Energy efficiency, water conservation, and healthier living issues seem so commonsense now, but looking back a few years, few affordable housing developers and managers had the time or inclination to deal with them. Now, with the growing interest in "greening,” the recognition of the financial impact of utility deregulation, and the understanding of the toxicity in many building and cleaning materials, building owners have started to ask how they can improve their properties.

Beginning in 2007, ACTION-Housing introduced environmental thinking into all of our development activities, including existing multifamily affordable housing, new multifamily and single family housing, property management, and tenant education. While initially focused on our own properties, ACTION-Housing readily embraced the idea of extending our efforts to other developers through collaborations, education and shared resources.

One of our main focuses is introducing Passive House standards into our affordable housing projects. The “Passive” design, originally developed in Germany, doesn’t require any solar cells or complicated mechanisms to reduce energy usage — instead the savings come from the building and design specifications that reduces energy usage by 80-90 percent over conventional construction.  Typical Passive House building techniques include: 1-foot thick insulation, triple glazed windows, a very small furnace (large ones are unnecessary due to the thick insulation), energy recover ventilators, and correct building orientation to maximize solar heat gain.

In addition to promoting and building to Passive House standards on many of our new developments, we work to minimize our water impact, use energy efficient appliances, and use healthy, non-toxic building materials. 

Passive House + Affordable Housing

ACTION-Housing is proud to coordinate an effort between affordable housing developers and the Passive House Institute United States (PHIUS) to introduce the Passive House standard into affordable housing projects. The effort between PHIUS and the six other members of the Housing Partners Network will see at least seven Passive House standard houses built in a variety of climates and cities around the United States. For affordable housing developers, keeping utility costs down isn’t just green — it’s economical.

The seven housing partnership network members taking part in this collaboration are:

ACTION-Housing, Inc., Pittsburgh PA
Aeon, Minneapolis, MN
BRIDGE Housing, San Francisco, CA
REACH Community Development, Portland, OR
LINC Housing, Long Beach, CA
Gulf Coast Housing Partnership, New Orleans, LA
Hispanic Housing Development Corp., Chicago, IL

For a rundown of sustainability initiatives at our recent developments, please click here.