Recognizing the True Value of Greening Multi-family Affordable Housing: A Case Study and National Model


Wheeler Terrace post green major renovation
Wheeler Terrace post green major renovation

Wheeler Terrace Pre Green Renovation.jpg
Wheeler Terrace Pre Green Renovation

The Organization
Greenspace is evolving from GreenHOME, whose mission was to make affordable housing and its neighborhoods green, into Greenspace, NCR, whose mission is to promote the development of green buildings and sustainable sites, to generate green businesses and jobs and to grow vibrant green communities in the National Capital Region.  Through Greenspace’s green learning and resource center, programs, and innovative partnerships we build the skills, knowledge and capacity of professionals, policymakers and the public. Our success is measured by the degree to which environmental resilience is embedded in the region’s development practices, the crafting and implementation of policy, and the growing strength of our economy.

The Project
Background:
In the context of both GreenHOME and now Greenspace's missions, we undertook the development of a case study of Wheeler Terrace, the first affordable housing community in Washington, D.C. to simultaneously meet the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria and pursue LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Wheeler Terrace is located at 13th Street and Valley Avenue, SE and in 1947 was initially designed as military housing for Bolling Air Force personnel. In the 1970s, Wheeler was sold to private owners and was converted into affordable housing. In subsequent years, the complex, like much of the surrounding neighborhood, suffered serious neglect and decline.  The new owners, Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), decided get ahead of the curve in meeting the standards identified for affordable housing in the Washington DC Green Building Act. CPDC used the Wheeler Terrace project to test and set new environmental performance benchmarks for their properties by meeting both the Enterprise Community Partners Green Communities Criteria and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for New Construction.

Process:
Optimizing Varying Levels and Types of Experience and Expertise   
CPDC selected a team with impressive experience and expertise: Turner Construction and Wiencek & Associates, Architects and Planners –both established leaders with a depth of knowledge that would be hard to match in their respective fields of Turner in construction and Wiencek in affordable housing.  For all of their experience and expertise however, no single team member has an established reputation in green affordable housing development. As David Bowers, Vice President/Impact Market Manager of Enterprise Community Partners, Washington, DC Office said, “Not all players are at the same point of the learning process of transitioning to green practices.”  For example,







  • The developer, an experienced affordable housing provider, is new to green processes and practices.




  • The contractor has extensive experience in green building, but no experience specific to affordable housing. 




  • The architect has a good level of knowledge about both green building and affordable housing, but does not have extensive expertise in the green design process








These examples illustrate the varied experience and expertise of the team members. They also suggest high potential for them as a team, provided they develop and maintain an effective, collaborative working relationship.  “Green building,” according to Mark Chambers of GreenShape, the project’s green consultant’s Project Manager, “requires more collaboration and it’s a process that differs greatly from the traditional model’s more ‘expert’ and ‘siloed’ approach.” This departure from the familiar is a hurdle to overcome and green design and development provides a model, the Integrated Design Process (IDP), that encourages an open exchange of knowledge and experience, reinforces collaboration, and cultivates synergy, all in the service of the long-term sustainability of the project.    
 
Integrated design process (IDP)
The Wheeler Terrace development team implemented an integrated design process (IDP) to plan, design, construct, operate and maintain a high performance project. Integrated design is distinguished from conventional design by its use of a highly collaborative, multidisciplinary project team which works as a collective to understand and develop all aspects of the design. GreenHOME brought in the expertise of its Boston partner, Green Roundtable, to conduct an Integrated Design Process workshop with members of the Wheeler Terrace design and development team. Participants discussed how each individual and the team could use the integrated design process as a resource and guide for making beneficial decisions for the project. The workshop helped team members gain valuable insights and provided them with new tools to achieve greater success in future projects.

The Wheeler Terrace team used computer-simulated energy modeling to evaluate and rank potential energy efficiency technology and strategies in the buildings.  The software established a baseline model of the Wheeler buildings and then modeled energy efficient measures (EEM’s) for comparison.  In considering some of their systems and appliance choices, the Wheeler team learned about Life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA). This method is especially useful in comparing alternatives that may fulfill the same performance requirements but differ with respect to initial costs and operating costs.

Meeting the Funders’ Requirements
The funding of an affordable housing development is specialized and complicated. Multiple layers of funding are necessary to make the project feasible—federal low income housing tax credits, tax exempt private equity bonds, various sources and types of local funds, and so on—and each financing component comes with its own layer of intricate requirements and procedures.  Loan payback is another complicated aspect of financing an affordable housing development: It is structured around several different elements including restricted rents, a percentage of the residents’ income, and HUD funding flows. 
 
