Linden Street Somerville Massachusetts


Located in the urban Union Square neighborhood of Somerville, a city next to Boston, the Linden Street Apartments stand on a former brownfield. The site was previously used as an industrial truck maintenance facility, had no trees, and was completely paved. To prepare the property for residential development, the Somerville Community Corporation hired ECS, Inc., to remediate the site. Hazardous soils were removed, and new topsoil was added. The Massachusetts Brownfields program, run by MassDevelopment, provided funding for the initial site

View of Linden Street Apartments façade from the street.

Photo courtesy of Greg Premru

View of Linden Street Apartments façade from the street.

Photo courtesy of Greg Premru

Iric Rex believes that the team's green efforts were successful because they were working with "practical design options based on good research." Iric Rex project architect, Mostue & Associates analysis as well as the cleanup. Today the Linden Street Apartments provide 42 units of new, vibrant multifamily rental housing in a series of three-story buildings that blend in with the scale and form of the surrounding neighborhood. The buildings contain one-, two-, and three-bedroom units for low- and very low-income residents. The apartments were developed by the nonprofit Somerville Community Corporation and financed through a variety of public and private funds. Eighteen of the units have Section 8 operating subsidies.

The Linden Street Apartments incorporate a variety of green building strategies, including durable materials, energy-efficient systems, smart site grading, and considerable green space. All apartments are ENERGY STAR®-qualified homes. As a result of its many green achievements, the project received Honorable Mention in the "Places to Live" category of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's 2004 Northeast Green Building


Construction Cost: Total Development Cost: Average Cost/Unit: Average Cost/Sq Ft: Completion Date:

Project Team Developer:

Architect: General Contractor:

MEP Engineer: Civil Engineer: Structural Engineer: Landscape Architect: Energy Consultant: Development Consultant:

42 units, 7 buildings, 50,970 sq ft

(with 13,100 sq ft footprint) on

1.5 acres

$6.79 million

$10 million


$133/sq ft (hard costs) January 2003

Somerville Community Corporation Mostue & Associates Landmark Structures Corporation RW Sullivan Cygnus Corporation Ocmulgee Associates Elena Saporta

Conservation Services Group Paula Herrington


Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's 2004 Northeast Green Building Awards (Honorable Mention, "Places to Live" category)

Environmental Design + Construction magazine's 2003 awards (Honorable Mention, "Commercial and Residential— Outstanding Exterior" category)

Awards. The judges wrote that they bestowed the award "for this successful effort to build environmentally conscious, affordable multifamily housing within very strict economic and regulatory limitations. The project fits nicely into its urban setting."


When architect Iric Rex of Mostue & Associates proposed that green strategies be included in the project, his suggestions met with approval from the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC). Rex says his firm presented an informal life-cycle cost analysis to assure SCC that the green concepts were not too risky and would not result in higher maintenance costs. "I present green options on every job out of a personal inclination," says Rex, and in this case, the client and other team members were receptive. While the team did not write up formal sustainability goals for the project, Rex feels that the team's green efforts were successful because they were working with "practical design options based on good research." But even he was surprised by how successful some of the project's design strategies were and how well the project has performed.

Smart Grading: A carefully developed grading plan resulted in three major benefits. Aesthetically, the architects felt that it enhanced the look of the project to have the buildings placed slightly above the sidewalks. Environmentally, the grading was crafted to manage and control stormwater; the contoured dish shape of the site enables it to hold excess stormwater in the center parking and landscaped areas so the water won't run off the site or flood the homes. And lastly, the grading was done in a way that allows for universal access to all entrances so ramps and railings were not needed. This approach not only reduced materials usage and costs, but the architect feels it also made for a more attractive site and avoided the stigmatizing effect that ramps and railings can have on disabled residents. Rex feels that the multiple benefits—social, aes-

Apartments overlooking the courtyard playground.

Photo courtesy of Greg Premru

Apartments overlooking the courtyard playground.

