Habitat for Humanity’s low-income, high-tech Northern Michigan homes will be nestled in the Depot Neighborhood of downtown Traverse City and ready for residents spring 2014.

This year marked the groundbreaking of Habitat for Humanity-Grand Traverse Region’s most ambitious project to date: 10 new homes that, when finished, will not only be affordable, but will showcase the new face of environmentally sustainable Northern Michigan building.

Located in the new Depot Neighborhood, a low-income residential project shared with HomeStretch Nonprofit Housing Corporation, these 10 new single-family homes will be net zero—meaning each home will consume only energy produced on-site, via sustainable means like roof-mounted solar panels. The homes will also be situated in the heart of downtown Traverse City, making “smart commute” options—like walking, biking and carpooling—far easier for families.

For Habitat-GTR, taking these measures isn’t just about being green—it makes economical sense, too. “According to some estimates, families can spend over half a million dollars over the span of a 30-year mortgage on energy costs and transportation,” notes Habitat-GTR’s Angela Sayler. By having those expenses out of the way, families living in the Depot Neighborhood will be saving money for more essential costs of living—not to mention paving the way for more environmentally friendly living in Traverse City.

The estimated $1.5 million project kicked off around Labor Day. It’s expected that by this coming spring, the first Depot Neighborhood families will receive the keys to their new, sustainable future. habitatgtr.org.