All of these factors present practical conditions and burdens that dictate low “first costs” (upfront cost of materials, installation and soft costs) for a project’s design, so within this model, adding green features that may cost more up front can be a challenge to justify, and to finance.  Mike Pitchford, President and CEO of CPDC, said “I don’t see that traditional financing allows for building in green components or features.”  But Pitchford thinks that affordable housing should be leading the way in green building because, as long term owners, they will see the benefits in energy savings and improved lives for the residents. He believes that, for now, local money is of the most importance to green. For example, according to Anthony Waddell with the DC Housing Finance Agency (DCHFA), at Wheeler Terrace there are dollars from an FAR (Floor Area Ratio) exchange that are allocated to the Wheeler Terrace project to cover the cost of some of its green elements.
 
Fortunately for the Wheeler Terrace project, there were sources of local funds that were obtained to cover some of the larger up-front green costs. But this money, including the FAR exchange, is becoming more scarce in our current economy. With traditional financing that dictates limiting first costs, and diminishing sources of less restrictive local funds, meeting the funders’ requirements and green standards can remain an ongoing challenge as development teams are in the early stages of climbing the ladder of experience in green development.  It is also important to note that it has been demonstrated that the more experienced the team is in both integrated design and developing projects that meet green standards, even first cost increases become negligible.  
 
Managing Value Engineering
“Wheeler is exciting”, said David Bowers of Enterprise Community Partners, “the mere fact that it’s being done is encouragement and inspiration to keep pushing—it’s bold.”  The green aspect of the Wheeler project is indeed bold and from Mark James, the project manager’s perspective, he believes that you have to get out of your comfort zone, and break away from standard operating procedures, “When deciding to go green, you have to answer the question, ‘why complicate an already difficult project’, especially when the cost estimates come in,” James said. 
 
Considering how tight the budgets are for affordable housing projects, green features can be easy targets for value engineering. According to the architect, higher first costs have to be defended at every turn, especially for a feature like the ground source heat pump being used at Wheeler Terrace. To inform this decision in particular, the developer commissioned an energy modeling study, a tool that provided a way to compare the present values of several design alternatives, all of which would meet the LEED criteria for optimizing energy performance.  For each alternative, the study calculated energy costs and based on those calculations, recommended the system that maximized energy savings—in this case, the ground source heat pump system. 
 
Using the data in the energy modeling study, the architect designed a lifecycle cost analysis where he examined the combined first costs and operating costs of each system.  He calculated various comparisons including the number of years it would take to recoup the addition investment (over an established baseline) required for the ground source system.  The additional first cost for the system was $1 million, and factoring in its calculated energy savings, that amount would be paid back in less than nine years, a time period substantially lower than that of all other alternatives.

 






































































































































Lifecycle Cost              
Wheeler Terrace - All 7 Buildings              
Not including HUD Payback              
  System
HVAC
Material Cost
Hot Water
Material
Cost
Total HVAC
and Hot
Hot Water
System Cost
Additional
Investment
over
Baseline
(delta)
Operating
Cost/Year
Operational
Savings
over
Baseline
# Years to
pay back
additional
investment
               
Baseline Case (ASHRAE 90.2) $1,800,000 $178,500 $1,978,500   $301,098    
               
Ground Source Heat Pumps $2,450,000 $178,500 $2,628,500 $650,000 $255,115 $45,983 14
High SEER HP- Elec.Backup $2,060,000 $178,500 $2,238,500 $260,000 $297,507 $3,591 72
Ground Source Heat Pumps w/
Water Heating
$2,800,000 $178,500 $2,978,500 $1,000,000 $194,390 $106,708 9




Wiencek + Associates, Architects and Planners DC, LLP
The data is only an estimate and were used for comparison purposes
 
While the Lifecycle Cost Analysis supported the selection of the ground source system, this particular green choice added significantly to the project’s design budget.  Knowing that it would be tempting to cut this system out of the project (as well as other green features) in the interest of keeping the first costs as low as possible, Mark James became an advocate -- a champion -- for their inclusion.  Speaking to the issue, he said, “Success is cost-driven and [with a green project] you have to redefine it [based] on life-cycle costs.” He added that “while green development is new territory, there is growing external pressure and “chatter” for making the transition.” 
 
Mike Pitchford gives credit to Mark James for CPDC’s move to green.  “Doing Wheeler has changed us [CPDC],” he said, “we should have been in on this earlier, but we’ve learned the value of [going green].”  In his mind, Mark James has a “green gene.”
 
