Senior Community Meets Affordability Needs Through High-Performance Building


Housing affordability is a critical issue across the country, especially in high-priced areas such as New York City. Even boroughs such as Queens, which have long been attractive as less expensive options than Manhattan, affordability remains a concern, especially among area seniors who have seen rents rise as a result of gentrification.

Supply plays a part in this issue. No low-income housing had been built for more than 30 years in the Corona neighborhood in Queens. Local officials saw the growing need; with 34,000 people on the waiting list for affordable housing, local and state entities worked together to develop a project to help meet this demand. Officials fast-tracked the rezoning of the site, moving the area’s community garden to an adjacent block.

The Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee (HANAC), a non-profit organization, worked with the borough of Queens, the City of New York, New York State, and its various state and local social service agencies to create a building comprising 67 low-income senior units, with rents based on income. Formerly homeless seniors in the Corona neighborhood occupy 21 units, distributed throughout the property.

HANAC Corona is the first affordable senior community in the country to meet the stringent European standards for Passive House construction. By meeting Passive House requirements, HANAC reduced energy consumption by about 75% compared to a building constructed to meet current local building codes. The developers also used guidance from the ENERGY STAR program, the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria and New York State’s Multifamily Performance program. Future New York City/HANAC efforts will use the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) standards, which include tweaks for specific climate zones and do not require products or components available only in Europe, to help reduce the cost of construction.

The community’s attention to energy efficiency and sustainability earned it the 2019 NAHB Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Best in Green Affordable Multifamily Community Award.

The eight-story project’s building envelope has a continuous air barrier and works with heat recovery ventilation (HRV) and energy-recovery ventilation (ERV) systems to maintain a constant, draft-free temperature. According to project manager Paola Duran, many residents never need to turn on their heat, even in winter. Energy-efficient strategies also include ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, triple-pane windows and efficient lighting fixtures, which resulted in lower utility bills and contribute to long-term affordability for residents.

Use of low-volatile organic compound (VOC) paint and formaldehyde-free wood products are designed to improve indoor air quality in the building. Water efficiency also was a priority: all plumbing fixtures are EPA WaterSense Certified, meeting its standard for efficiency and performance. “Overall, the project demonstrated 31.3% savings over the Enterprise Green Communities baseline water usage,” said Duran. HANAC Corona also offers its residents access to amenities and community connections to promote wellness and quality of life. It has on-site and nearby amenities including: free meals at the nearby senior center; activities in the community room such as yoga, tai chi and chair fitness, plus outlets such as art therapy and Latin dance.

For more information on NAHB Multifamily, contact Director Crystal Jackson. For more details about NAHB’s sustainable and green building initiatives, contact Sustainability and Green Building Program Manager Michelle Diller. To stay current on high-performance residential building, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building team on Twitter.

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