double-thick insulation. But what makes the units energy positive are the rooftop solar panels that can be purchased with the units. Purchasing the 37 photovoltaic solar panels that cover the roof costs an additional $50,000, or they can be leased for $105 per month.

While the upfront costs are steep, remember that the units are energy independent, and unused electricity is sold back to the electric company. Urbanica estimates the townhouses will produce double the amount of electricity a typical home uses. Solar provider Transformations Inc. estimates the homes cut utility costs by about $132 per month. Coupled with tax credits, homeowners could break even in five or six years, according to the Boston Globe. After that, the sold electricity will be additional monthly revenue for the homeowners.

Before energy-positive housing can become a widespread residential option, the units must become more affordable. City officials are hoping to cut into the high prices by building as many energy-positive homes as possible, and already have another 40 homes seeking approval for construction. The next development is set to be built in the Mission Hill neighborhood on city-owned land at Parker and Terrace streets, and will include space for a community garden and retail stores.

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