Incorporating “Green” Design within Existing Building Constraints
In a development project where there are existing structures, one of the first design decisions is whether to work with the buildings, or to tear them down and start anew.  For the Wheeler Terrace property, a development of seven existing structures, there were valid arguments on both sides.  CPDC’s Mark James believed that despite potentially higher first costs, it was much better to proceed using the existing brick buildings, while Jay Wilson, the architect, after emphasizing the “green” of using the existing structures, said that in considering the decision from a purely practical point of view, he preferred tearing down the buildings and starting over.  But the decision was not up to the developer or the architect because under the DC Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), the Wheeler residents were entitled to make many of the development decisions, including this one.  According to WTA President, Garlenda Joyner, the residents liked the size and density of their development and, fearing those aspects would change if the buildings were torn down, they insisted that the existing structures be kept and that the development team, to the extent possible, works with the existing floor plan.
 
Unlike designing a new building where there are no obstructions and a minimal number of surprises, designing within the constraints of an existing structure has its challenges.   At Wheeler Terrace, numerous challenges surfaced during the design process, particularly as the design team worked to include green building features that would affect the health of the residents.  With funding received from a HUD Healthy Homes grant, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) worked with the Wheeler team to incorporate specific building improvements, including ventilation system modifications that will improve the fresh air supply and distribution throughout.  According to Dave Jacobs, Director of Research at NCHH, in the existing buildings, the fresh air supply is the result of “leakage”.  To improve occupant health, Jacobs said that the design needs to intentionally provide for adequate fresh air. 
 
Guided by ASHRAE 62.2 (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning), the standards that set forth the roles and requirements of a ventilation system that provides for acceptable indoor air quality, Jacobs and the development team explored design options.  They had to factor in various considerations, including many that were related in one way or another to the use of the existing structure—the location of concrete beams, the need to limit additional penetrations to the building, inefficiencies, fire code issues, cost and energy penalty. 
 
Instilling and Sustaining Green and Healthy Principles and Practices
The challenges of initiating a green renovation at Wheeler Terrace go beyond the buildings’ design considerations to include how to bring about changes in behaviors and practices on the part of all long term stakeholders, and most especially, the residents.  Green Communities criteria includes mandatory manuals for occupants and maintenance staff, as well as a walk-through and orientation for the residents, but to realize the potential benefits of both the green and health-related improvements at Wheeler Terrace, good practices must be established and continued. For this, according to NCHH’s Dave Jacobs, “Education is key.”
 
An illustration of improved practices is the project’s green approach to pest management.  As a part of the Healthy Homes Initiative and the Green Communities criteria, Wheeler Terrace will use Integrated Pest Management (IMP) to keep buildings pest free.  IPM is an approach based on the belief that pesticides are poisonous to both pests and residents, and should be used only as a last resort and if used, only in small amounts.  According to NCHH, the IPM strategy is to keep buildings pest free by preventing them from entering a building in the first place – to deny entry, food and harborage.  While the approach reduces costs in monthly spraying and eliminates the use of neurotoxic substances, it requires that the residents and maintenance staff make sure that pests won’t find food, water or hiding places anywhere in the buildings.  To instill this practice, education and trainings are occurring as integration of principles and practices requires a new understanding of how to manage the issue as well as a significant change in behavior.
 
Susan Aceti, the NCHH Project Manager for Wheeler said, “One person can upset the applecart in pest management.”  She said that in order to be successful in their training efforts, they are approaching it in a variety of ways.  For example, their goal is to train a cross section of stakeholders—residents, owners, management, the architect—in the practice of IPM, and to disseminate health-associated information throughout the Wheeler community by training a resident as a Community Health Worker.  In turn, that resident will train others.  Education and training will allow and encourage the community to develop the new skills and practices necessary for the desired improvements in their lives.  “Green thinking factors in the human impact,” said David Bowers at Enterprise.  It considers ways to effectively educate, disseminate and reinforce information so that it builds capacity throughout the community of stakeholders and ultimately results in changing habits and behaviors.
 
Outcomes
The green redevelopment of Wheeler Terrace held striking excitement and hope.  CPDC’s Mark James spoke of the “thrill of the drill” when he described the ground source heat pump system; Turner Construction’s Senior Estimator offered that being a part of the Wheeler project is satisfying to her because, she said, “it’s a project that feels good to be doing;” and WTA President Garlenda Joyner said that after years of neglect, decline and disregard, she is hopeful now that change has finally come to Wheeler Terrace.  Underlying these comments is an eagerness to participate in Wheeler’s transformation, and a commitment to work together, navigating unfamiliar and challenging territory, to actualize the truly pioneering project.
 
