Beautiful modular homes raise the bar for affordable housing in Ontario

January 27, 2021 by  
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In response to the pressing need for sustainable and affordable housing in Ontario, Canadian design firm Montgomery Sisam Architects has unveiled plans for Durham Modular Supportive Housing, a modular, affordable housing development to be located in the town of Beaverton just outside of Toronto, Ontario. Created to “push the boundaries of affordable housing,” the prefabricated project will provide 49 self-contained bachelor suites in just 12 months from design to occupancy. The Scandinavian-inspired houses will take cues from the rural environment with a natural materials palette to harmonize the built environment with nature. Located in a rural neighborhood near Lake Simcoe, the ongoing Durham Modular Supportive Housing project will span 38,200 square feet and include senior living units. The simple gabled architecture takes inspiration from the rural vernacular with elements such as sloped roofs, dark exterior cladding and light-toned timber interiors. Connective exterior joists and interior module connections will be highlighted and exposed to draw attention to the project’s modular construction. Related: Affordable senior housing gets a climate-responsive upgrade in California “Utilizing the prefabrication construction process not only allows for an extremely rapid delivery, the off-site, indoor manufacturing of the units ensures that quality control is particularly consistent, while the predictability of design and construction eliminates unforeseen costs, facilitates building assembly and site organization, and reduces waste and greenhouse gas emissions,” Montgomery Sisam Architects explained in a project statement. The project consists of two cypress-clad buildings connected via a glazed, single-story link. The larger of the two volumes will house the residences while the other will serve as a community space with residential services including a dining space, work rooms, meeting rooms and wellness support offices. Large windows will punctuate the building envelopes to frame views of surrounding greenery. Residents will also have access to outdoor amenities such as gardens, bike storage, dining tables and basketball hoops. + Montgomery Sisam Architects Images via Montgomery Sisam Architects

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Beautiful modular homes raise the bar for affordable housing in Ontario

LEED Gold apartments provide supportive housing in Los Angeles

January 22, 2021 by  
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In November 2020, the Westlake / Rampart Village neighborhood of Los Angeles welcomed the Rampart Mint Apartments, a new permanent supportive housing project that provides secure and sustainable housing for people who are experiencing homelessness. Designed by Santa Monica-based firm KFA Architecture in collaboration with the West Hollywood Community Housing Corp. (WHCHC) and Affordable Living for the Aging (ALA), the six-story building provides 23 fully accessible studio apartment units, one of which is used as a manager’s unit. The timber-framed building is also designed to meet LEED Gold certification and aims to exceed Title 24 energy standards by 15%. Located on a former city-owned vacant lot between 3rd Street and Beverly Boulevard, the 15,400-square-foot Rampart Mint Apartments provides 22 units of housing for residents who earn less than 30% of the area median income. All units are equipped with kitchenettes and full bathrooms and include Energy Star appliances, low-flow plumbing, VOC-free interior paints and formaldehyde-free wood materials. Landscaping features drought-tolerant plantings. Related: LEED Platinum-targeted Santa Monica apartments are powered by solar energy “KFA has long specialized in designing affordable housing throughout the Los Angeles region, and we are very pleased to be a part of another project with WHCHC,” KFA Architecture partner Lise Bornstein said in a press release. “In addition to providing new, high quality, affordable urban infill housing with an emphasis on design and sustainability, Rampart Mint will also breathe new energy into an abandoned site that had been underutilized for more than 30 years.” Residents will have access to a variety of building amenities including a spacious community room that opens up to a rooftop deck with a community garden and city views, a computer lab, laundry facilities and an office space for social services. Voluntary on-site comprehensive services will also be made available free of charge to all residents by ALA and WHCHC residents services’ staff. + KFA Architecture Photography by Jim Simmons via KFA Architecture

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LEED Gold apartments provide supportive housing in Los Angeles

