"Providing sustainable, deeply affordable housing requires addressing the full housing cost over the long run. Energy efficiency represents the highest impact opportunity for cost management. Achieving this efficiency, Weinberg Commons will benefit its residents and the community for years to come."
- Phil Hecht, CEO, Housing Up
It is a major feat for any residential building to be certified as a Passive House. This label is considered the most stringent energy standard in the world for housing, and the U.S. Department of Energy recognizes Passive House design as the most effective method for achieving net-zero building operations. When Housing Up (formerly known as Transitional Housing Corporation or THC), a nonprofit that provides housing and comprehensive support services to District homeless and at-risk families, acquired Weinberg Commons located along Southern Avenue in Ward 7, it set out to make the development into the first Passive House-certified multifamily buildings in the country.
The team at Housing Up reached out to the DCSEU to bring their dream for the Passive House multifamily project to life. Although the engineering team at the DCSEU had not yet worked on a Passive House design, they were able to help Housing Up navigate the method’s many specifications as well as the lengthy, unconventional construction process. This collaboration resulted in solutions that both met the strict requirements and kept the project on budget for Housing Up.
Passive House design minimizes energy use primarily through whole-building, continuous insulation; airtight building envelope; high-performance windows and doors; and temperature controls. Each building received triple-paned windows; thermal shell enhancements; efficient water fixtures; high-performance heat pumps; energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning upgrades; energy-efficient appliances; and efficient lighting fixtures. Phil Hecht, President and CEO of Housing Up, quickly saw its value: "Providing sustainable, deeply affordable housing requires addressing the full housing cost over the long run. Energy efficiency represents the highest impact opportunity for cost management. Achieving this efficiency, Weinberg Commons will benefit its residents and the community for years to come."
The $10.5 million Weinberg Commons project is effectively net zero, and is expected to save 311 MWh per year. The apartments provide housing for 36 low- and moderate-income families, including homeless or formerly homeless families.