Via Verde: The Green Way to Affordable Housing for the Bronx

Via Verde, a new multifamily development in the South Bronx takes a groundbreaking approach to affordable housing and sustainability.

Via Verde provides housing to low and middle-income residents, but it’s more than just a place to live – it’s a healthy, environmentally sustainable development designed to serve not only residents but the community as a whole. The project was co-developed by Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Houses, and co-designed by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on June 15th.

AEA’s energy analysis played a critical role in guaranteeing that Via Verde met its requirements to be an energy-efficient “green” building. Via Verde is on track to be an EPA Energy Star rated Multifamily Building and expected to receive LEED Gold certification.

As the project’s NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program Partner, AEA provided energy efficiency consulting services on the project’s development team. AEA and its team members from Bright Power recommended energy saving measures and collaborated with the project architects and engineers to incorporate them into the final design and construction of Via Verde.

Bright Power provided energy modeling and LEED services for AEA. AEA performed construction management for the energy features of the building, and conducted testing and verification of installed measures and intended methods.

AEA’s rigorous construction management process confirmed that Via Verde was built according to design with proper installation of energy measures. The AEA team checked insulation thicknesses, air sealing, windows, façade panels, lighting, appliances, motors and boilers. AEA conducted blower door tests to locate and rectify potential air leakage, ensuring that the air sealing was done properly.

Via Verde is remarkably energy efficient. The building is designed to be 27% more efficient than the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 baseline standard in terms of cost savings. The energy efficiency features are estimated to save 441,866 kWh per year and 43,610 therms per year when compared with an identical building constructed with conventional systems. Estimated cost savings are $154,601 per year.

Measures include thicker wall and roof insulation, energy efficient windows, Energy Star appliances, Energy Star lighting, NEMA premium motors for pumps, occupancy sensor lighting controls, condensing boilers for heating, photovoltaics, low flow water fixtures, and others. Enhanced natural ventilation and individual apartment mechanical ventilation ensure high indoor air quality, especially important in this neighborhood which has one of the highest asthma rates in the country. The windows are high-performance with low-E coating, thermal breaks and low U and SHGC values. The exterior wall panels have an R-value of 20, are prefabricated in a controlled environment to ensure optimal air tightness. The modular curtain wall interlocking system eliminates thermal bridging at the floors.

Other features include green roofs, a community vegetable garden, rain water harvesting, native plants for landscaping, use of renewable/recycled/regionally produced materials, low VOC paints and adhesives, low ozone-depleting and greenhouse gas refrigerants, Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, and green cleaning products. Construction waste management reduced landfill disposal. Building guides and displays of building energy use create awareness among the tenants. The building is designed to encourage use of stairs instead of elevators to promote physical activity.

Via Verde is particularly notable because sustainability is often overlooked in affordable housing development, even though it provides a great opportunity to maximize the benefits of efficient building features. Reductions in energy costs help building owners keep their housing affordable and healthy – and when residents need less money to keep the heat and lights on, they can free up funds for other necessities such as food and school supplies.

The site also includes features that provide opportunities for residents to engage in healthy and environmentally sustainable activities which are too-often only accessible to more affluent populations. An outdoor amphitheater leads to a series of ascending, terraced green roofs, including the community garden, connected by an outdoor stairway. Via Verde has a children’s recreation area, an exercise facility, and is a walkable distance to local schools. The green design and building materials contain low levels of volatile organic compounds and other pollutants, and the mechanical ventilation ensures that fresh air continuously circulates throughout the building, creating a healthy and safe home. In addition, the mixed-use project provides retail space on the ground floor including a health center run by Montefiore Hospital.

Housing in Via Verde is available to a range of community members and income levels. There are a total of 222 residential units; 151 apartments are available for rent to low-income households earning between 30 – 90% of the average median income, and 71 units to be sold to middle-income residents at 110% of average median income.

Via Verde won the New Housing New York Legacy Project competition, a public-private partnership between the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the American Institute of Architects New York, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Enterprise Community Partners, City University of New York, and JP Morgan Chase. The project received funding from NYSERDA through the Multifamily Performance Program, the Green Affordable Housing program, and financial incentives for the solar photovoltaic installations. Additional financing was received from the NYC Housing Development Corporation, low interest loans from NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, NY Division of Housing and Community Renewal’s Low Income Housing Tax Credits, state funds from NYS Affordable Housing Corporation and developer loans.

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