Affordable senior housing gets a climate-responsive upgrade in California

November 17, 2020 by  
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San Diego-based design firm Studio E Architects has given an affordable housing development a climate-responsive renovation while strengthening the multiplex’s sense of placemaking in the desert of La Quinta, California. The 11-acre, tax credit-financed project, which was completed last year, comprised the redesign of Washington Street Apartments’ 72 existing units and the addition of 68 units on an adjacent 5.2-acre undeveloped plot to serve very low-income seniors and farm workers. To stay within a tight budget, the architects employed sustainable, low-tech strategies, such as deep sun shades and thermal chimneys, to promote natural cooling in response to the harsh desert heat. Set on a desert plain in Coachella Valley, the newly expanded Washington Street Apartments occupy an L-shaped site with the newly constructed units to the east of the renovated and redesigned existing units. To encourage relationship building, the architects inserted a series of community amenities throughout the development, including buildings and pools, shared laundry facilities, courtyards, lawns and an arbor and allotment garden. Related: Mirror-covered ‘Mirage’ house disappears into the California desert This public realm of courtyards and paseos are made more inviting with the architects’ environmentally responsive design that mitigates the desert heat. Sustainable, low-tech strategies include high solar reflectance roofs with extended eaves that bounce light while protecting the outdoor gathering spaces from unwanted solar gain. Deep overhangs supported by thin steel columns — a nod to the winter tents of the Indigenous inhabitants of Coachella Valley — are strategically designed so that summer sunlight can be blocked while allowing in low winter sunlight. The new residential buildings are oriented east to west to minimize exposure to late afternoon sun while openings are strategically placed to take in prevailing breezes and to promote thermo siphoning , a natural phenomenon that pushes hot air up and out of the building. The buildings have also been equipped with high-performance insulation and HVAC systems. + Studio E Architects Images via Studio E Architects

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Modular, affordable housing project opens in Portland

July 8, 2020 by  
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Argyle Gardens, a newly-opened modular co-housing development, is providing affordable housing for individuals who formerly experienced homelessness and are greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Portland, Oregon. Opened at the beginning of April 2020, the project houses 72 residents in studio and SRO-style units. Because of the offsite modular construction, development costs for the units were 31% lower than typical affordable housing projects and the construction schedule was shortened by four months. Argyle Gardens is located in the Kenton area of north Portland and features a modular design brought to the area by Transition Projects specifically to address the current times of hardship for those who need the most support. Related: Passive House-certified development offers affordable housing in South Bronx There are four buildings in total, the largest of which contains 36 apartments. The buildings are positioned around a large, central community space that includes laundry facilities and support service offices. In addition to the main apartment building, there are three co-housing structures, which each contain two six-bedroom pods, two shared bathrooms and a kitchen. Argyle Gardens is near the light rail, a public park, bus lines and the downtown and commercial shopping areas. By June 1, over half of the units have already been filled by low-income residents and people who formerly experienced homelessness. Going a step further, community-building programming and supportive services have already been implemented on the property. Residential activities such as a gardening club and cooking demonstrations have started as well. The project was designed by Portland firm Holst Architecture and features gable roof trusses and translucent polycarbonate panels. The modules can adapt to any area that allows duplexes while still working within the existing zoning codes for Portland. Despite the site’s steep and vegetated topography, the design team accomplished balance in the environmental considerations required for modular construction. The high-efficiency housing model can be replicated and modified by other modular builders around the country. + Holst Architecture Photography by Josh Partee and Portlandrone via Holst Architecture

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Passive House-certified development offers affordable housing in South Bronx

June 17, 2020 by  
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New York City-based Curtis + Ginsberg Architects has completed Park Avenue Green, the largest Passive House development in North America that is inspirational in more ways than one. Designed in collaboration with energy consultant Bright Tower, the building is an energy powerhouse and a new affordable housing community with 154 apartments for low- and extremely low-income households — including 35 units reserved for people who were formerly homeless — in the Melrose neighborhood of the South Bronx. An airtight envelope, energy-efficient appliances and a rooftop solar array have reduced the building’s energy consumption by about 70% of the code-required standards, earning the project certification by the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS). Completed in February 2019, Park Avenue Green has been crafted as a new neighborhood landmark with a 4,300-square-foot community facility on the ground floor. This facility currently houses affordable visual art studies and gallery space for Spaceworks, a nonprofit that provides low-cost spaces for artists. The ground floor also includes a bicycle room and community room for residents. Related: Are these zero-carbon domes the future of sustainable housing? To achieve the stringent energy standards set by PHIUS, the design team outfitted the building with a 34-kilowatt photovoltaic system , a cogeneration scheme, individual VRF heating and cooling units and efficient energy recovery units (ERV) in each apartment. Residents’ comfort and well-being are optimized thanks to these measures and abundant access to natural light that is let in through triple-glazed windows. Park Avenue Green also incorporates storm resiliency and other energy conservation strategies for long-term durability. “We are very excited to be part of the Park Avenue Green team, bringing the largest PHIUS Passive House Project to fruition creating much-needed affordable housing will the smallest possible carbon footprint,” said Mark Ginsberg, partner at Curtis + Ginsberg Architects. The $48.4 million Park Avenue Green project was developed by Omni New York, which also led the creation of the LEED Gold-certified Morris Avenue Apartments in the Bronx .  + Curtis + Ginsberg Architects Photography by John Bartelstone via Curtis + Ginsberg Architects

