Creating healthy indoor air quality, and utilizing renewable resources, green building designs use less energy than their conventional counterparts which makes them more affordable to low-income families in the long run. Smaller designs and alternative and salvaged building products rely less on precious resources and can cost less than traditional approaches.
Santa Monica, California. Colorado Court, a 44-unit building, is the first 100% energy neutral affordable housing project in the United States. Innovative, sustainable energy technologies developed for the project include a natural-gas turbine system providing the building’s hot water needs and a solar panel roof system generating the energy for the building.
Arlington County, Virginia. Arlington County adopted a green building incentive program using density bonuses as a way to encourage environmentally friendly buildings. Adopted in 1999 and revised in 2003, Arlington’s incentive utilized the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System as a way to measure the energy and environmental performance of buildings in the County. In the system, points are allotted for environmentally beneficial building materials and design within seven specific categories. Developments guaranteeing a Silver, Gold or Platinum rating allow the project to be considered by the County Board for increased density between .15 and .35 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and/or additional height up to three stories. While the program is not specifically designed to produce and preserve affordable housing, the combination of the County’s green building and affordable housing incentives can be considered and utilized in a single site plan proposal.
San Francisco, California. In February 2005, a 98-unit affordable housing development was completed called the Folsom/Dore Apartments for citizens of San Francisco with low income and a variety of special needs. The site incorporated a wide variety of green building features within this complex. Some of these would include urban infill, exceeded title 24 by 20% and promoted healthy indoor air quality by specifying low-VOC materials and finishes.
State of Minnesota. In September 2004, the National Resource Defense Council and Enterprise Community Partners launched the Green Communities Initiative, a five-year, $550 million commitment to build more than 8,500 environmentally friendly affordable homes across the country. This initiative was launched because of the extremely high need for green building in affordable housing communities. Many problems were prevalent in these communities, for instance, poor ventilation, pest problems, energy cost increases and housing in sprawling neighborhoods. With the Green Communities Initiative energy use is slashed by at least 30%, health hazards are reduced and residents are closer to transit and jobs.