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Three Multifamily Partners Win Grants to Prove Passive House Projects

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Nov 15, 2021

Congratulations to three Better Buildings Challenge multifamily partners who successfully competed for Passive House Design Challenge grants from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC): Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), Community Builders, Inc., and Beacon Communities. Passive House is an internationally-recognized standard for building efficiency. The design challenge seeks to demonstrate that multifamily affordable housing that meets Passive House energy efficiency standards can be built at a low- to no-cost premium in Massachusetts.

MassCEC awarded eight projects for a total of 540 housing units in the design challenge. Passive House buildings are designed in accordance with five standards: airtightness, ventilation, waterproofing, heating and cooling, and electrical loads.

Preservation of Affordable Housing

POAH received two grants totaling more than $700,000 to bring their Boston-based Mattapan Station and Bartlett Station Lot D redevelopment projects to Passive House standard. The Loop at Mattapan Station will become a 6-story affordable housing property with 135 units of housing, retail, and community spaces. Passive House features will include a thermally broken cladding attachment, air sealing, and improved ventilation.

POAH’s Bartlett Station Lot D project is part of the redevelopment of the former MBTA bus yard in Dudley Square. The building will be all-electric and have a 57-kW solar PV installation on the roof. Heating and cooling will be provided by a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heat pump system that provides capacity for simultaneous heating and cooling as well as heat recovery. Ventilation for the apartments and residential program will be provided by high-efficiency energy heat recovery ventilators (ERVs).

Community Buildings, Inc.

Community Builders, Inc. was awarded a $212,000 grant for the construction of North Commons, a new 53-unit mixed-income multifamily rental building located at the Villages at Hospital Hill campus in Northampton, Massachusetts. Passive House features include a robust building envelope, triple paned windows, ERVs, VRF systems, and enhanced building air-tightness. The total construction cost of the project is just over $12 million, which is only a 1-3% premium relative to other stretch code projects in similar climates. Once the building transitions to operation, the owner expects to see savings through reduced heating and cooling loads.

Beacon Communities

Image credit: The Architectural Team

Beacon Communities was awarded a $120,000 grant for Phase Three C of the redevelopment of the Boston Housing Authority’s 845-unit Old Colony public housing community in South Boston. Phase Three C includes building a 55-unit apartment home community for low-income seniors to Passive House standards. The project only required a 2.8% incremental cost premium to reach Passive House that includes improved ventilation, additional solar PV and air sealing, and construction verification.

To learn more about multifamily housing efficiency, visit the multifamily portal of the Better Buildings Solution Center.