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New Hampshire’s First Multi-Family Passive House

Slated for Occupancy in July

Gilford Knolls III, in late May, 2018. Photo: Greg Whitchurch.

By Greg Whitchurch

Gilford Knolls III (http://bit.do/GKIII) will provide 24 affordable, one-bedroom apartments for seniors and will be New Hampshire’s first multi-family dwelling to be built to the Passive House standard.

A passive building is designed and built in accordance with five main principles:

  • Continuous exterior insulation to avoid thermal bridging.
  • Nearly airtight construction to guarantee comfort and manage moisture.
  • Extremely high-performance windows and exterior doors.
  • Balanced energy-recovery ventilation and a finely-tuned heating and cooling system.
  • Attention to solar gain to take advantage of the sun’s energy in the heating season and planning for shading to minimize solar heating in the cooling season.

Lakes Region Community Developers (LRCD) of Laconia, NH is the developer of this project, and their Director of Real Estate Development, Sal Steven-Hubbard, gave me and another member of Vermont Passive House a tour of the facility in late May. Designed by architect Peter Stewart of Stewart Associates in Laconia, NH and built by Martini Northern of Portsmouth, NH, Gilford Knolls III will open in July. It features a spacious community room, on-site resident services, and recycling. Rents vary between $670 and $890, depending upon income, and includes electricity for heat, air conditioning, water, cooking, lighting, etc. – and it is ALL electric! (The laundry room is coin-operated.) In fact, the only fossil fuel on site is the tank for the big backup generator.

“This promises to be the first certified Passive House multi-family development in New Hampshire, which would be quite an achievement,” said Paul Eldrenkamp of DEAP Energy Group LLC in Newton, MA, a certified Passive House consultant who supervised the construction effort. “The entire Gilford Village Knolls team has been on board from the beginning, has rolled with the punches, and is determined to meet the goal of certification. It’s been a privilege to be part of this project.”

Architect Stewart pointed out that he was unfamiliar with the Passive House standard, but with guidance from the Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC), he learned as he went along and was able to meet the stringent design standards required. He’s convinced that passive house is the way to go; he’d like to design more of them; and he recommends that other architects read up and learn about the goals and methods of passive house design.

GK III sports a $300,000, 105kW rooftop solar array from ReVision Energy. Its 344 panels are expected to generate 109,700kWh of solar power each year. Harvesting New Hampshire’s abundant solar resources will result in more than $600,000 in electricity cost savings over the life of the array. On an annual basis, the Granite State receives 33% more sunshine than Germany, a world leader in solar energy capacity. Every year, the system will offset over 57 tons of carbon pollution from regional fossil fuel power plants.

Using Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) the LRCD syndicates their projects keeping the debt low. The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority administers the federal tax credits and awards them competitively. The LRCD then sells those credits to an investor in return for cash to the project. The LIHTC investor also bought the federal solar credits as a part of their investment. Using the solar PV, LRCD can lower the operating cost of the building through lower utility costs. The cash generated goes to paying off the loan that pays the capital cost of the PV.

“We commend Lakes Region Community Developers on their forward-thinking approach to this new facility. Making the investment in clean energy will significantly reduce operating costs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” said Elijah Garrison, ReVision Energy solar design team manager. “The fact that the building will achieve the prestigious Passive House performance standard is incredibly impressive with a publicly-funded project designed for community benefit. The standard sets a tremendous example for what is possible, even in our cold New Hampshire climate and even with a tight project budget and timeline. As a Gilford resident, I am incredibly proud to add this building to our community.”

Through the use of state-of-the-art materials and techniques, this super energy-efficient building will use only about 35% of the energy that a comparable “code” building would use. Passive House rated high-efficiency windows and doors (from Schuco), generous insulation (fiberglass in the walls and cellulose in the ceiling), Passive House-level airtightness, and reductions in the thermal bridging common to standard building techniques make this possible. Fresh air is provided by RenewAire ERVs (energy recovery ventilators). Mitsubishi “minisplits” provide the heating and cooling for each apartment.

For more information about the Passive House standard, go to vtph.org.

Learn more about Revision Energy at RevisionEnergy.com.

Greg Whitchurch is a board member of Vermont Passive House and owner of a LEAF, a Prius and a net-zero passive house with solar PV and hot water in Middlesex, Vermont. http://bit.ly/PHVT-Cottage, (802)223-2416.

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