From our interviews, we know that green development practices are evolving and as David Bowers of Enterprise Community Partners said, “Not all team members are at the same point of learning the process of transitioning to green practices.”  We learned that the success of this transition requires networking, collaboration, education, and training.   We know that green development, grounded in an integrated process, requires fundamental changes in the way development teams work together, and that we need to support the effort it takes to make those changes.  We understand that green development requires a different way of evaluating design options and underwriting loans, and that stakeholder competency in this area varies, too.  We know that we have to document the details of our experience so that it informs, inspires and enables future projects.
 
From an economic and environmental standpoint, green features such as Wheeler Terrace's geothermal heat pump and dual flush toilets will pay for themselves within ten years and the savings accrued thereafter will be money in both resident and CPDC's pockets. Even at this point, energy efficient measures will result in a 25 percent reduction in energy consumption which will lower household and developer bills. The upgrades also will benefit taxpayers: as utility bills decline so will the stipends the federal government pays out. By demonstrating that practical green and healthy measures were cost-effectively incorporated in the Wheeler Terrace Project, Greenspace will encourage similar practices throughout the National Capitol Region.
 







































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Lifecycle Cost              
Wheeler Terrace - All 7 Buildings              
Not including HUD Payback              
  System
HVAC
Material Cost
Hot Water
Material
Cost
Total HVAC
and Hot
Hot Water
System Cost
Additional
Investment
over
Baseline
(delta)
Operating
Cost/Year
Operational
Savings
over
Baseline
# Years to
pay back
additional
investment
               
Baseline Case (ASHRAE 90.2) $1,800,000 $178,500 $1,978,500   $301,098    
               
Ground Source Heat Pumps $2,450,000 $178,500 $2,628,500 $650,000 $255,115 $45,983 14
High SEER HP- Elec.Backup $2,060,000 $178,500 $2,238,500 $260,000 $297,507 $3,591 72
Ground Source Heat Pumps w/
Water Heating
$2,800,000 $178,500 $2,978,500 $1,000,000 $194,390 $106,708 9





Wiencek + Associates, Architects and Planners DC, LLP
The data is only an estimate and were used for comparison purposes
 
While the Lifecycle Cost Analysis supported the selection of the ground source system, this particular green choice added significantly to the project’s design budget.  Knowing that it would be tempting to cut this system out of the project (as well as other green features) in the interest of keeping the first costs as low as possible, Mark James became an advocate -- a champion -- for their inclusion.  Speaking to the issue, he said, “Success is cost-driven and [with a green project] you have to redefine it [based] on life-cycle costs.” He added that “while green development is new territory, there is growing external pressure and “chatter” for making the transition.” 
 
Mike Pitchford gives credit to Mark James for CPDC’s move to green.  “Doing Wheeler has changed us [CPDC],” he said, “we should have been in on this earlier, but we’ve learned the value of [going green].”  In his mind, Mark James has a “green gene.”
 
Incorporating “Green” Design within Existing Building Constraints
In a development project where there are existing structures, one of the first design decisions is whether to work with the buildings, or to tear them down and start anew.  For the Wheeler Terrace property, a development of seven existing structures, there were valid arguments on both sides.  CPDC’s Mark James believed that despite potentially higher first costs, it was much better to proceed using the existing brick buildings, while Jay Wilson, the architect, after emphasizing the “green” of using the existing structures, said that in considering the decision from a purely practical point of view, he preferred tearing down the buildings and starting over.  But the decision was not up to the developer or the architect because under the DC Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), the Wheeler residents were entitled to make many of the development decisions, including this one.  According to WTA President, Garlenda Joyner, the residents liked the size and density of their development and, fearing those aspects would change if the buildings were torn down, they insisted that the existing structures be kept and that the development team, to the extent possible, works with the existing floor plan.
 
Unlike designing a new building where there are no obstructions and a minimal number of surprises, designing within the constraints of an existing structure has its challenges.   At Wheeler Terrace, numerous challenges surfaced during the design process, particularly as the design team worked to include green building features that would affect the health of the residents.  With funding received from a HUD Healthy Homes grant, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) worked with the Wheeler team to incorporate specific building improvements, including ventilation system modifications that will improve the fresh air supply and distribution throughout.  According to Dave Jacobs, Director of Research at NCHH, in the existing buildings, the fresh air supply is the result of “leakage”.  To improve occupant health, Jacobs said that the design needs to intentionally provide for adequate fresh air. 
 
Guided by ASHRAE 62.2 (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning), the standards that set forth the roles and requirements of a ventilation system that provides for acceptable indoor air quality, Jacobs and the development team explored design options.  They had to factor in various considerations, including many that were related in one way or another to the use of the existing structure—the location of concrete beams, the need to limit additional penetrations to the building, inefficiencies, fire code issues, cost and energy penalty. 
 