Photo courtesy of Greg Premru



• Restoration and cleanup of a former industrial "brownfield" site

• Walking distance to public transportation (5 bus routes through Union Square) and community amenities (e.g., schools, businesses, retail)

• Higher density and clustered buildings allow for more green space (3/4 acre) on the site

• Fifty trees of various species planted to provide year-round greenery

• Central community commons and green spaces with children's play areas. Public paths created for neighborhood access

• Exterior lighting carefully placed to avoid overlighting and light pollution around site

• Bike racks installed around site


• Roof rainwater drainage system recharges into groundwater

• Site graded to limit runoff and contain excess stormwater during extreme rainstorms

• Native plant landscaping used to eliminate need for irrigation system

• Low-flow toilets


• Walls insulated with sprayed-on recycled-content cellulose to achieve R-20

• Roofs insulated with HCFC-free spray-in-place foam to achieve R-40

• Rigid foam insulation used at slab edges and below slabs

• Low-emissivity argon insulating glass windows

• ENERGY STAR® high-efficiency fluorescent lighting (interior and exterior)

• Sealed combustion boilers with indirect-fired hot water

Materials and Resources

• Premanufactured panelized wall framing and roof trusses used to reduce lumber waste

• Site grading eliminated need for ramps and railings

Health and Comfort

• Tall windows for daylight and views of outdoor landscaped areas. Private balcony or patio for each unit

• Buildings oriented and massed to screen residences from views of nearby large retail and commercial buildings and parking lots

• Mechanical ventilation in each unit for automatic exhaust of stale air

• High-efficiency bathroom fans with a timer for measured air changes provide moisture control

• Carpet nailed down rather than glued down with adhesives to avoid volatile organic compounds (VOC) offgassing

Durability and Ease of Maintenance

• Fiber cement siding used, with 15-year paint warranty (compared to 5- to 7-year average life of paint on wood siding) reduces maintenance

• Durable and low-maintenance finishes used, including rubber stairway treads and steel railings thetic, and environmental—resulted in "a big victory," even though it took extra time for the team to develop such a detail-oriented grading plan.

Comprehensive Energy Savings Approach: The project's rigorous energy efficiency package (which included cellulose and spray foam insulation and low-e windows) allowed for a reduction in the number of boilers installed in the buildings. While reducing boiler redundancy initially met with resistance from the mechanical engineer, it was accepted resulting in a reduction of first costs and operating costs. The team was also able to convince the local building inspectors to waive the usual requirement to use vapor barriers, given the performance characteristics of cellulose insulation. The project is also designed to reduce lighting costs by not overlighting the site and by using efficient fluorescent lighting throughout. Conservation Services Group conducted ENERGY STAR® energy modeling for the development during the design phase, projecting that natural gas consumption for heat and hot water at the Linden Street Apartments would be 43 percent less than the code baseline.

Indoor/Outdoor Access and Views: The development features many quality-of-life enhancements, to both indoor and outdoor areas. There is an outdoor courtyard and play area, and the balconies, patios, and tall windows in the units allow residents to have physical and visual access to the outdoors. Such access and daylighting is not only psychologically beneficial, it also serves an important safety function by allowing parents to monitor courtyard activity from their homes.


The project's total development cost was approximately $13 million, including $1 million for the property acquisition, $6.79 million for construction, and $2.2 million for soft costs. Financial partners included the National Equity Fund,




Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity

City of Somerville (capital for property acquisition)

Someralle Community Corporation (deferred developer fee)


ENERGY STAR® standard rebate + low-income upgrade rebate




Citizen's Bank (permanent and construction financing) $5,500,000

City of Somerville HOME

(permanent/forgivable loan) $660,000 Massachusetts Department of

Housing and Community Development: Massachusetts Affordable Housing Trust Fund

(permanent/forgivable loan) $600,000 Boston Community Capital

(construction and permanent) $500,000 City of Somerville Affordable

Housing Trust Fund (construction and permanent) $210,000

Total Sources


Fannie Mae, City of Somerville, Citizen's Bank, and Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

Through the Conservation Services Group (CSG), the developer received $100,800 in ENERGY STAR® rebates. Due to the project's use of energy-efficient refrigerators, dishwashers, lighting, and shell features, along with its high HERS (Home Energy Rating System) score, it received a $50,400 standard ENERGY STAR rebate ($1,200 per unit X 42 units). An additional $50,400 low-income upgrade rebate was granted, which helped offset the cost of using cellulose and spray foam insulation instead of fiberglass insulation. Together, the rebates more than offset the increased first cost associated with the project's green measures.