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Passive House-certified development offers affordable housing in South Bronx

LEED-seeking apartments house formerly homeless families in San Francisco

May 22, 2020 by  
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David Baker Architects has completed 222 Taylor, an affordable housing complex in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Designed with more than 100 affordable housing units for low-income households and families and individuals who formerly experienced homelessness, the development is a champion of humanitarian architecture. The project also embodies sustainable principles, including high-density living and energy-efficient design. The nine-story mid-rise building is on track to achieve LEED for Homes Mid-Rise and EnergyStar Multifamily High-Rise certifications.  Located in the heart of San Francisco, 222 Taylor replaces a surface parking lot with a mixed-use building comprising ground-level retail as well as studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units on the upper floors. Of the building’s 113 affordable homes , approximately one-fourth of them are permanently reserved for families who previously experienced homelessness. Because the building sits just two blocks from the BART & Muni Station and the Market Street corridor, no parking is provided; instead, the development offers 114 secure bicycle parking spaces. Related: The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community David Baker Architects designed 222 Taylor to respond to its site context in both appearance — the variegated brick facade references the local masonry — and orientation, which is informed by solar studies to maximize access to natural light. Ample glazing along the ground level also activates the street edge to build a connection with the neighborhood. The project cultivates a sense of community with the design of a flexible central courtyard , complete with ample seating and play zones. The courtyard serves as a hub to the bike parking room, laundry, community room and shared kitchen. Walls in the airy entry lobby are decorated with super-graphics made from enlarged watercolors by a local artist. The building will eventually be topped with a roof farm for additional outdoor community space. + David Baker Architects Photography by Bruce Damonte via David Baker Architects

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New affordable housing in Silicon Valley boasts net-zero emissions

March 16, 2020 by  
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In one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, a new multifamily community has sprung up to provide 66 affordable rental apartments in Silicon Valley. Named Edwina Benner Plaza after the first female mayor of California, the affordable housing project designed by Caifornia-based architecture firm David Baker Architects also boasts net-zero emissions for operations thanks to the use of all-renewable community utilities and rooftop solar panels. Located in the city of Sunnyvale next to Highway 237, Edwina Benner Plaza occupies an underutilized site where a single-story commercial building once stood. The 110,612-square-foot affordable housing project was strategically oriented and arranged to shield the residential areas and common spaces away from traffic noise and pollution. The massing strategy also helps to encourage an active and healthy community life by placing the shared areas — such as activity rooms, laundry, service programs and an after-school center — around a central outdoor play space.  Related: The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community To further promote an environment for healthy living, Edwina Benner Plaza offers diverse supportive services such as an after-school program, adult education and mediation support. The 66 affordable rental units, which comprise one-, two- and three-bedroom units, are made available to families earning up to 60% of the area median income as well as to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Onsite case management reserves 13 apartment units for formerly homeless individuals and 10 units for those at risk of homelessness. Solar panels cover the building’s roof and power the common loads of the residents. Each residential wing is also served by a custom, high-efficiency central heat pump. “An all-electric building, Edwina Benner Plaza is among the first affordable housing projects in the nation to have zero operating emissions,” the architects added. The project has earned a Platinum certification under the GreenPoint rating system. + David Baker Architects Photography by Bruce Damonte via David Baker Architects

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Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

March 16, 2020 by  
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The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) prompted many to purchase face masks for protection. Unfortunately, these protective masks have been harming the environment. Why is that? The masks are made of the plastic polypropylene, which is not easily biodegradable. No surprise then that the accumulation of discarded face masks litters the environment and poses serious risks to the equilibrium of  habitats  and the health of wildlife, especially marine organisms. Environmental groups are now sounding the alarm on how cast-off coronavirus masks are escalating the  litter  and plastic pollution predicaments. Related:  The Ocean Cleanup has first success collecting plastic from Great Pacific Garbage Patch “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume…we are now seeing the effect on the environment,” explained Gary Stokes, founder of Oceans Asia, a marine  conservation  organization. Stokes elaborated with the example of the Soko Islands off Hong Kong. On one 100-meter stretch of beach, Stokes discovered 70 masks, then an additional 30 the following week.  Hong Kong’s dense population means that its citizens have struggled with plastic waste.  Single-use plastic  makes matters more challenging. What’s more, Hong Kong does not effectively  recycle  all its waste. Instead, roughly 70% of its garbage ends up in landfills. That 70% is equivalent to approximately 6 million tons of refuse. Conservationists have been attempting to remove these masks from the environment through beach clean-ups. “Nobody wants to go to the forest and find masks littered everywhere or used masks on the beaches . It is unhygienic and dangerous,” added Laurence McCook, head of Oceans Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong. Jerome Adams, the United States Surgeon General, has also  advised people to stop purchasing medical face masks , as they are ineffective at preventing COVID-19. Scaling back public purchasing of the masks would not only keep more masks available for medical professionals, but could also reduce the amount being discarded and its impact on the environment. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay

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Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

This DIY off-grid home in Hawaii includes a permaculture farm

March 16, 2020 by  
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Living an off-grid lifestyle is a dream for many, but it’s also incredibly tough to achieve. Still, there are a select few who manage to do it with such style that it makes the transition from running the endless rat race to sustainable living look relatively easy. Ambitious couple Arina and Zen Moriya have done just that by creating an off-grid oasis within the jungles of Pahoa, Hawaii . The Root Down Farm is a self-built homestead that enables the couple to embrace a close connection with nature. The sustainable permaculture farm and off-grid home are located in a community called Puna. After visiting in 2008, the couple immediately fell in love with the community’s progressive, laid-back style and history of  sustainable living. The region’s mild weather, along with the lush jungle vegetation, led them to purchase a 3-acre lot to begin a new way of life. Related: Serene off-grid tiny home sits tucked away in a Hawaiian rainforest The resulting Root Down Farm includes three structures: the main house, which is 1,272-square-feet, a 384-square-foot cottage and a sweet, 360-square-foot bungalow that the couple rents out on Airbnb. All of the structures are surrounded by an expansive permaculture farm that provides vegetables and fruits for the couple and their friends. Inside each building, the furnishings were chosen to reflect the couple’s minimalist design style . Nearly everything was handmade by Zen or found secondhand. The couple did most of the construction work themselves over the span of 2.5 years, along with help of a professional contractor and a few very good friends. The climate was an essential element in their building strategy, enabling them to rely on a few passive features. “Because we don’t have harsh winter, we were able to build structures with no windows (only screens to keep bugs out) and build with single wall with no insulation,” Zen told Inhabitat. Perhaps the only downside to building in a remote area on a tropical island is the fact that they weren’t able to find many repurposed materials to use for the structures. Instead, they turned to nature. “Reclaimed building materials are not easy to find on this island. There is only one or two vendors who salvage old building materials on this island but they charge premium,” Zen explained. “We did try to use as much natural material as possible, such as ohia tree for the main post in the house, guava trees for railing and fence.” Root Down Farm operates completely off of the grid thanks to solar power generation . There is no access to electricity, water or sewers in the area, so the couple built their own self-sufficient systems. They use multiple wells for their water needs and all of the structures are equipped with composting toilets. The permaculture gardens that surround the properties were a crucial component of the project. Arina and Zen now enjoy an abundance of organic food year-round, including coconuts, avocados, banana, papayas, root vegetables, tomatoes and more, all of which they also share with friends. + Root Down Farm Via Apartment Therapy Images by Zen Moriya

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This DIY off-grid home in Hawaii includes a permaculture farm

LEED Platinum-targeted Santa Monica apartments are powered by solar energy

January 30, 2020 by  
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Los Angeles-based design practice KFA Architecture has recently completed Pico Eleven, a new multi-unit residential housing project designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification. In addition to the building’s inclusion of solar panels, energy-efficient appliances and passive solar strategies, Pico Eleven has also dedicated approximately one-third of its units to affordable housing, with four units set aside for very low-income households. Located near Downtown Santa Monica, the housing project reflects its waterfront environment with reclaimed timber siding that recalls the rustic California beach house aesthetic. Nestled into a sloping hillside just blocks from Downtown Santa Monica , Pico Eleven comprises 32 units spread out across four floors and is organized into three distinct masses that step down the slope. The 33,000-square-foot building also includes two levels of subterranean parking with space for 64 vehicles. Eleven of the 32 units — which mainly comprise one- and two-bedroom units — are reserved for rent control, while four units are designated low-income. Related: Eco-friendly crematorium is envisioned for Santa Monica To take advantage of the building’s proximity to the waterfront, the architects have added three upper-level decks with sweeping ocean views and amenities including built-in barbecue grills, gas fire pits and outdoor seating. Outdoor space is further integrated into the design with the private patios that come with every unit as well as the inclusion of two large, open courtyards with drought-tolerant landscaping. Open floor plans and expansive glazing on the sides of every residential unit also give residents access to ocean cross breezes and plenty of natural light. In addition to an emphasis on cross ventilation and daylighting throughout Pico Eleven, the architects have added photovoltaic panels to the roof to generate electricity for the entire building. All units come with energy-efficient appliances and residents have access to two electric vehicle charging stations as well.  + KFA Architecture Images via KFA Architecture

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