Instilling and Sustaining Green and Healthy Principles and Practices
The challenges of initiating a green renovation at Wheeler Terrace go beyond the buildings’ design considerations to include how to bring about changes in behaviors and practices on the part of all long term stakeholders, and most especially, the residents.  Green Communities criteria includes mandatory manuals for occupants and maintenance staff, as well as a walk-through and orientation for the residents, but to realize the potential benefits of both the green and health-related improvements at Wheeler Terrace, good practices must be established and continued. For this, according to NCHH’s Dave Jacobs, “Education is key.”
 
An illustration of improved practices is the project’s green approach to pest management.  As a part of the Healthy Homes Initiative and the Green Communities criteria, Wheeler Terrace will use Integrated Pest Management (IMP) to keep buildings pest free.  IPM is an approach based on the belief that pesticides are poisonous to both pests and residents, and should be used only as a last resort and if used, only in small amounts.  According to NCHH, the IPM strategy is to keep buildings pest free by preventing them from entering a building in the first place – to deny entry, food and harborage.  While the approach reduces costs in monthly spraying and eliminates the use of neurotoxic substances, it requires that the residents and maintenance staff make sure that pests won’t find food, water or hiding places anywhere in the buildings.  To instill this practice, education and trainings are occurring as integration of principles and practices requires a new understanding of how to manage the issue as well as a significant change in behavior.
 
Susan Aceti, the NCHH Project Manager for Wheeler said, “One person can upset the applecart in pest management.”  She said that in order to be successful in their training efforts, they are approaching it in a variety of ways.  For example, their goal is to train a cross section of stakeholders—residents, owners, management, the architect—in the practice of IPM, and to disseminate health-associated information throughout the Wheeler community by training a resident as a Community Health Worker.  In turn, that resident will train others.  Education and training will allow and encourage the community to develop the new skills and practices necessary for the desired improvements in their lives.  “Green thinking factors in the human impact,” said David Bowers at Enterprise.  It considers ways to effectively educate, disseminate and reinforce information so that it builds capacity throughout the community of stakeholders and ultimately results in changing habits and behaviors.
 
Outcomes
The  green redevelopment of Wheeler Terrace held striking excitement and hope.  CPDC’s Mark James spoke of the “thrill of the drill” when he described the ground source heat pump system; Turner Construction’s Senior Estimator offered that being a part of the Wheeler project is satisfying to her because, she said, “it’s a project that feels good to be doing;” and WTA President Garlenda Joyner said that after years of neglect, decline and disregard, she is hopeful now that change has finally come to Wheeler Terrace.  Underlying these comments is an eagerness to participate in Wheeler’s transformation, and a commitment to work together, navigating unfamiliar and challenging territory, to actualize the truly pioneering project.
 
From our interviews, we know that green development practices are evolving and as David Bowers of Enterprise Community Partners said, “Not all team members are at the same point of learning the process of transitioning to green practices.”  We learned that the success of this transition requires networking, collaboration, education, and training.   We know that green development, grounded in an integrated process, requires fundamental changes in the way development teams work together, and that we need to support the effort it takes to make those changes.  We understand that green development requires a different way of evaluating design options and underwriting loans, and that stakeholder competency in this area varies, too.  We know that we have to document the details of our experience so that it informs, inspires and enables future projects.
 
From an economic and environmental standpoint, green features such as Wheeler Terrace's geothermal heat pump and dual flush toilets will pay for themselves within ten years and the savings accrued thereafter will be money in both resident and CPDC's pockets. Even at this point, energy efficient measures will result in a 25 percent reduction in energy consumption which will lower household and developer bills. The upgrades also will benefit taxpayers: as utility bills decline so will the stipends the federal government pays out. By demonstrating that practical green and healthy measures were cost-effectively incorporated in the Wheeler Terrace Project, Greenspace will encourage similar practices throughout the National Capitol Region.
 
 


 








 



GreenHOME Case Study: The Westover Apartments Project
Renovation and new construction make this an ideal case study of the economic impact and process required to make a multifamily affordable housing project green.

Address
P. O. Box 42676
Washington, DC 20015
Phone
(202) 544-5336
(301) 229-4022 (fax)

Website  greenspacencr.org

Contacts


Patty Rose
202-544-5336  Executive Director

Related Topics
  • Nonprofit

Posted 3/23/2005 11:07 AM
Updated   10/1/2010


Wheeler Terrace aerial pre-renovation
Wheeler Terrace aerial pre-renovation


 
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