Lessons Learned

Because homeWORD has made a long-term commitment to addressing sustainability issues in an integrated way in its projects, it is very interested in deriving lessons learned from each project, and in documenting such lessons for the future. Although lessons are always learned in the building design and construction process, the team's clarity and focus supported them in meeting the goals established early in the process.

The project utilized several methods to obtain feedback on the buildings' energy performance. For example, homeWORD and MMW Architects worked with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to perform infrared camera testing and blower door testing on the building envelopes. This testing led to the discovery of cold spots around the windows and at the base of walls. These problem areas then received additional caulking to eliminate air infiltration and improve the project's energy efficiency. The project also utilized commissioning4 to help ensure the HVAC systems were functioning properly.

Systems to Monitor Ongoing Performance: A direct digital control system was installed that monitors and documents trends in energy use from a remote location. This system allows homeWORD to monitor each unit's energy usage and identify areas with poor energy performance. These areas can then be addressed quickly and efficiently by homeWORD's maintenance staff. The data provided by the digital control system also aid with maintenance. For example, if a resident complains that his or her unit is too hot, the building's management staff can check the system to see what might be happening and offer suggestions from a distance, providing immediate feedback while saving time and money by not having to go out to the site. Getting the Project Approved: Some neighbors opposed affordable housing in their neighborhood, as well as the proposed density, which increased the allowable density from six dwelling units per acre to eight. A coalition was created to fight the project. In response, says homeWORD's program manager Betsy Hands, "We organized more neighborhood meetings, talked with the neighbors who worked with us during the initial design charrette, knocked on the doors of the entire neighborhood to educate the people about the goals of the project, and listened to their concerns. During construction we were able to respond to some of the neighbor concerns about the color of a few buildings. I think our ability to listen and respond to individuals about their concerns has helped build strong support and appreciation of the Orchard Gardens housing development."

Including the Right People: Throughout the project, homeWORD was careful to include the right people on the design team, including a green building consultant who helped identify appropriate products to meet indoor air quality goals; an energy consultant who helped model the project's energy performance; and engineers who designed structural, mechanical, electrical, and site systems to meet the sus-tainability goals established in the charrette. Throughout the project, MMW Architects worked to create a holistic design process to achieve homeWORD's goal of developing a model of sustainable, affordable housing.

When asked what he was most proud of on this project, MacArthur answered, "We have used a discipline of thought . . . at answering the questions before us from the perspective of sustainability. This discipline is not applied, but rather, integral to the whole design process from beginning to end . . . it's holistic."

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