Tierra Linda Brings Affordable Passive Housing to Chicago

Some forward-thinking architects and community groups have partnered with PHIUS to bring the benefits of passive building to the affordable housing market in Chicago.

Landon Bone Baker Architects (LBBA) and the Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA) held a public tour of the Tierra Linda passive house project on Wed., June 20. The tour drew a crowd of nearly 150 architects, designers, writers and curious neighbors.

While the project is well under way and set to be completed in October, city regulations nearly thwarted the idea in its early stages.

“Initially the city was skeptical about the passive house design,” said LBBA architect Dominik Soltys, “but once we explained to them what it would mean for the community then they were more receptive.”

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Other homes in the housing project are Energy Star rated, a more relaxed rating than the PHIUS+ certification, but cheaper upfront. ComEd will be monitoring the energy usage on the passive building against the Energy Star buildings to evaluate and compare actual energy performance.

The adoption of passive building design is growing exponentially in the affordable housing sector, with some states having already included passive building certification as part of their process of awarding tax credits for affordable projects.

According the the United States Federal Reserve, one in two renters in the City of Chicago is rent burdened, meaning that more than 30 percent of their income is spent on housing costs such as rent, utilities and repairs. Passive building is a perfect match for affordable projects, because it significantly reduces and attunes utility bills.

The 6-flat PHIUS+ certified building is located at 1812 N Drake Ave., in the center of a scattered development site in Chicago’s West Side. If all goes according to plan, the Tierra Linda project will be the first PHIUS+ certified multifamily  building in the state of Illinois. Before residents can move in, for quality assurance purposes, third-party PHIUS+ raters and verifiers will perform tests on the building to ensure that it is airtight and able to maintain a healthy air quality.

Lindsey Elton, Director of Rating Services at Eco Achievers, is in charge of testing the Tierra Linda project. During the tour, the PHIUS+ rater said she is excited for the future of passive building, and looking forward to being a part of this affordable housing project.

“We’re growing, PHIUS is growing. We’re pushing the envelope, no pun intended,” said Elton. “Your path to net zero is a part of our conversation.”

10th Annual NAPHC – best party of the year, maybe ever…

Wow – was that a successful conference! It has been a week and I am still processing it all. Chicago was unlike any other conference — things did not slow down in the office after it was all over, they rather accelerated. It indeed appears we have reached a tipping point.

From more than one person I heard that it seemed that the quality of work, detailing expertise and technical knowledge, size of projects and complexity of building types had reached a new high. And, compared to the early years, we were not just talking theory and intentions—but what people had done! Really impressive.

LEFT: Dr. Hartwig Künzel giving the Day 2 Keynote -- RIGHT: Sebastian Moreno-Vacca participating in the Architects' Hootenanny (L-R: T.McDonlad, T.Smith, J.Moskovitz, Sebastian, ?)

LEFT: Dr. Hartwig Künzel giving the Day 2 Keynote — RIGHT: Sebastian Moreno-Vacca participating in the Architects’ Hootenanny including (l-r): T.McDonald, T.Smith, J.Moskovitz, Sebastian, C.Hawbecker)

New modeling tools such as WUFI Passive (Technical keynote Hartwig Künzel, day two) are making building science interrelationships more visible and intuitively understandable. WUFI Passive is enabling CPHCs to optimize designs using “hygrothermal mass” (ever heard of that?) to optimize humidity loads and even to inform design decisions overall (as Sebastian Moreno-Vacca illustrated in his session) to create a unique architectural language! How cool is that! Science, heat fluxes and thermal dynamics begin to shape architectural form.

Dirk Lohan, Principal, Lohan Anderson -- Welcomes conference attendees to Chicago

Dirk Lohan, Principal, Lohan Anderson — Welcomes conference attendees to Chicago

Dirk Lohan—Mies Vander Rohe’s grandson, and an extremely accomplished architect in his own right—hinted at this development during his welcoming remarks.

“I believe that we will begin to see as beautiful what also is energy-conscious,” said Lohan.

Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

But maybe the most significant news is the explosive development in the multifamily affordable housing sector. It is seeing significant growth, interest and pilot developments going up in many places of the country. Thanks to the support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, we were able to make this our core topic for the conference and will be able to actively provide support to the affordable development community.

