By Alyssa Engebretson
Property developers have many considerations when selecting new projects. Project feasibility, location, and price are all important factors, but too often environmental impacts and community impact are ignored. Many apartment complexes, work spaces, and offices are built without consideration for the long-term environmental impact of the building because developers profit by selling the building or filling it with tenants as soon as possible. This means that the long-term energy costs are typically passed along to the future owners and tenants.
As development partners, Christopher Gosch and Jason Iverson of Lithosphere LLC emphasize sustainability for the future. The partners know that the decisions they make are critical opportunities to reduce our environmental impact. They feel responsible for implementing sustainable energy technologies in building, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy, and decrease the cost of living for tenants, and provides more comfortable and sustainable spaces to live and work. The partners also advocate for improved property development standards, such as training realtors and appraisers on the cost-benefits of energy-saving components and encouraging the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to track energy components in homes. By increasing energy transparency, renters and homeowners are better able to weigh the benefits of energy efficiency technologies when making housing decisions.
Currently, the partners are developing seventeen live-work spaces and thirty nine rental units in Monona. A live work space is a unit with both a commercial/office and a residential space owned by the same resident. Each owner will have a living space upstairs and an office space downstairs. This design allows the building to be a hub for communal engagement for residents during the course of business, so residents can meet and build relationships among the community.
The project will be located at 6501 Bridge Road in Monona where the Monona Garden Family Restaurant is now. The owners Nedzmi (Nick) and Vasko Zyteja moved from Macedonia in 1984 and have run the restaurant for almost 20 years. The Semovski’s and their restaurant will always hold a place in the community's heart as a welcoming establishment. Nick and Vasko are partnering with Chris and Jason on this project, and their relationship is based on “besa”, hence the name Besa Monona. The word besa is an Albanian precept that means to keep a promise or a word of honor. Jason and Chris adhere to this ethical code as a promise to respect the owner’s hard work. The partners also connect this word to their ethical responsibilities to the environment.
An exciting feature of the project will be its ground-source (or geothermal) heating/cooling pump. The ground-source heat pump will provide heating and cooling by exchanging heat from deep within the earth. These systems take advantage of the fact that the ground temperature remains relatively constant throughout the year, ranging from 45 to 75 degrees Farenheit. Although the primary benefit is energy efficiency, heat pumps are also extremely reliable and require little maintenance, which enhances their commercial utility. The HOA will determine the costs for owners, but based on the cost savings from the heat pump, they are projected to be less expensive compared to similar properties that use traditional furnaces. Jason and Chris are working with One Community Bank to get PACE financing for several components of the development. PACE loans are long-term loans that are used for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation for new and existing developments.
Chris and Jason want their projects to set new goals that are typically overlooked while encouraging members of the community to think about energy efficiency and ways they can improve efficiency of existing buildings. Jason has solar on his home and is looking to get a heat pump, as well. He says, “I’d love to have a net-zero home in the future.” Having a focus on energy efficiency in homes and new developments shifts the narrative to creating a more sustainable future.
The reactions of the community to Besa Monona have been nothing but positive and that has everything to do with Nick and Vasko’s passion for their community, as well as Chris and Jason’s focus on long-term sustainability. Moreover, their commitment to long-term community health and well-being sets an important precedent for future developments to match.