A new mixed-income development in Minneapolis is being touted as “one of the healthiest, greenest places to live in the United States.”
The Rose, which opened its doors at the end of September, is inspired by the Living Building Challenge (LBC), one of the nation’s most rigorous performance standards.
James Lehnhoff, vice president of development for Minneapolis-based developer Aeon, says his firm has embarked on a number of sustainable initiatives in recent years but hadn’t achieved the performance results it wanted to see over the long term.
The company’s name is Latin for forever and influences how the company thinks, Lehnhoff says. With energy costs on the rise and factoring in utility costs for the next 20 years, it was time for the company to look at a different approach for developing the most sustainable and healthy building that would endure the test of time.
After studying several LBC buildings around the country, Aeon and partner Hope Community, a local nonprofit, decided to implement those standards for The Rose.
The LBC, which is run by the International Living Future Institute and can take several years to achieve, is built around seven “petals” of sustainable living: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty.
“One thing I like about the LBC is that it is holistic and more human [than other standards],” Lehnhoff says. “We built it around that framework to make the smartest decisions with what resources we had.”
The development team included the University of Minnesota Center for Sustainable Building Research, architect MSR, and general contractor Weis Builders.
The 90-unit building is designed to be 75% more efficient than code in Minnesota, and water usage has been substantially reduced.
Solar thermal, which has been incorporated as an architectural and functional component above the front entrances, will generate 35% of the building’s hot water need. This frees up space on the roof for future solar power to get the building closer to net zero.
The team partnered with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization on its stormwater system. A portion of the stormwater is infiltrated back into the ground, while another portion receives treatment and will be used in the 5,000-square-foot community teaching garden. Condensation off the heating and cooling system also is funneled back into the stormwater management to be reused.
A dedicated outdoor air system keeps all apartments filled with fresh air so aromas do not filter from one unit to another, and an energy recovery unit will capture the heat in the winter that would have otherwise been lost.
Lehnhoff says the team focused on using healthy building materials, such as nontoxic paints and finishes and locally sourced products, inside the units, especially in areas where people spend most of their time, like kids playing on floors and people preparing food on countertops. He says he started to think about building materials like food by examining the ingredients.
For example, some granite countertops off-gas radon, which has been found to cause cancer over time. The units at The Rose contain granite countertops from a local quarry in Cold Spring, Minn., that are free of radon.
“It’s the most sustainable and healthy building certainly in Minnesota and probably in the country,” Lehnhoff says.
The LBC’s equity petal also was a priority for the developers. “One thing that was important for us was to have the mixed-income option,” Lehnhoff adds. “Having access to healthy sustainable housing should be available to the wider community.”
On the affordable side, there’s a broad spectrum of options with 47 efficiency, two-, and three-bedroom units serving residents earning 50% to 60% of the area median income; 15 of the 17 three-bedroom units also receive project-based rental assistance so households pay no more than 30% of their income for rent. The remaining 43 one- and two-bedroom units are market rate.
The Rose is the fourth and final phase of the South Quarter development, where Aeon and Hope Community have teamed to transform a vacant corner in the Phillips neighborhood.
In addition to the teaching garden that Hope Community is building out, amenities include two large resident community rooms, a business center, a fitness room with equipment, a yoga room, and a large central courtyard with a play area, fire pit, and places for residents to relax.
Approximately 30 public and philanthropic funders were involved in the development, which had a total construction cost of $22 million, including parking and common space. U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. provided the equity for the 9% low-income housing tax credits. Key funders also include Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Hennepin County, and the city of Minneapolis.