The pre-conference sessions included a daylong affordable housing Hootenanny that brought together successful affordable, multifamily housing project teams together who generously shared lessons learned and experience. Four different project teams presented during an intense full day. The morning and afternoon presentations drew full rooms of affordable housing developers who soaked up the information and had terrific, incisive questions

The same teams presented again during the core conference breakouts in a more condensed form for those who were unable to attend the hootenanny. In addition, there were more presentations on even bigger size affordable projects in progress:

  • A 101 unit affordable development in New York now under construction in the Rockaways (Steve Bluestone, Bluestone Org.)
  • A planned affordable retrofit of a 24 story historical brick building in Chicago (Doug Farr, Tony Holub from Farr and Assoc.), the Lawson House.
  • 24 story residence hall under construction in NYC (Matt Herman, BuroHappold)
L-R: Steve Bluestone presenting with Lisa White, Doug Farr, Matthew Herman

L-R: Steve Bluestone presenting with Lisa White, Doug Farr, Matthew Herman

Really amazing stuff.

Katherine Swenson

Katherine Swenson, Vice President, National Design Initiatives for Enterprise Community Partners — Day 1 Opening Keynote

Of course this growth has been fueled by forward-looking programs that recognize that energy efficient homes make so much sense for affordable housing developers/owners and dwellers. Katie Swenson from the Enterprise Foundation was a breath of fresh air–dynamic, positive, and motivating opening keynote. She explained that in her and her organization’s eyes energy is a critical part in assuring not just housing for people—but healthy housing! “Health is the new green,” she said, and of course passive housing delivers here with excellent comfort, indoor air quality and the added bonus of resiliency when the power goes out. Katie announced that the Green Communities criteria had just included PHIUS+ 2015 certification as one of the highest energy point options.

Other affordable housing agencies also have made a move: the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) awarded bonus points in its last round of selecting projects for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. More recently the New York State Homes & Community Renewal (HCR) effort was mentioned in a release regarding energy efficiency measures from the White House. Those agencies now directly encourage passive building standards in their RFPs. Remarkable!

Sam Rashkin, U.S. D.O.E. -- Closing Plenary Keynote

Sam Rashkin, U.S. D.O.E. — Closing Plenary Keynote

On the other coast. Seattle just amended their multifamily building code to allow additional floor area ration (FAR) for projects that meet the PHIUS+ 2015 criteria. That’s a significant incentive for developers.

Things are cookin’!

The core conference, as usual, was chock full of goodness. There were examples of how the new PHIUS+ 2015 climate specific passive building standards helped to optimize costs both here in North America (presentations by Chicago’s Tom Bassett-Dilley, Dan Whitmore, and) and internationally (Günther Gantolier from Italy). There were nuts-and-bolts presentations on wall assembly solutions (Tom Bassett-Dilley again), air and water barrier best practices (Marcus and Keith). And, the Builders Hootenanny—led by Hammer & Hand’s Sam Hagerman, focused on component challenges such as sourcing airtight FDA approved doors for commercial construction.

The U.S. DOE’s Sam Rashkin closed the conference with an unexpected message: he suggested that we needed to rename a few things to facilitate behavioral change. He posited that ZERH, LEED, PHIUS and other green building programs are essentially fossil fuel use rehab centers trying to rehabilitate an addicted nation and to show how it can be done differently. He received a standing ovation.

A few more comments on pre-conference workshops – three WUFI Passive classes drew almost 80 people and they all were super happy throughout the two days! Who would have thought! Happy people energy modeling!

LEFT: Marc Rosenbaum's lecture on Renewables -- RIGHT: Joe Lstiburek on Multifamily Building Science & HVAC

LEFT: Marc Rosenbaum’s lecture on Renewables — RIGHT: Joe Lstiburek on Multifamily Building Science & HVAC

Marc Rosenbaum single-handedly won first place in registering the most people for his class to connect passive principles with renewables to get to positive energy buildings (the logical next step).

Joe Lstiburek placed a close second (sorry Joe) and did a phenomenal job in covering ventilation concerns in large multifamily buildings. Rachel Wagner showed the most awesome cold climate details that I have ever seen. Galen Staengl took folks on a spin to design multifamily and commercial mechanical systems.

