In August 2011, Affordable Housing Associates (AHA) celebrated the completion of Harmon Gardens, a multifamily apartment building that provides shelter and supportive services for 15 transition-age youth, ages 18–24, which are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Designed by HKIT Architects, and constructed by Midstate Construction Company, Harmon Gardens aims to be a model for sustainable design. Located in Berkeley, California, the development utilizes existing infrastructure and PV panels to provide energy needed for lighting the common areas and heating and hot water for common areas and residential apartments. Additional green building measures include the installation of energy saving appliances, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and improved indoor air quality through the use of no VOC paints, adhesives and natural and recycled flooring materials.
Home Energy was invited to take a tour of Harmon Gardens upon its completion, and we also got a chance to sit down with the people behind the project. Below is a conversation with Aubra Levine, senior project manager in the Housing Development department of AHA, who shares with us the lessons learned in completing this multifamily unit.
Home Energy: What were the project’s goals from the outset?
Aubra Levine: AHA has seven over-arching design principles that mesh with our energy conservation and environmental sustainability goals:
We continually want to build on our “green” experience and are always looking for new green features to adopt. For instance, at Harmon Gardens we have both PV solar and PV thermal, where previous projects only had one or the other. We wanted the project to achieve a higher implementation of green techniques and we used several green rating systems to help guide us in that effort. Our goal was to achieve at least 150 points on the GPR score and to use the LEED for Homes rating system for the first time and to achieve at least Gold rating. We also wanted to use the Bay Friendly Landscaping (BFL) rating system. All of these programs helped us to substantially increase implementation of green features in all aspects of the project. We exceeded our goals in all areas: GPR 172; LEED platinum; and an above average BFL score.
HE: How was Harmon Gardens funded?
AL: Harmon Gardens was financed with funds from the City of Berkeley, Alameda County, California Housing Finance Agency Mental Health Services Act Program, federal stimulus funds in the form of low-income housing tax credit exchange funds from the CA Tax Credit Allocation Committee, a construction loan from Northern California Community Loan Fund, a Affordable Housing Program grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank and Torrey Pines Bank (member bank), a predevelopment grant from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a green building grant from Alameda County Stopwaste, and Section 8 rental assistance through the Berkeley Housing Authority.
HE: Were there any obstacles you ran into along the way with building to green/energy efficient standards? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
Overall the biggest obstacle was the high up-front cost to install certain items. However, since we own and manage our properties for the long term, we are always sensitive to the long term cost to our operations and to our tenants and thus for AHA the added costs on the front end are worth the savings in energy, maintenance, and replacements over time.
Beyond that, there were often challenges to implementing all the green goals but not necessarily obstacles. Here are a few examples:
For more information on Affordable Housing Associates, including future energy efficient projects, visit their website at ahainc.org.
Photo Credit: Kate Henke
This blog originally appeared on HomeEnergy.org.