Village Centre is one of the largest Passive House developments in North America.

Located in Brewer, Maine, the approximately 54,000-square-foot affordable housing community is a model for other cold-climate developments. To meet rigorous Passive House Institute US standards, Community Housing of Maine (CHOM) created a building that has an exceptionally airtight envelope and is super insulated. As an example, the building has triple-pane windows, which feel warm to the touch in the center of glass, even on very cold days, and have a greater sound dampening effect than conventional double-glazed windows.

The overall result is a property that is comfortable year-round and is highly energy efficient, using approximately 60% less energy than a typical building of its size. In addition, Village Centre features photovoltaic panels on the roof to help power the property.

“The building doesn’t change temperature,” says Erin Cooperrider, development director at CHOM. “It doesn’t get very hot or very cold. In the wintertime when we usually have a big heating load, this building used almost no heat.”

The energy features added about 3% to the development costs, but Village Centre stayed under the cost cap imposed by state housing officials. The improvements often were counterbalanced by other savings. For example, the building has no central heating system.

The 48-unit development is also ambitious in serving some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. Following CHOM’s blended Housing First model, Village Centre includes 12 units for people who have been long-term homeless shelter users or are living with a disability into the larger multifamily development.

Furthermore, the new building is located in a downtown revitalization area and contributes to the improvement of the larger neighborhood.

“This is a very important project for Brewer,” says Cooperrider, noting that the city has had little new housing construction over the past several decades. Brewer officials worked closely with the developers to make Village Centre happen.

The $9.6 million development is financed largely with low-income housing tax credits awarded by MaineHousing and syndicated by the Northern New England Housing Investment Fund.