And Gary Klein topped it all off by reminding us that without efficient hot water systems design in multifamily, no cigar!

Thanks to all presenters and keynotes! You made this an excellent and memorable event.

I have not even mentioned the first North American Passive Building Project Awards—the entries were just beautiful projects—check out the winners here. I must mention the overall Best Project winner of 2015, as I believe this is pivotal: Orchards at Orenco. What a beautiful project, the largest fully certified PHIUS+ project in the country to date, a game-changer, underlining affordable multifamily projects on the rise.

I’m extremely happy that the Best Projects winners for young CPHC/architects was a tie, and both winners are women! Congrats to Barbara Gehrung and Tessa Smith! Go girls, you are the next generation of leaders!

L-R: Best Overall Project: Orchards at Orenco; Best Project by CPHC under 35 (tie): Island Passive House, Tessa Smith; Best Project by CPHC under 35 (tie): ECOMod South, Barbara Gehrung

L-R: Best Overall Project: Orchards at Orenco; Best Project by CPHC under 35 (tie): Island Passive House, Tessa Smith; Best Project by CPHC under 35 (tie): ECOMod South, Barbara Gehrung

One last note on a thing: Passive building people know how to party while devouring the most challenging, inspiring energy science, details, philosophies (Jevons paradox – Zack Semke’s fascinating lunch keynote) from the field.

And the architectural boat tour on Saturday to top it all off was almost surreal. When we were all out on Lake Michigan and the fireworks went off over the magnificent skyline, I thought, “that’s how we roll :).” Plus, the docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation was a font of information, and even long-time Chicagoans learned a lot along the way. If you weren’t there, you missed the best passive building party of the year, maybe ever. (But we’ll try to top it, promise.)

Finally, for the crew that just can’t get enough, the Passive Projects Tour on Sunday was, as always, an enormous hit. Tom Bassett-Dilley and Brandon Weiss put together an array of completed and in-progress projects that generated a buzz at every stop. Thanks to Tom and Brandon and to PHA-Chicago for all your help!

Cheers!

Kat

 

Public Comment Opportunity: PHIUS+ Certification for Multifamily Performance Requirements (v2.0)

Chris McTaggart, PHIUS+ QA/QC Manager, wants your feedback…

Dear PHIUS/PHAUS community members,

Adoption of Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) PHIUS+ certification is growing rapidly. Of particular interest is the application of PHIUS+ certification for multifamily buildings. With several projects already certified or in the process of construction, and several more projects in the design phase, PHIUS expects certification of multifamily buildings to be one of the leading growth sectors for high performance, low-energy buildings moving forward.

With this in mind, PHIUS has created updated draft standards for certifying multifamily projects. These updated standards are intended to replace previous guidance offered by PHIUS for certifying multifamily projects. PHIUS is seeking review and comment from all vested stakeholders on these draft standards with the intent that a finalized version shall be released in Q2 2015.

The updated PHIUS+ Certification for Multifamily Performance Requirements (v2.0) contain several improvements to language regarding the specific performance modeling and testing expectations for certification of multifamily projects, including:

  • Modeled energy performance criteria
  • Infiltration testing requirements/protocol
  • HVAC testing/balancing requirements
  • Sampling protocol for dwelling unit-level testing/inspection
  • Additional onsite testing/inspection requirements

To create these draft guidelines, PHIUS solicited feedback from several constituents who are actively involved in the certification of high performance multifamily projects. These comments helped inform the standard development process, and the goal is that the most fundamental areas of need for clarification and formalization have been addressed.

Please take the time to read the attached PHIUS+ Certification for Multifamily Performance Requirements (v2.0) document below and make comments by June 8, 2015. Use the comments section below or email your input to certification@passivehouse.us

Thanks,

Chris McTaggart,  PHIUS+ QA/QC Manager

Multi-Family Passive Building: The Next Frontier Is Here!

Our blogger today is Lisa White, PHIUS Certification Manager. Lisa’s got an exciting update on the growth of PHIUS-certified multi-family projects.

