E+: the new frontier of housing

by ‐ Tags: green living, case study

In March of 2011, Mayor Menino announced Boston's E+ Building Demonstration Program. The program aims to introduce deep green multi-unit residential buildings to Boston's neighborhoods. Going up and beyond other building standards like Net Zero Energy and LEED for Homes Platinum, E+ buildings are "energy positive," producing energy that then feeds back into the grid. These projects include design elements such as solar panels, community gardens and rainwater reclamation systems, incorporating sustainable design into all aspects of the building and landscape design.

E+ logo

The program started with a design competition, with entries judged based on modeled energy performance, urban design, the developer's expertise, and the feasibility of the design. One of the important objectives is also to provide housing opportunities for a range of incomes in neighborhoods that are near transit, work, and community amenities.

64 and 66 Catherine St: Insight from the experts

I had the opportunity to get the inside scoop on one of the E+ projects from Ashley Wisse, Green Building Project Manager at New Ecology, a non-profit green building consulting firm in Boston (and one of WegoWise's founders). Located in Jamaica Plain, 64 & 66 Catherine St. are spacious townhomes with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and a whole host of energy efficient elements, ranging from EnergyStar appliances to thermoplastic polyolefin roofing.

New Ecology is overseeing the LEED certification process for the two townhomes, ensuring that the design elements will meet the standard for LEED for Homes Platinum. As it stands right now, the project well exceeds the 87 points needed to receive the certification. Air testing on the townhomes was just completed last week, and the buildings are close to meeting passive house standards, the highest energy standard for homes.

Wondering about the most exciting and frustrating aspects of the project?

Most exciting: The fact that the building will have a negative Hers score! For those less savvy when it comes to building science, a Hers score is a home energy rating system that measures the energy efficiency of a home by comparing the energy consumption against a baseline. A score of 100 indicates the energy use of a "Standard American home," while a score of 85 is sufficient to meet baseline Energy Star Homes standards. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home, with a score of zero indicating that the home is net zero. 64 & 66 Catherine St. will have a negative Hers score since it will be sending energy back to the grid.

Most frustrating: Despite how energy efficient the building is, the building doesn't meet the LEED solar credit for passive solar design, missing by only 5% on 1 of the 4 demanding and stringent requirements. These requirements are:

  1. The sum of the north- and south-facing glazing must be at least 50% greater than the glazing on the east- and west-facades.
  2. The building's east-west axis must be within 15 degrees of due east-west.
  3. The room must have a minimum of 450 SF of south-facing area that is oriented for solar technology.
  4. At least 90% of the glazing on the south-facing wall must be shaded at noon on June 21 and un-shaded at noon on December 21.

While this doesn't have a big impact on the overall score of the project, Ashley says, "it's frustrating to see an immense amount of planning and design go into meeting the requirements of this credit," to miss by such a slim margin.

You can learn more about 64 & 66 Catherine St (or check out the posting and open house schedule!) at http://www.64catherinest.com/.