O’Brien Brothers and GMP launch Vermont’s first fully storm resilient, all-electric neighborhood

  • Neighborhood of 155 homes will be all-electric, fossil fuel-free with microgrid backup power
  • All homes equipped with resiliency package including home batteries for backup power and solar panels to recharge them
  • Mix of beautifully designed single family, multi-family and permanently affordable homes

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine Longtime South Burlington-based real estate developer and homebuilder O’Brien Brothers broke ground today on a housing development that will bring Vermont its first 100% fossil fuel-free community of climate resilient, energy-efficient residences powered by clean electricity. Backed up by in-home and onsite battery storage, the neighborhood will ensure protection from increasingly severe weather and power outages.

The homes will also be constructed to stringent energy efficiency standards including the US Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) certification and Energy Star certification, both of which will be verified by third-party energy consultants.

This innovative project developed by O’Brien Brothers includes collaborative project partners Green Mountain Power, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman, Northfield Savings Bank and Efficiency Vermont.

Senator Welch discusses housing and energy, as Evan Langfeldt looks on.

US Senator Peter Welch joined Governor Phil Scott and President and CEO of O’Brien Brothers Evan Langfeldt, and the President and CEO of Green Mountain Power Mari McClure for the groundbreaking celebration with more than 100 guests for Hillside East off Old Farm Road in South Burlington. The neighborhood and homes are designed with climate and storm resiliency in mind and the Hillside East residents won’t need fossil fuel to run their homes.

The neighborhood plan includes a mix of 155 single family, multi-family and permanently affordable homes and will create a model for taking on the damaging impacts of climate change across Vermont.

“Vermonters are facing two overlapping challenges: a dire housing shortage and the ongoing climate crisis,” Senator Peter Welch, a longtime environmental steward and co-sponsor of the Green New Deal nationally, said. “This project helps tackle both problems head-on, creating more than 150 100% fossil fuel-free homes using Inflation Reduction Act tax credits. It’s the kind of ambitious project we need more of — in Vermont and across the United States. I’m proud to have played a part in passing this important legislation and bringing these tax credits to Vermont, and I’ll continue to fight for the support Vermonters need to build sustainable housing. Congratulations to O’Brien Brothers, Green Mountain Power, and all others who are helping to bring this exciting project to life.”

Each home at Hillside East will come equipped with a resiliency package with Tesla Powerwall batteries and rooftop solar panels to recharge them, and there will also be a community microgrid with utility scale batteries to keep the whole neighborhood powered up.

Combined, the batteries in the homes and neighborhood will create a virtual power plant lowering energy costs for all GMP customers on peak energy days. Also, the increased electric use by the homes will drive down costs for all GMP customers and show that a whole community can be electric and deliver grid benefits.

Governor Scott praised the many organizations that worked together to create the new development. (Photo Copyright 2023 Andy Duback, Vermont Photographer)

“My Administration has made investing in housing a top priority, which is why it’s great to be at Hillside East to see firsthand the progress that’s being made,” said Governor Phil Scott. “We know there is much more work to do, and I want to thank O’Brien Brothers, GMP and Senator Welch for their commitment to Vermont.”

Residents will move into homes ready for green living; each home will have ducted heat pump systems for heating and cooling, all electric appliances and a Span Drive level 2 EV charger in the garage. Span Smart Panels will give homeowners easy and complete control over electric loads to manage energy use and resiliency, and the neighborhood’s power lines will be underground for added protection from damaging storms. The South Burlington community will be built in multiple phases with the first units ready for occupancy estimated for the fall of 2023.

“At O’Brien Brothers we believe that providing high-quality housing and protecting our environment for our children and future generations do not need to be mutually exclusive. Both are imperatives, and we have chosen to lead by example and contribute to the community and state that we cherish so much,” O’Brien Brothers’ CEO Evan Langfeldt said. “The energy efficiency measures, solar power generation and battery storage capacity will all work together to significantly decrease homeowners’ carbon footprints, strengthen the overall power grid and help Vermont move towards its climate goals, all while providing housing to 155 families. This is a win-win-win for all of us.”

Katie O’Brien, O’Brien Bros. board of directors; Mari McClure, president and CEO, Green Mountain Power; Steve Lipkin, Realtor, Coldwell Banker Hickock and Boardman; and Peter Walke, managing director, Efficiency Vermont. VermontBiz Photo.

Hillside East buyers have affordable heating and cooling all year long in their efficiently built homes through clean electric heat, offering significant savings compared to heating with fossil fuels. The resiliency package of home batteries paired with solar panels will be an estimated $85 per month with no upfront costs – a significant savings over the upfront cost involved in retrofitting a home with equivalent solar panels and batteries on your own. The batteries and EV chargers at Hillside East will add about 3 MW to GMP’s growing network of 50 MW of stored energy across Vermont.  

GMP President and CEO Mari McClure. VermontBiz photo.

“This is the future of the grid happening right here in Vermont. Our customer programs for energy storage, heat pumps, discount EV charging and smart panels are pulled together to bring real resilience to this community, decentralizing the grid and lowering costs for all customers. Devastating climate impacts are here and we must move quickly to use this innovative model to bring solutions to Vermonters all over the state,” said Mari McClure, GMP’s president and CEO.

Vermont is experiencing more severe weather due to climate change, and the Hillside East neighborhood is just the latest project for GMP as the company accelerates work across Vermont to help customers stay powered up and communities be more storm resilient. Some of this work includes the first all-renewable distribution circuit microgrid in Panton, VermontResiliency Zone projects in partnership with the communities of Brattleboro, Grafton and Bethel, and popular home battery programs that also produce cost savings for all GMP customers. GMP’s annual energy supply is 100% carbon free and 78% renewable.

Details about the array of home design options and custom finishes buyers can choose at Hillside East are available here. Interested buyers can contact the sales team at Coldwell Banker Hickok and Boardman.

With Mount Mansfield in the background, ceremonial shovels and an excavator stand by. VermontBiz photo.

About O’Brien Brothers

O’Brien Brothers have been a leader in constructing quality residential and commercial properties and master planned communities in Vermont for 65 years.  The late Leo O’Brien Jr. and Daniel J. O’Brien founded the business in 1958 and it remains family owned and deeply rooted here in South Burlington.  Inspired by a family heritage of local stewardship, O’Brien Brothers’ mission is to add to the quality of life for the communities in which they do business.  O'Brien Brothers creates vibrant neighborhoods, offers homes for families and multi-generational residents, and provides commercial space for start-ups and seasoned businesses.  The company, now led by Evan Langfeldt as President & CEO, owns and operates a variety of commercial and residential - both market rate and affordable - properties throughout Chittenden County including Burlignton, South Burlington, Shelburne, Williston, and Colchester.  Now in its seventh decade of operation, O’Brien Brothers is still led by the legacy, and shaped by the values of its two founders Leo O’Brien Jr. and Daniel J. O’Brien.  For more information, visit www.obrienbrothersvt.com.  For more information on the project visit www.hillsidevt.com

About Green Mountain Power

Green Mountain Power serves more than 270,000 residential and business customers in Vermont with electricity that’s 100% carbon free and 78% renewable on an annual basis, and GMP is partnering with customers to improve lives and transform communities. GMP is providing solutions to cut carbon and is delivering electricity that is clean, affordable, and always on. GMP is the first utility in the world to get a B Corp certification, meeting rigorous social, environmental, accountability and transparency standards and committing to use business as a force for good. In 2022, GMP was named to TIME’s list of the 100 Most Influential Companies. Fast Company named GMP one of the top five Most Innovative Companies in North America in 2022. GMP also earned a spot on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in the World list in the energy sector four years in a row, and in 2023 and 2021 the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) honored GMP as a nationwide leader in energy transformation. 

Source: 5.19.2023. SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - GMP. O’Brien Brothers. Very top photo by VermontBiz.com at the O'Brien farm on Old Farm Road in South Burlington.