CHARLESTON, S.C.—The Housing Authority of the City of Charleston was able to bring a development started in the early 1980s to fruition thanks to a competitive grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Although three buildings were planned as part of the original project, only one building was built on the site after a cemetery from the 1840s to 1860s was discovered during construction.
According to Donald Cameron, executive director of the housing authority, it was too costly for the development team at the time to exhume the bodies and reinter them into a new cemetery under the supervision of a funeral home director. Instead, they fenced off the remains and completed a single four-unit building at 44 Reid Street, which was recognized by President Ronald Reagan for design excellence.
Fast-forward to three years ago, and Cameron says the housing authority was poised to take advantage of the stimulus funding that was being discussed in Washington, D.C. It had relocated the graves and was ready to apply for a grant as soon as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed to build two more buildings on the site and rehabilitate the original building to green standards. The preparation paid off , and it was one of 36 public housing authorities to receive Public Housing Capital Funds from HUD in September 2009 to utilize green materials and technology to create public housing that conserves energy and encourages more healthy lifestyles.
“We knew it would be a big laborintensive project, but it also [would mean] the purchasing of a lot of equipment and technology to do our contribution to help stimulate the economy," Cameron says.
The $3.2 million HUD grant allowed the housing authority to incorporate sustainable and energy-efficient materials throughout the two new four-unit buildings and the rehabilitated building.
“It was the first time where we've had a project where money was not a problem and that we could do everything that was right,” says Cameron, who has been with the housing authority for 36 years. “We didn't have to cut corners."
Both the new construction and the rehabbed building received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification.
Structurally insulated panels created insulated exterior walls, and closedcell spray-applied insulation was used in the attics and crawl space to create tighter building envelopes. A 6-kilowatt photovoltaic system was installed and is estimated to provide 15 percent of the site's electrical demand. In addition, all appliances were chosen to meet or exceed Energy Star guidelines, drought-tolerant plants were selected to eliminate irrigation, permeable pavers were used for site pavement, and tankless gas-powered hot water heaters were utilized in the units.
The housing authority also tried to use as many recycled items as possible, including the glass tiles in the back splashes and ceramic tiles for flooring. It also hired a local artisan to create the kitchen countertops using recycled glass.
Residents at 44 Reid Street started to move in during February and March, and the property continues to be 100 percent occupied.
In addition to serving 12 families, the development will serve as a learning laboratory. A professional consultant will work with residents to monitor health issues and their utility usage over the course of 24 months. “It's not just anecdotal information, but real hard figures and conclusions when we look at capital projects in the future,” Cameron says.
The housing authority is proud of the green technology, but doesn't lose sight of the site's history. It paid tribute to those previously buried in the cemetery by planting a row of trees, adding a historical marker, and creating a building outline with pavers.