Solar Powered Apartment Building Arrives Next to the El

You may have heard, fossil fuel dependence is a bit of a problem for our humble planet. That mass of incandescent gas up in the sky provides an endless source of energy, but humankind has only taken baby steps in tapping into solar power. We’ve been slow to adopt solar for many reasons (according to some articles we just read), with cost being a significant hurdle. Fortunately, solar prices have gone down considerably as the years have fallen off the calendar. In fact, there’s a rule of thumb called Swanson’s Law which states that the price of solar cells drop 20 percent every time the cumulative shipped volume of cells doubles. To put a finer point on it, costs have dropped 75% in the last decade. Bully.

Listen to his law.

As prices continue to fall and as solar panel efficiency continues to increase, it stands to reason that we’ll see more and more construction that embraces solar technology. As developers go, Onion Flats has been one of the more forward thinking builders in terms of solar, having built a project called the Battery in Northern Liberties, featuring a huge solar panel array on the roof. Their newest project though, located at 1942 N. Front St., wants the Battery project to hold its beer.

View from Front Street
Back of the building
Closer look

If you love solar panels, you probably just passed out. The building is clad with solar panels which will not only provide all the energy this building will ever need, will also provide protection from the sun for the building’s windows, contributing toward its “passive house” certification. This 28-unit apartment building is the first of its kind in Philadelphia, and we can only hope that it will inspire other developers to consider a similar approach in terms of environmental friendliness. Of course, if Swanson’s Law continues to prove true, there may come a time that solar panels are just as cost effective as other types of exterior sheathing, at which point it will be crazy to cover buildings with anything else.

Former banks next door

While we’re here, we might as well mention the Ninth National Bank and Industrial Title and Savings Trust Company buildings, located next door to the new solar sheathed building. These buildings have been vacant for years and we’ve wondered about them several times before, most recently about a year and a half ago. Onion Flats owns these buildings as well, and fully intends to preserve them, but they’re still figuring out just what they’re going to do with them. Considering their track record, we feel confident that they’ll not only keep the buildings, but they’ll do something cool in the process.