Many parents of children with developmental disabilities face a common problem. They love their children and provide for them. But as they age, they often see their children’s future as potentially insecure. A good life insurance policy might help, but questions remain about how needs will be met in a way that allows their children to lead an enjoyable, fulfilling life.
In 2014, Sylvia and David Dow founded a 501c3 non-profit organization, Visions for Creative Housing Solutions (Visions), to provide support for individuals with developmental and other disabilities. Visions has a statement of its goal at its website, visionsnh.org. It says, “Our goal is to proactively address an orderly transition of care for adults with developmental and similar disabilities from their aging parents to a stable, reliable and caring environment. We provide each individual with wrap around supports that are conducive to long-term friendships and a sense of well-being and self-worth.”
Sylvia Dow used her family’s property in Enfield, New Hampshire to provide a caring home for some of those with special needs. Sunrise Farm is now a place where twelve special people can live happy and productive lives in a rural area with flower and vegetable gardens, hiking trails, a swimming pool, and comfortable living quarters with individual sleeping quarters and shared living areas.
Visions was not formed to operate just the Sunrise Farm. There is a need for many more places like Sunrise Farm. So, Sylvia and David Dow soon set about raising funds for a new facility. Their efforts led to Visions being able to buy two buildings on Green Street, in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
As hard as financing and buying buildings was, in some respects the heavy work was just a beginning. Visions’ Sylvia Dow was joined by Christopher Kennedy and Rebecca Gordon of MA+KE Architects; energy consultants Resilient Buildings Group, headed by Dana Nute; construction managers Estes & Gallup, led by Tim Estes; Ryan Lacey of Lacey Engineering; and financing consultants Nickerson Development Services, Inc. in collaboration with JEller Consulting, LLC. They set about designing and building the upgrades that would be needed to turn the new facility, Green Street Commons, into a comfortable home for those who would live there.
Their work was guided by goals of energy efficiency and use of clean energy. Windows and doors would exceed applicable code. A new wall with X two-by-four studs was built inside the existing exterior to provide for added cellulose insulation. The attic got eighteen inches of cellulose. All the insulation exceeded code requirements by a fair margin.
A good building envelope, with new air sealing, was needed because the old oil boilers were being removed, and the project team wanted the new heating and cooling systems to be as small, simple, and energy efficient as possible. Both buildings had new high efficiency Mitsubishi air-source heat pumps installed for heating and cooling. The heat pumps have a heating coefficient of performance (COP) as high as four, which means they can deliver about four times the amount of heat than an electric resistance heater could using the same amount of power. The heating COP drops as it gets colder outside. The systems installed maintain a COP of about 2.3 when outside temperatures are 0°F, which is still more efficient than electric resistance.
The buildings have new RenewAire energy recovery ventilators which constantly draw exhaust from bathrooms and kitchens and provide 100% outdoor air to bedrooms and living spaces. The exhaust air and outside air pass through a static plate heat exchanger that recovers about 70% of the energy being exhausted to temper the incoming outside air without the use of additional energy.
All appliances are Energy Star rated. Lighting was replaced with LEDs. The lighting units in hallways are dimmed to 30% most of the time, and motion detectors turn them up to 100% whenever people are present.
Renovation construction work began in November 2020 and was completed in November 2021 when several final parts ordered last January arrived and could be installed. One of the last things that needed to be done was blower door tests. These were performed by Resilient Buildings Group, which got results of 3.2 air changes per hour (ACH), a value that far exceeds the 7.0 ACH code requirement.
Eleven residents moved into the Green Street Commons in July and August. The facility also has a staff that includes a house manager, a resident manager, personal mentors providing individualized supports for residents, overnight staff, an on-call registered nurse, and a property manager.
Funding for the Green Street Commons was provided by New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, and Mascoma Savings Bank and the many generous large and small donors to Visions’ Green Street Capital Campaign. It also got a sizeable rebate from Liberty because of its energy efficiency measures.
Many thanks to our sponsors: