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News :: Environment
Green building gets green light in Jackson Square
26 Aug 2005
Jamaica Plain’s non-profit neighborhood development corporations are slowly turning green, and the Jackson Square development may become their most environmentally sustainable project yet.

Partners for Jackson (PfJ), a partnership among Urban Edge, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and the Hyde Square Task Force, recently received a grant for $100,000 from the Green Building Production Network (GBPN) to study the feasibility of various green features for the development as well as an $100,000 interest-free loan to offset the up-front costs of the design process. PfJ was among four projects selected out of 10 applicants in the Greater Boston Area.
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[Reprinted on Indymedia courtesy of the Jamaica Plain Gazette]

Both JPNDC and Urban Edge have been slowly greening up their organizations in recent years to cut maintenance costs, lower the energy bills of tenants, reduce dust and allergens in their developments and take advantage of new sources of funding like the GBPN grant.

“We’re hoping that we can support CDCs [Community Development Corporations] in going to the next level,” said Matthew Thall of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in an interview, “beyond the low-hanging fruits.” LISC is one of five organizations involved in the GBPN.

Many CDCs in the state have included small components of green building’s “low-hanging fruits,” such as high-performance insulation or lighting fixtures, in their conventional projects.

JPNDC has taken the initiative at 80 and 90 Bickford Street, a new 56-unit facility for frail, low-income elders located on the west side of the the Bromley-Heath campus. The building incorporates a heat recovery system that uses ventilation exhaust to warm up incoming air before it enters the heating system. The design creates significant savings on heating and ventilation.

Urban Edge has been more ambitious. Their Egleston Crossing project was originally projected to procure LEED silver status. LEED stands for Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design and requires a holistic approach to green building as well as a great deal of documentation.

The Egleston Crossing development includes two mixed-use buildings, at 3033 and 3089 Washington St., that will provide 64 units of affordable housing, some for formerly homeless tenants in cooperation with Pine Street Inn, as well as a limited amount of retail space. The building at 3089 Washington St. in JP has already opened and 3033 will be open in the near future.

Many of the green plans for both buildings ran into pitfalls. In one example, late in the construction, planners discovered that the solar panels on the roof could not be connected to the individual units because each unit is individually metered. As a result, the panels will serve the common areas only.

At another point, contractors installed shower heads that did not comply with the building water efficiency program because plans did not specify the correct fixtures. Contractors re-installed new heads at an extra cost.

Planners were also frustrated when they discovered that contractors disregarded the request to have 50 percent of the wood base used in the project certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a group that certifies wood products that are harvested sustainably.

Several other aspects of the project were successful however, and Urban Edge’s Noah Maslan, who directed the project, is taking a new perspective forward to Jackson Square.

“The way I’ve changed my thinking is that you have to apply it all holistically, all the time,” said Maslan, “to find the balance between ecology, economics, social goals, and long-term durability.”

Leith Sharp, director of the Harvard Green Campus Initiative that oversaw construction of nine different LEED certified buildings at Harvard University, said there are a number of key factors in successful green construction. They include pre-design commitment, contractors with green experience, ensuring that all requirements are fully integrated into design and construction specifications, regular team reviews and having an agent that provides support, accountability and documentation for every step of the process.

“An ideal green building project would also have fee-based incentives for high performance design,” said Sharp in an e-mail to the Gazette, “it takes more time and money to do—but yields superior design solutions.”

This work is in the public domain.
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