Wright-Ryan Construction to complete 54,000 s/f Passive House Village Centre Apartments

June 03, 2016 - Northern New England
Village Centre Apartments - Brewer, ME Village Centre Apartments - Brewer, ME

Brewer, ME Effective collaboration, openness to creative problem solving, and teamwork were all required to upgrade a 48-unit workforce housing project planned for Brewer, Maine from an already energy-efficient building to one designed to meet the certification requirements of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS). That was the goal for Village Centre Apartments, which at 54,000 s/f would be one of the largest PHIUS-certified buildings in the country when complete. This is no small feat on its own. However, project team members including non-profit developer Community Housing of Maine, CWS Architects, Thornton Tomasetti, Horizon Maine, and Wright-Ryan Construction also overcame the added challenges of achieving Passive House standards in a demanding climate that experiences a wide range of temperature swings and within an aggressive and fixed construction budget. As a publicly-funded development under the Maine State Housing Authority, construction costs had a strict tax limit. Less than $140 per s/f was the target.

Undaunted, the team went to work. Thornton Tomasetti, serving as the sustainability consultant, investigated improvements to insulation and other building details to meet PHIUS certification requirements. CWS Architects modified exterior wall assemblies and windows. The full team evaluated more than ten different HVAC systems. Wright-Ryan, providing preconstruction services and serving as the construction manager, worked with the project partners to develop detailed cost-benefit analyses comparing the full array of alternatives and helping the team select and install the most cost effective and energy-efficient details, materials, and systems. The results included increased building envelope performance and a downsized, simplified-cost HVAC system.

To ensure that Village Centre met the Passive House air-tightness standard design, and that details were faithfully executed onsite, extensive air-sealing and caulking plans were developed during the preconstruction period. Wright-Ryan stressed these plans when the time came to execute onsite, holding specific and assigned subcontractors responsible for each step in the process. Test results have proven that the building is experiencing very low air-leakage rates.

Village Centre is designed to provide affordable housing for working families and individuals within the income limits of 60% area median income, adjusted by family size. The new building will help advance the mission of Community Housing of Maine (CHOM), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides workforce housing, along with advocacy, supportive housing, and community inclusion for special needs populations across the state. CHOM develops, owns and maintains high quality, affordable, service-enriched housing for people with low incomes and disabilities. The organization had completed LEED-certified, including LEED-Platinum level projects in the past, but challenged the project team to achieve Passive House results. And the team delivered. In fact, it is estimated that Village Centre will be over 60% more energy-efficient than a standard code building.

D’arcy Main-Boyington, director of economic development for the City of Brewer said, “This is cutting edge workforce housing in a sustainable package. People will have comfort and convenience while nestled into a village center near many amenities. It is a great place to live.” The apartments already have enormous interest.



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