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First Net-Zero Multi-Family Building in Region to Open

How Twin Pines Set the New Gold Standard for Sustainable, Multi-Family Living

When it opens this fall, Tracy Community Housing will be a sleek, stylish and sustainable addition to West Lebanon’s residential area. Photos courtesy of Twin Pines Housing.

Chris Gillespie

Affordable housing developer Twin Pines Housing Trust will make history this fall by opening the first net-zero, multi-family building in the Granite State. Located across the street from the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, Tracy Community Housing will also be the first net-zero multi-family building of any significant size in all of northern New England, measuring at 29,000 square feet.

Similar to Wentworth Community Housing, which Twin Pines opened earlier this summer in nearby White River Junction, Vermont, Tracy Community Housing’s twenty-nine units are restricted to households earning up to 60% of the area median income. In Grafton County, where Tracy Community Housing is located, this equates to a single individual making roughly $37,000 a year or a family of four making no more than about $53,000 annually.

Twin Pines Executive Director Andrew Winter said that, in addition to providing an affordable housing option, Tracy Community Housing will help “reinforce the residential nature of Tracy Street and improve the overall quality of the housing stock in the neighborhood.”

Although Tracy Community Housing is not the first multi-family building on Tracy Street, its infrastructure and design are certainly one-of-a-kind. Designed by energy-efficient design leader Bill Maclay of Maclay Architects and project managed by Tim Estes of Estes & Gallup, Tracy Community Housing reaches net-zero through a combination of impeccable insulation and extensive solar paneling.

Twin Pines was able to maximize the number of solar panels by challenging multifamily building design conventions.

Designed and installed by Norwich Solar Technologies, Tracy Community Housing’s solar array consists of 384 solar panels and will be able to generate 185 kW. In order to ensure maximum coverage, Norwich Solar installed solar panels on the roof of Tracy Community Housing as well as on top of the building’s south side façade. To complete the array, Norwich Solar built a freestanding solar arbor, which, Winter says, will provide residents with a shaded area to park bicycles or relax at a picnic table.

The yield of this solar array will cover the base electrical needs of the building, including heating and cooling, thanks to a series of Mitsubishi air source heat pumps. Similar to Wentworth Community Housing, Tracy Community Housing also utilizes an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system, which will use the heat of the air exiting the HVAC system to precondition the air entering the HVAC system.

In terms of insulation, Tracy Community Housing uses triple-glazed windows and air-sealing to remain energy tight. Twin Pines worked with the experts at SIGA to ensure that Tracy Community Housing has as strong of a building envelope as possible.

“When it comes to energy efficiency, air-sealing is critically important,” said Winter. “Working with SIGA was great. They had their representatives meet with our construction team to make sure that everyone knew exactly how to apply the product and how to tell if we reached the best seal.”

All of these measures will help Twin Pines reach their goal of getting Tracy Community Housing certified by the Passive House Institute US. According to Winter, Twin Pines has been collaborating with Karen Bushey of Efficiency Vermont and Chris West of Eco Houses of Vermont to better understand and meet the Passive House certification requirements. So far, Winter says, the blower door tests have been very promising.

Even Tracy Community Housing’s location promotes sustainable living. By being within walking distance to West Lebanon’s Main Street, as well as in close proximity to Advance Transit’s Red, Green and Orange bus lines, residents can easily forgo frequent use of their individual vehicles. In fact, Twin Pines was able to use both of these factors to make a case to the City of Lebanon to waive their parking lot size requirements for new multi-family buildings. As a result, Twin Pines was able to reduce the amount of impermeable pavement needed for the project.

As development on Tracy Community Housing wraps up, Twin Pines plans to celebrate their historic achievement by sharing their experience with their peers at the Better Building by Design conference in South Burlington, VT next February and by implementing their hard-earned knowledge into upcoming projects, such as a new development site in Hanover, NH.

“We’re already applying the techniques we’ve learned on Tracy Street, in terms of air sealing and construction simplification, into other projects,” said Winter. “It’s been challenging, but we have learned a lot from it.”

For more information on Tracy Community Housing and Twin Pines Housing, visit twinpineshousing.org.

To read G.E.T.’s previous coverage of Wentworth Community Housing, visit Wentworth Community Housing.

Chris Gillespie is a contributing writer for Green Energy Times. He can be reached at chris@greenenergytimes.org.

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