Decarbonizing Buildings for All

Date Posted: 12.27.2019

Mithun senior associate Hilary Noll co-presented “Decarbonizing and Electrifying Multi-Family Housing” at the Getting to Zero National Forum earlier this year. The session featured design strategies and lessons learned from the firm’s five all-electric, net-zero energy ready, 100 percent affordable and cost neutral housing projects in the Bay Area. The projects all include energy efficiency measures, high insulation, passive design strategies, air source heat pumps, central hot water, and natural ventilation. Because of these strategies, they are able to use small electric-resistance wall heaters and eliminate all mechanical cooling in the residential units (common rooms and offices have energy efficient multi-split air conditioners).

The Rocky Mountain Institute’s Laurie Stone recently spoke with Hilary about two of the projects:

“’We shouldn’t be talking about net zero energy. We should be talking about net zero carbon,’ explains Mithun’s Hilary Noll. ‘Designing for natural gas in new construction is designing for obsolescence.’

“One project, Casa Adelante [at 2060 Folsom], is a 127-unit, nine-story project for low-income families and youth transitioning out of the foster care system. With health one of their main priorities, they made the units all electric and added heat recovery units for enhanced ventilation. The project cost $400 per square foot, which is the average for multifamily housing in San Francisco.

“Another project, the Maceo May Apartments, will provide 105 affordable homes to formerly homeless veterans. Eliminating natural gas in the project is saving $242,000; money that they are putting toward energy-recovery ventilation for units, solar photovoltaics, and battery storage. The batteries will be charged with a 123 kW solar electric system and, in the event of an emergency, can provide lighting and power to the community room, cooling to data closets, ventilation, and refrigeration for essential medications. The project is expected to have an eight percent savings in utility costs.

“There are three main reasons for the developers to go net zero and all electric—simplifying the systems by avoiding gas, making resilient and future-proofing their investments, and cost. In fact, all five of the affordable multifamily housing projects described by Noll are either cost neutral or result in cost savings. But more importantly, they provide healthy and resilient spaces for people to live. ‘Yes, we want high-performing buildings,’ explains Noll, ‘but they must be tied to measurable outcomes that benefit the residents.’”

Read the full article via the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Outlet.