THC Ramps Up for Construction on Washington, DC’s First Multi-Family “Passive House” Project

Delta Commons RenderingAs part of our mission to provide housing and comprehensive support services to homeless and at-risk families, THC works to develop quality, affordable rental housing in the District. In addition to delivering affordable monthly rents and supportive services, THC’s newest project, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Commons (formerly known as Delta Commons), will help reduce another vital cost for low income and formerly homeless families—utility bills.

The Weinberg Commons redevelopment project will transform three foreclosed and vacant properties located by the intersection of Benning Road and Southern Avenue in Southeast DC into a 36-unit mixed income permanent supportive housing (PSH) community. Twelve (12) units will be set aside for formerly homeless families with mental disabilities, and 24 units will be available to low-income families earning at or

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below 60% of area median income (AMI).

In line with the goals of Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC plan, Weinberg Commons is also a deep energy retro-fit, conforming to Passive House (PH) certification standards.

The 2011 Sustainable DC plan identifies “driving growth that is sustainable through high-performance buildings and infrastructure” as one of six overarching sustainability goals for the District. As part of this long term plan, the District seeks to retrofit 100% of existing multifamily buildings to achieve net-zero energy standards by 2032.¹

Generally considered the most stringent energy standard in the world, Passive House building is an innovative approach to net-zero building. Instead of relying on active energy reduction systems with high installation costs (i.e. large solar or wind systems that generate renewable energy), Passive House buildings concentrate on energy use reduction. Passive House buildings work with natural systems to manage heat gain and loss, saving up to 90% of climate control costs. In fact, the U.S. DOE recognizes the Passive House approach as the most efficient means of achieving net-zero building operations.

To date, 21 multi-family projects have been submitted for PH certification in the U.S., and Weinberg Commons will be the first of its kind in Washington, DC.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions has long term benefits for the District and for society at large, such as mitigating the impacts of climate change. By reducing energy bills, the Passive House construction of Delta Commons also has immediate, tangible benefits for the families who will be living there.

A recent study published by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies revealed that from 2000-2010, household utility costs rose by nearly 23%, more than three times the increase in rents. Pertinent to the mission of THC is the fact that the lowest-income renters saw the largest increase in their utility share, a jump from 12.7 percent to 17.4 percent.

With Weinberg Commons, THC will combat this trend by moderating two key housing costs—rent and utilities—for low income and homeless families. In doing so, it will also help to establish the nation’s capital as a leader in effective green practices that support social equity.

Construction at Weinberg Commons is currently scheduled to begin in late 2014, with the first tenants moving in by late 2015.

[1] According to the U.S Department of Energy net zero buildings off-set all of the fossil fuel or grid-generated energy they consume with renewable energy generation.

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