The architect estimates that the added net cost for the project's green strategies was approximately $20,150, which was only 0.3 percent of the construction cost (or the equivalent of less than $0.40/sq ft). This calculation included the addition of green materials such as hydrochlo-rofluorocarbon (HCFC)-free spray foam insulation, cellulose insulation, and fiber-cement siding. It also took into account the first-cost savings associated with the green strategies, including the ability to use smaller and fewer boiler modules, which helped offset the additional cost of other strategies and materials.

In 2005, New Ecology, Inc., and the Tellus Institute published a report titled The Costs and Benefits of Green Affordable Housing. The groups studied a number of housing projects, including the Linden Street Apartments, and conducted a net present value analysis to determine whether the life-cycle benefits of each project's "greening" outweighed the associated life-cycle costs over a thirty-year period. Through their analysis of the Linden Street project, the groups determined that the benefits did indeed outweigh the costs. They estimated that, over a thirty-year period, the green upgrades will create more than $290,000 in operations savings to the project developer and more than $58,000 in savings to each dwelling. These figures were based on higher energy efficiency assumptions than those modeled by CSG, but even if the more conservative energy savings figures are used, the project would still achieve net financial benefits.


Wood Framing Materials Efficiency: The first project used premanufactured panelized walls, a first for Mostue & Associates Architects. While using the premanufacturing wood panels did result in less wood waste because of a computerized pre-cutting process at the plant, the architect found that the manufacturers' panels had more studs than were structurally necessary. The use of excess studs in the panels also reduced the space for wall insulation. The architect says that he would try to correct this problem on future projects by reviewing shop drawings and suggesting stud reductions where possible.

Sealed-Combustion Boiler System: By code, ventilation is not required for new sealed-combustion boilers. But the project team discovered that some ventilation was needed to keep the basement boiler rooms from overheating. Commissioning procedures were used to adjust the boiler controls to the correct settings, which also reduced the overheating effect and optimized the efficiency of the systems. Mechanical ventilation was also added after construction in order to cool the boiler rooms.

Thermostat Programming: The building management found that not all tenants knew how to program the thermostats in their units. The lesson learned here is that, if individually programmable thermostats are provided, on-site management staff need to train residents in programming their thermostats correctly for efficiency (as well as comfort), or in some cases, the staff may need to set the thermostats for the tenants.


Developer: Somerville Community Corporation

Katie Anthony, project manager: 617-776-5931;

[email protected]

Architect: Mostue & Associates Architects, Inc.

Iric L. Rex, AIA, senior associate: 617-628-5700;

[email protected]

Sharon MacNulty, job captain

Energy consultant: Conservation Services Group

Mark Price, outreach manager, ENERGY STAR® Homes

Program: 800-628-8413 (x3269); [email protected]


The Costs and Benefits of Green Affordable Housing, a publication of New Ecology, Inc., the Tellus Institute, and the Green CDCs Initiative, 2005, /affordable%20housing/final_cb_report.pdf.

Interviews and correspondence with Iric Rex of Mostue & Associates Architects (November 2005-August 2006), Mark Price of the Conservation Services Group (March 2006), and Katie Anthony of the Somerville Community Corporation (January 2006-September 2006).

Linden Street Housing, Mostue & Associates Architects website:

The Linden Street Project, the Department of Energy's High Performance Buildings database: www.buildinggreen .com/hpb.

NESEA Building Awards: /buildingawards/Linden_submission.doc.

"Post-Industrial Affordability," Architecture Week, February 12, 2003, /environment_1-1.html.

34 Linden Street, National Equity Fund Project Report; /34linden.pdf.

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