Jonathan Rose hates waste. As an affordable housing developer who manages more than $1.5 billion in assets, Jonathan Rose Cos. executes a strategy of integrated project delivery and green building to drive costs out of projects. In doing so, the New York City-based company is raising the bar for affordable housing in the region.

Photos courtesy of Malkin Construction
Caption: Growing Community Via Verde features green roofs that will include orchards and community gardens.

Through integrated design, the company builds green affordable projects in public transit-accessible locations, guided by a mission to provide low-income residents with bright airy spaces and features found in market-rate projects. Roses teams devise ways to develop energy-efficient, LEED-certified housing with limited funds.

Whats so great about affordable housing is the budgets have no room for fluff, says Rose, founder and president of Jonathan Rose Cos. What were finding is if you think from a whole systems point of view, were often building affordable housing from the same budget [compared with traditional methods] or maybe up to 2.5% more to make it green.

That extra investment pays off over the long haul for the projects owner through energy savings.

The companys portfolio includes two new projects at the leading edge of green affordable housing in the area. At Via Verde/The Green Way in the South Bronx, co-developed with The Phipps Houses Group, New York, Rose assembled a design and construction team in 2006 that won the New Housing New York Legacy Competition, the citys first juried design contest for affordable and sustainable housing. The $100-million development, with 222 rental and ownership units and retail, seeks LEED-Gold certification.

In Stamford, Conn., the firm created the citys first green affordable housing development, Metro Green Apartments, and is now looking for improved performance on the projects second phase.

The projects offer low- to moderate-income families rental or purchase opportunities for a broad range of apartments, ranging from 500-sq-ft studios to 1,300-sq-ft three-bedroom units. Qualifications are pegged to adjusted median income levels for New York City and Stamford. Monthly rent ranges from $469 for a one-bedroom unit to $1,725 for three bedrooms in Stamford. Twenty percent of the units will be rented at market rates.

In the Bronx, a third of the Via Verde apartments will be sold as co-ops, priced from about $79,000 to $193,000, according to a spokesman for Jonathan Rose Cos. The remainder will rent for about $780 a month for a 670-sq-ft one-bedroom unit, to $1,200 for a 1,300-sq-ft unit, based on income levels.

Via Verde/The Green Way

New York City firms Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects designed Via Verde to blend nature with the city. It can be a model for affordable housing in New York City and across America, says Robert Garneau, project architect with Grimshaw.

The building hugs the property line on a 60,000-sq-ft former industrial lot in the South Bronx. Three- to five-story townhouses wrap around a landscaped courtyard at one end. A seven-story board-and-plank mid-rise building abuts those units, followed by a 14-story mid-rise building with the first four floors poured-in-place concrete with block-and-plank above, followed by a 21-story poured-in-place concrete tower. A structural-steel frame allows the tower and mid-rise to extend outward for the 18-ft-tall storefront.

We used poured-in-place concrete on a limited basis to keep the cost where it should be, says Adam Watson, project architect with Dattner.

Lettire Construction of New York broke ground at Via Verde in March 2010 and topped off in December. About 60% complete, the 273,246-sq-ft project is scheduled to finish in 2012.

The building sits on about 1,000 100-ton capacity piles, reaching to approximately 50 ft. Brick clads the first two floors. Above that, the building features a prefabricated ventilated-cavity panel facade. Island Fabricators of New Hyde Park, N.Y., manufactured the lightweight panels, approximately 9-ft tall by 25-ft to 35-ft long, complete with waterproofing, insulation, windows, doors and sunshades.

Garneau says the need for quality coupled with a tight schedule convinced the team to use the prefabricated system, even though the cost was higher than typical for an affordable-housing facade. The team used the more expensive wood panels sparingly, combining them with inexpensive composite metal panels and moderately priced fiber-cement panels. The insulation is outboard of the waterproofing rather than between the metal studs. The joints are open to provide ventilation within the cavity to evaporate any moisture or release hot air in the summer.

In typical block-and-plank construction, exterior block walls carry the structural loads, but not at Via Verde. Making a block-and-plank building work with no facade was quite a challenge because we didnt have the shear wall we are used to seeing, says structural engineer Ian Pendleton, senior engineer with Richard Silman Associates of New York. We had to cantilever the plank floor diaphragms from corridor walls and design and detail the available walls to satisfy the wind and seismic [requirements].

The roof and floor precast plank are oriented to span parallel to the facades. Concrete masonry bearing walls, perpendicular to the clip-on facades, are spaced to maximize the standard plank span capacity. Special reinforcement at bearing and shear wall intersections maximize corridor shear wall capacity.

While the facade is striking, Garneau says green roofs set the building apart. In addition to preventing solar heat gain, the roofs offer residents areas for playing or planting gardens. A second-floor evergreen roof allows greenery all year. Excess rain is collected for irrigation.

The plantings created loads of up to 400 lb per sq ft. Robert Silman assessed the load configuration and determined which planters could be movable and which should be locked in place. Engineers increased the size of the planks or added topping to planks to help support the trees and other plantings.

Each of the six south-facing steps of the building features a solar photovoltaic system. Combined with PV trellises on the fifth and seventh floor gardens and a stair canopy on the top of the building, the system will generate approximately 70,000 KW per year, enough to power about 3% of the total building.

Via Verde features high-efficiency, hydronic gas-fired boiler-domestic hot water systems that use returning water to heat water for showers and cooking. It further reduces the water temperature going back to the boilers, so the boilers are operating at a higher efficiency, says Waldir Alvarez, an MEP engineer with Ettinger Engineering Associates, New York.

High-efficiency air-conditioning units will cool common areas. A monitoring system will allow managers and residents to track gas, water and electrical usage.

Its a feedback mechanism where you can fine-tune your system with hard data, Alvarez says.

Metro Green

Performance feedback is critical for Rose. The firm commonly commissions thermographs of finished buildings. Its amazing what you can learn about how well you insulated and where the leaks are, Rose said. That helps us design the next one even better. Sometimes we go back to fix things.

Thermoscan photography of the first phase of Metro Green, a multiuse, transit-oriented, LEED-Gold Neighborhood Development in Stamford, showed thermal leaks where decorative balconies and windows were inserted into the building. Perkins Eastman Architects, Stamford, modified plans for the second phasethe Metro Green Residences, a seven-story, 62,000-sq-ft, 50-unit, block-and-plank building being co-developed by Malkin Properties and constructed by Malkin Construction,

For the Residences metal-frame exterior, crews will spray on an air-weather barrier and install an additional layer of insulation to make the building tighter, says Jonathan Metz, architect with Perkins Eastman.

The envelope has three layers of insulation: 6 inches of blown cellulose between the studs, followed by the sprayed-on, air-vapor barrier layer, then outside sheeting on top of a finished wall surface HandiePlank, says Thomas Durels, CEO of Malkin Construction and executive vice president of Malkin Properties and Malkin Holdings.

Each unit has its own HVAC system. In the first building, the team used a tankless, condensing water heater-boiler. But when the systems proved less efficient than expected, designers selected separate furnaces and hot water heaters for the Residences.

Green and environmentally sustainable housing should not be just for people who are rich and market-rate tenants, Metz says. Something green sometimes has a higher up-front cost, but you have to quantify it over the life of the building.