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!

 

 

 

 

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