Lindenguild Hall: A Contemporary Approach to PV in Green Affordable Housing

Written by Katie Schwamb

PartyWalls_KatieSLinden

Katie Schwamb, one of the project’s contributing sustainability consultants

The Lantern Organization’s Lindenguild Hall is a 104-unit multifamily residential project that provides permanent shelter for under-served populations in the Bronx. On-site supportive service programming, open-use learning and activity rooms, and outdoor leisure space provide an enriched living experience for tenants. Contributing to the programmatic requirements of both LEED® for Homes™ and NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program (MPP), the building’s sustainable and energy-efficient design features include high-efficiency boilers, a high-performance envelope assembly, low-emission finishes, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and a water-efficient landscaping and irrigation system. While all of these design elements contribute synergistically to high-performance operation, there is one feature that distinguishes Lindenguild Hall from many other affordable and supportive housing projects in New York…its extensive photovoltaic (PV) array.

Lindenguild Hall - Green Affordable Housing

Lindenguild Hall – Green Affordable Housing

Located on the building’s high-albedo roof, this 66-module solar electric array captures energy to help power lighting, heating, and cooling systems within the building’s common spaces, while reducing overall demand on the city’s electrical grid. An advanced feature of Lindenguild Hall’s PV system is its capacity for online monitoring, which provides building managers with real-time results, including metrics for solar generation in kW (kilowatts) and the overall kWh (kilowatt-hours) generated to date. Availability of this data enables management to assess the positive impact of renewable energy systems on their building’s performance. Long-term implications of alternative energy production on building stock include reduced life-cycle cost and protection against municipal energy uncertainties. Though less quantifiable , installation of innovative green technology adds momentum to standardizing sustainability in affordable housing design.

Lindenguild Hall - Solar Array for Green Affordable Housing

Lindenguild Hall – Solar Array

Lantern Organization, a not-for-profit housing developer and service provider, operates by actively addressing housing needs and offering social initiatives to strengthen disadvantaged NYC communities. SWA’s Residential Green and Multifamily New Construction groups helped Lindenguild Hall navigate the LEED for Homes program and secure NYSERDA MPP incentive funds. Committed to delivering the greatest benefit to their residents, Lantern acknowledges the added value of incorporating green building features into their affordable projects. Increased energy efficiency and improved indoor air quality potentially translate to lower energy cost burden and decreased susceptibility to disease for low-income populations.

Accessible Design: Common Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Part 1: Public and Common-use Areas

After years of inspecting multifamily housing developments across the country for compliance with regulatory requirements for accessible design and construction, our accessibility group has compiled a list of common violations – violations that could easily have been avoided before construction even began. By addressing requirements for accessibility in the early phases of a project, designers can preempt the need for costly remediation during construction and greatly reduce the possibility of potential litigation.

Here are just a couple of examples of common violations that we come across on a regular basis:

  1. Slopes of Accessible Routes
    At least one accessible route is required to connect site arrival points, accessible building entrances, various site and building amenities, and dwelling units in the project. All too often, we arrive on site to find that the slopes of these accessible routes are not compliant (sometimes more than twice what is allowed), necessitating the ripping up of sidewalks and flooring materials – an undertaking that can quickly become expensive. When considering an accessible route, there are two important slopes to keep in mind: cross slope and running slope.

    — Cross slopes of accessible routes must be no more than 1:48 (2%). Areas where two accessible routes intersect, as well as the clearance at doors, must not exceed 2% when measured in any direction.
    — Running slopes of accessible routes must be no more than 1:20 (5%). If the running slope of an accessible route exceeds 5%, it is then considered a ramp and all ramp criteria apply, including the requirement for handrails on both sides of the ramp.

    By identifying the required accessible routes on the drawings, and providing notes and slope indicators along these routes rather than spot elevations, it is possible to greatly increase the chances of compliance once the concrete is poured and the building is constructed.

  2. Protruding Objects
    Sconces are common examples of protruding objects.

    Sconces are common examples of protruding objects.

    Accessible design isn’t just about ensuring equality for those with mobility impairments. Another important, and often missed requirement, applies to those with visual impairments. A protruding object can be something as basic as a wall sconce, bar countertop, or drinking fountain; and as seemingly innocuous as a piece of artwork on the wall. Any element that is located 27-80 inches AFF and projects more than 4 inches from a wall can prove hazardous to someone who does not have the ability to see it. The projecting objects themselves may seem small, but the cost of replacing hundreds of lighting fixtures throughout a building can be astronomical.

    While the best method of avoiding protruding objects is to specify wall-mounted sconces and other fixtures with a low profile, there will of course be situations that require other solutions. Where a protruding object exists, a cane-detectable barrier must be provided below it to ensure that a person with a visual impairment will be able to identify and avoid the potentially hazardous object. This can be as simple as positioning a planter or built-in piece of furniture below a wall sconce or piece of artwork, or installing a foot rail or knee wall below projecting bar countertops. Locating drinking fountains within alcoves is another method of achieving compliance.

By addressing these common violations in the design phase of a project, it is possible to greatly reduce the need for change orders and costly delays once construction begins. A little planning ahead can save a lot of time and money in the long run.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Dwelling Units – coming soon!

Survey says.. Feedback is Fundamental.

While commissioning and utility metering provide quantitative building performance data, post-occupancy surveying qualitatively gauges tenant awareness, understanding, and appreciation of green features. Forego this step, and you miss a critical opportunity to engage end-users in the green building experience.

Recently, SWA launched an initiative to collect post-occupancy evaluations from certified projects. University Village on Colvin (LEED® for Homes™ Gold-certified, Syracuse off-campus housing) was the first to participate.

PartyWalls_UnivHousColvin

Key Survey Findings from University Village Residents:
• 94% of respondents reported being conscious of energy and water conservation
• 77% of respondents were satisfied with the green features of the buildings. Green features were defined as those that save energy, water and natural resources, and promote indoor environmental quality.
• Favorite green features among the respondents were: air conditioning, recycling accessibility, low-flow shower and aerator, and ENERGY STAR® appliances
• 94% of respondents reported satisfaction with the general building site maintenance

Surveying is an essential touch-point coupling building, management, and resident. It forces both stakeholder groups to assess their relationship with the sustainably built environment. At University Village, tenants took stock of their green living area, assigned a personal value to green features, and considered ecological impacts of their behavior. In turn, property managers can discern how their investment translates to improved quality of life, which elements of their investment carry added marketability for luring prospective tenants, and how residents interact with green features to either maximize or minimize their usefulness.

Post-occupancy surveying humanizes green building through education and exposure, demystifying what would otherwise be overly esoteric or easily overlooked technology. In an industry largely under-discussed by a green-ho public, a simple measure that improves accessibility and relatability of green building is invaluable to mainstreaming our beloved practice.