Over the past year, we’ve seen some incredible multi-family project submissions in PHIUS+ Certification. Projects have ranged from duplexes to large affordable apartment complexes to an 84-unit YMCA retrofit.

To date, 21 multi-family projects have been submitted for PHIUS Certification; four are fully certified, four pre-certified and under construction, and the remaining in the pipeline. In terms of units, this equates to 331 total units submitted, 18 certified, and 168 pre-certified. These projects are spread through eight states, with some hot spots in New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, D.C., and California.

An underlying theme of these multi-family projects is that they are being built at little to no additional cost compared to a conventional building. The passive house community has discovered and implemented the economics of multi-family passive building. Larger buildings have a geometric advantage — increased ratio of floor area to envelope area relative to single family homes. This means more habitable space, and less envelope area to worry about transmission losses/gains. There are big incentives to invest in the envelope and cut out the large, expensive mechanical systems.

Additionally, affordable housing developments and non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity have taken an interest in passive building in order to benefit their tenants with electric bills that are a fraction of the typical cost.

Some exciting projects:

  1. Stellar Apartments: The first PHIUS+ Certified affordable multi-family project, 6-units, in Eugene, Ore. This project was constructed simultaneously with an almost identical 6-unit project, built to Energy Star/Earth Advantage Certification. The buildings are planned to be a comparison case study to evaluate the long term economics of both methods. CPHCs: Jan Fillinger and Win Swafford.
  2. The Orchards at Orenco: The largest pre-certified passive building in the United States. This 57-unit affordable housing complex is in Hillsboro, Ore., and is currently under construction. CPHC: Dylan Lamar.
  3. 424 Melrose: This 24-unit affordable complex was completed in Bushwick, N.Y., in February 2014, and is now occupied. Some units were set aside for handicapped residents while others set aside for those making well below the city’s median income. CPHC: Chris Benedict
  4. McKeesport Downtown Housing: This multi-phase retrofit project was on a YMCA originally built in 1922 in downtown McKeesport, PA for those at risk for homelessness. This project underwent the retrofit while half occupied at all times, and is the first pre-certified multi-unit retrofit project. CPHC: Michael Whartnaby.
  5. Uptown Lofts: This 24-unit affordable apartment complex planned for Pittsburgh, Pa., will be constructed simultaneously with an almost identical 23-unit project, built to code energy standards. The buildings are planned to be a comparison case study to evaluate the long term economics of both methods. CPHC: Morgan Law.
  6. Kiln Apartments: Completed in Portland, Ore., in June 2014, this 19-unit project remains one of the largest pre-certified projects, with commercial space on the street level. CPHC: David Posada.
  7. Delta Commons at Benning Road: This 13-unit retrofit project in Washington, D.C. is scheduled to begin construction in early fall 2014. As an exterior insulation retrofit, this project presents some unique challenges with an existing basement. CPHC: Michael Hindle.
  8. Sunshine Terrace Boarding Home: This almost complete boarding home in Spokane, Wash.,  features 29 semi-private units, 58 beds. This boarding home is part of the 7-acre Sunshine Health Facilities campus, and was built to expand the capacity of the assisted living facilities. CPHC: Sam Rodell.
  9. Canon Perdido Condos: This is the first pre-certified multi-family Habitat for Humanity project. Part of a 12 townhome development, this 3-unit building is under construction in Santa Barbara, CA and will be completed soon. CPHC: Edward DeVicente.

If you want to join in the multifamily boomlet, we’ve got a couple learning opportunities coming up.

First, we have partnered with Heartland Alliance, a non-profit group that — among its many good works — develops and manages affordable housing. We’ll present a three-hour introductory Multi-Family Workshop. I will be presenting along with PHIUS Executive Director Katrin Klingenberg. Details and registration will be live soon, meantime, save the date:

August 15
The Heartland Alliance
208 S. LaSalle, 13th floor conference room
Chicago, Ill.

If you want to receive details on the program when they’re available, provide your contact information here.

Second, we’ll offer an intensive full day pre-conference session at the 9th Annual North American Passive House Conference.

Accomplished CPHCs–who have built multifamily projects–will share their experiences and lessons learned. For more information, visit the pre conference schedule at the conference site. And register soon to get the early bird rate!