At AHA, “green” building is more than using recycled materials and native plants, it is about building sustainable, beautiful and healthful places to raise families and create community. From the site planning to the finish materials, every effort is undertaken to use design strategies, building systems, and innovative materials and methods that make long-lasting, resource-efficient, and healthy homes that complement the neighborhood and natural environment in which they are built.
Building green is a key component of AHA’s Five Year Strategic Plan. The seven key goals that guide AHA’s design and construction are:
1) long-term affordability;
2) community-oriented and user friendly design;
3) high-quality design, materials, and construction;
4) cost-effective developments and operations;
5) durable and easy to maintain buildings and grounds;
6) energy and resource efficient buildings, equipment, and operations-;
7) healthy and safe environments.
Case Study: Harmon Gardens
The newly constructed Harmon Gardens is home to 15 young adults who, at the time of initial occupancy, were between the ages 18-24. The beautifully designed apartments and common areas provide tenants with a safe, comfortable, and healthy living environment. While the property management and resident services offices, backyard garden, laundry facilities, and a community house provide ample space for the high-level supportive services that are offered on-site through a partnership with Fred Finch Youth Center and Berkeley Mental Health.
Harmon Gardens' numerous green building measures and sustainable design features, which are described below, will help the project towards an impressive Green Point Rating of 170. In addition, the project served as a pilot for developing the EPA Indoor Air Plus Program and Multi-family High Rise LEED for Homes rating system being pioneered by the USGBC and it is expected to achieve a LEED for Homes Platinum rating. It will also receive a Bay Friendly Landscaping certification.
Community and Site Design
As an infill development, Harmon Gardens is ideally situated along a major tranportation corridor and within walking distance of BART and other neighborhood amentities, including a bike shop, grocery store, restaurants, banks and a theatre. Since many of the 15 young adults who reside at Harmon Gardens struggle with mental health issues and past homelessness, the ability to easily access supportive services as well as everyday amentities is critical to their success as they adjust to living on their own for the first time. A separate community building opens to a rear courtyard that combines native and drought-tolderant plants, terraced sitting areas anda colorful mosaic (designed by local artists) to create a backyard oasis for residents to enjoy.
Design with Nature
As the permeable cobblestone pathway winds from the building entrance along the property and through the courtyard it passes the building's recycling and composting center, an innovative approach to reducing landfill waste. In the garden, plants are hydrozoned (grouped by water use) on contoured mounds which act as bioswales that capture 85% of average annual stormwater runoff. Soil treatments provide for maintenance to separate plant debris from other refuse, feed soils naturally as opposed to synthetic fertilizers, apply organic mulch and organic pest management. Irrigation was designed to provide adequate water using low-flow and drip-type fixtures.
Energy Efficient Buildings and Systems
The buildings exceed the State’s strict energy code by 21% thus providing comfortable homes with low cost energy bills, essential for our low-income tenants. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels produce electricity from the sun to meet most of the electric demand of the common clubhouse, elevator and outdoor lighting. Exterior lights were strategically designed with low energy fixtures to reduce light pollution and energy use. Compact, high-efficiency heating units were specified to provide both domestic hot water and hydronic heating for each apartment, a great choice that lowers energy bills while avoiding the indoor air quality problems of forced air furnaces. Florescent fixtures provide high efficiency light. High-quality, insulated windows increase comfort, minimize drafts and heat loss and provide lots of natural daylight. Overhangs and ceiling fans provide natural cooling.
Durable and Resource Efficient Materials
Durability and ease of maintenance was high on the list of important qualities. We used fiber-cement siding as it is very resistant to rot with the added bonus of being cost-efficient. Solid granite was used for the kitchen countertops instead of pressed board laminate for its high durability and beauty. A medley of natural and sustainable flooring products were used throughout the building; we used natural linoleum flooring and recycled nylon content carpet in the units, bamboo in the community room, ceramic tile in the rest rooms and lobby, and permeable pavers as well as recycled and locally sourced ceramic tile int he courtyard.
Indoor Air Quality
Improving indoor air quality in the home is an important goal since so many people, especially children, have become afflicted with respiratory illnesses such as asthma. To reduce exposure to airborne irritants, materials are chosen that have low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and with no formaldehyde such as formaldehyde free insulation, low and no VOC paint, stone and tile, and solid wood trim materials and cabinet doors. Hydronic wall heaters and in-floor heating are used instead of forced air furnaces to reduce the circulation of dust laden air throughout the home. Large operable windows in teh units and throughout the shared hallway corridors provide cross ventilation and a constant source of fresh air.