East / Regional Reports

Affordable, Efficient Housing Brought to the Capital

WASHINGTON, DC — Takoma Village, a new Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) demonstration project located in the Takoma section of upper northwest Washington, DC, is a 43-unit cohousing development that serves as a model of energy- and resource-efficient multifamily construction.

The project shows how new building technologies and design strategies can make ownership more affordable, while providing an attractive, rapid return on investment. In fact, many of Takoma Village’s one- two-, and three-bedroom units were sold long before construction even began, which is a significant departure from the standard formula for multifamily housing, which is largely speculative in nature and involves a measure of investor risk, even during times of high housing demand.

To help create the kind of affordable, sustainable housing that homebuyers are looking for, PATH and the building systems consulting firm, Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (), worked closely with project architect Don Tucker to ensure that energy performance, occupant comfort, and green building materials all received priority attention during the design process.

PATH also worked with the builder to help ease the transition to new system and material installation procedures, such as those required for the geothermal heat pump systems and for the blown-in cellulose insulation.

Other building materials and technologies featured in Takoma Village include:

  • Renewable framing materials (engineered wood, steel, or a combination);
  • Fiber cement siding;
  • Low-emissivity, aluminum-framed windows with thermal breaks;
  • Ductwork installed predominantly within the conditioned space;
  • Programmable thermostats;
  • Tubular skylights;
  • Recycled content carpeting; and
  • Low toxicity wood preservative.
  • Augmented by the energy-efficient geothermal heating and cooling system, these building features result in a thermally efficient structure that contributes to maximum comfort as well as to reducing the residents’ monthly utility bills.

    During the design process, energy analyses were performed to ensure that insulation levels and glazing would be optimized in the finished product. Post-construction diagnostic testing will be performed to qualify the project under EPA's Energy Star homes program.

    In advance of testing, PATH worked closely with EPA to develop a Builder Option Package specifically geared for Takoma Village. An alternate means of securing an Energy Star rating, the Builder Option Package takes into account the project’s higher levels of insulation, use of geothermal heat pumps, and overall hvac system performance.

    Local cohousing leader Ann Zabaldo, who worked closely with PATH throughout project design and construction, said, “Our members really responded to the homes’ energy-saving, environmentally friendly features, which I credit with helping us reach full capacity long before the work crews left the site.”

    To find out more about the Takoma Village cohousing project, visit www.takomavillage.org.

    Publication date: 07/02/2001

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