BRONX, N.Y. - Last fall, 28 low-income homeowners moved into the first community in New York state certified under the brand-new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes standard.
Local developer Blue Sea Development Co. signed on to use LEED for Homes at its Morrisania Homes project while the standard was still a pilot program. The U.S. Green Building Council finalized the standard in November.
Blue Sea principal Les Bluestone has made it a priority to build as many green features as he can into Blue Sea’s developments. “It makes people feel good about where they live,” he said.
Meeting tough LEED standards also helps affordable housing projects stand out in the competition for subsidized grants and loans, according to state and city officials.
LEED for Homes is better suited to low-rise affordable housing than earlier LEED standards originally designed around the needs of larger office buildings. An earlier standard, LEED for New Construction, requires developers to hire an independent green building expert to check on complicated machinery, like energy co-generation plants and water reclamation systems, used at many green high-rise projects. However, requirements like that don’t make sense for a townhouse project like Morrisania Homes, where the technology is simpler, said Bluestone.
To meet the new LEED for Homes silver standard, Morrisania Homes met federal Energy Star requirements in addition to high standards for air quality and the conservation of resources like building materials. Ninety-six percent of the construction waste at Morrisania Homes was recycled, according to Blue Sea.
Green building features added about $700,000 to the cost to develop the $14.5 million community.
Committing to meet the standards also earned the 28 townhouses a lot of positive attention. City and state officials steered millions toward the project, including $1.9 million in subsidies from the city, a $1.5 million grant from the New York State Affordable Housing Corp., and $435,000 from Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion.
Morrisania Homes also received a $6.6 million construction loan from JPMorgan, along with income from the sale of the townhouses, which were priced to be affordable to buyers earning up to 80 percent of the area median income.
Blue Sea expects its homebuyers to save money thanks to green building. Utility expenses are expected to be 30 percent lower than at comparable developments. These savings, which lenders took into account when making loans, helped the homebuyers qualify for their Fannie Mae home mortgages, said Bluestone.
The development is also likely to be cheaper for the homebuyers to maintain, because the building materials are higher quality than conventional building codes require, according to Ryan Merkin, a sustainability consultant for New York City-based Steven Winter Associates, Inc., which advised Blue Sea on the project.
These rewards made LEED for Homes well worth the trouble, Bluestone said. Blue Sea is already applying for low-income housing tax credits for Melrose Commons Site Five, its next LEED for Homes project.