Why Build Green Affordable Housing?
Building affordable housing in a sustainable way is more than installing high-efficiency windows or energy-star rated appliances in all apartment homes. While incorporating these features all play a part, Aeon has established an internal sustainability model that is about creating sustainable living, not simply greener housing.
“Sustainable living goes beyond providing affordable rent,” says Gina Ciganik, Aeon Vice President of Housing Development. “Transportation and utility costs rank right up there, not far behind rent. We consider these things when we pick a development location and determine ways how to keep operations costs down.”
Three components are at the heart of developing green or sustainable affordable housing: ecology, economics and equity. With nature in mind, the focus on ecology, or the environment, includes creating healthy, comfortable places to call home and being good stewards of our surroundings. Aeon believes in creating community assets that operate efficiently and last 100 years. Sustainable buildings use less energy and conserve more of our natural resources. Notable energy savings will be seen over the life-time of our properties.
According to Billy Weber, senior research fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR), economics and equity are important considerations and make building sustainably a natural fit for affordable housing development. High-quality spaces and sustainable living should be available to all, regardless of income level.
Aeon began focusing on creating highly sustainable properties in 2001 with its greener approach to a newly constructed development, East Village. Since then we’ve incorporated features to our developments like rain gardens, solar hot-water systems, recycled and toxin-free materials, low-flow showers and faucets, unit-level metering and green roofs. In 2006, Aeon started collaborating with CSBR to make its apartment homes even more sustainable.
Aeon and CSBR, along with the Green Institute and Center for Energy and Environment, created a sustainable pilot study of three selected housing development types: new construction (Alliance Addition), substantial rehabilitation (Renaissance Box), and moderate rehabilitation/upgrades to existing apartment buildings (Sienna Green Phase I). Two of the three were submitted for U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) certification and achieved the first LEED for Homes Platinum multi-family mid-rise building in the Midwest (Alliance Addition) and a LEED Gold historic adaptive-reuse development (Renaissance Box). As part of the study’s final phase, energy and water usage data for the next several years is being tracked and measured.
These properties provide 251 high-quality apartment homes for individuals and families earning less than 50 percent of the area median income ($41,150 per year for a family of four). Seventy-five of the units are designated for serving formerly homeless adults or other income earners at 30 percent or less of the area median income.
Currently underway, Aeon’s South Quarter Phase IV (a development partnership with Hope Community), is taking sustainable living for its residents to the next level. The design and planning of South Quarter Phase IV uses the Living Building Challenge™ as its guide for sustainability.
Sustainability remains a guiding principle for Aeon in providing affordable, healthy apartment homes for residents. It helps Aeon build its developments better and smarter, and ensures sustainable living options for families and individuals in our communities for generations to come.