Mass. organization steps up to building challenge

June 6, 2017

Photo courtesy of JCHE

As organizations nationwide aim to create more sustainable, energy-efficient buildings, the U.S. Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development and Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE) have teamed up to rapidly implement efficiency upgrades across JCHE’s portfolio of eight buildings, most notably at its campuses in Brighton and Newton, Mass., totaling 926,000 square feet.

Through the Better Buildings Challenge in 2013, JCHE made a public pledge to improve the energy efficiency of its building portfolio by 20 percent over 10 years.

JCHE has achieved its goal ahead of schedule and in only six years. Having reached 24 percent savings across its portfolio, JCHE is the first affordable housing multifamily organization to reach its Better Buildings Challenge goal.

“Reducing energy consumption is the right thing to do,” JCHE Board Chairman Bernie Kaplan said. “But in addition to being good for the environment, reducing our consumption has saved JCHE tens of thousands of dollars, money which we have reinvested into our mission to provide superior housing and enhanced supportive services allowing our residents to thrive as they age in community.”

JCHE joins 35 other goal achievers who have met their goals in the Better Buildings Challenge, including other companies, universities, school districts, state and local government and manufacturers. These organizations and companies are putting themselves to the energy savings test, while transparently showcasing the solutions they implement and sharing the results they achieve to spur billions in new investment and accelerate energy savings in commercial buildings, multifamily housing and industrial plants.

JCHE has added solar electric and geothermal heating and cooling at Shillman House on JCHE’s Framingham, Mass., campus, creating a new, high-performance building of 151,020 square feet with an energy use intensity (EUI) that is half that of its existing building stock.

JCHE also has completed a green retrofit of Ulin House, a 141,000-square-foot building that includes 239 studios and one-bedroom units. In 2013, JCHE began to operate a 75kW co-gen unit in its Leventhal property. Most recently, in early-2017, JCHE began an energy and water retrofit of Golda Meir House, a 170,000-square-foot property of 199 apartments.

Ulin House Retrofits Garner Big Energy Savings

In Brighton, JCHE offers a supportive community for older adults that includes social, cultural, and recreational programs to facilitate active, healthy aging in the community. For a decade, JCHE has embarked on a program to modernize its building portfolio with an emphasis on increasing adaptability and operating efficiency. The goal of the program was to create communities that could adapt to residents’ changing needs and abilities throughout the aging process. In addition, JCHE pays all utilities except for telephone and cable TV, so reducing operating costs allows JCHE to enhance resident services to promote successful aging. Ulin House, in 2013, was the second property to be renovated in JCHE’s portfolio-wide modernization effort.

Ulin House is one of three interconnected buildings that make up the Brighton campus. The building’s units are spread across two interconnected, 10-story towers with double-loaded corridors that are oriented such that half of the units are on the east side of the building and half face west.

Built in 1971, Ulin House was originally equipped with a single thermostat for the entire building, which resulted in east-facing units being overheated in the morning and west-facing units being overheated in the afternoon. The building did not have a make-up air system in the corridors, which caused extreme drafts when entry doors were opened and allowed cooking smells to spread from the apartments into the hallway and adjacent units.

The retrofit included multiple energy and water-efficient measures, such as LED lighting, Energy Star appliances, additional insulation, a cogeneration system, an energy management system, new windows, low-flow toilets and faucet aerators, replacement of bath tubs with accessible showers, make-up air conditioners in corridors with energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) that prevent outside air from rushing in when doors are opened, and individual thermostats with control valves on the baseboards in each unit, allowing tenants to control temperature within the parameters of the EMS and preventing them from opening windows when units are being heated.

The energy-efficiency upgrades in Ulin House allowed the building to achieve 18 percent energy savings over the course of three years, generating nearly $59,000 in cost savings over that span.

Golda Meir House Sets a New Efficiency Standard for JCHE

Golda Meir House in Newton opened in 1978 as JCHE’s fourth community in Massachusetts. Also geared for older residents, the building is comprised of 199 apartments, 176 of which are reserved for low-to-moderate income residents.

In 2013, JCHE began a building retrofit of Golda Meir to improve resident comfort and health. The renovation reconfigured the first-floor common area, which was originally divided into several single-use rooms, into a “village center,” complete with a community store, library, computer center, mail area and fitness stations. Staff offices have been moved to improve tenant spaces and to encourage tenant participation in activities. 

JCHE removed all thru-wall air conditioners, which allowed for additional exterior insulation and the installation of new energy efficient windows, increasing daylight in the units. Air sealing and make-up air in the corridors will reduce drafts and cooking smells spreading from one unit to another. Sprinklers will also be added to all units, where previously only the hallways had sprinklers.

Other energy- and water-efficient measures include high-efficiency windows, wall and roof insulation, LED lighting, low-flow toilets and faucet aerators, an ERV system, commercial kitchen exhaust hood controls, advanced building controls to prevent air conditioning use with open windows, replacement of the boiler and domestic hot water system with high-efficiency boilers and pumps, replacement of baseboard hydronic heat and thru-wall air conditioners with air source heat pumps and conversion of bath tubs to accessible showers.

Written by Tabetha McCartney, director of asset management and sustainability for the Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly


Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, ENERGY STAR, Geothermal Heating and Cooling, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Multifamily / Multiunit Residential, Sustainable Communities, Technology, Urban Planning and Design

Companies: U.S. Department of Energy


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