Page E1.1 . 05 March 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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Post-Industrial Affordability

by ArchitectureWeek

It is often tempting for architects and builders, when designing low-income housing, to look for any possible way to reduce the costs of initial construction. But if cheap materials lead to higher maintenance or utility bills in the long run, such economies may prove short-lived. A different approach is based on the idea that affordable housing can be not only attractive but durable and environmentally sustainable as well.

A project demonstrating this approach has just been completed in Somerville, Massachusetts by Mostue & Associates Architects, Inc. in collaboration with the Somerville Community Corporation and Landmark Structures Corporation. The Linden Street Project is a 1.5-acre (0.6-hectare), seven-building, 42-unit energy-efficient, affordable housing development. With this "brownfield- to- greenfield" project, the community has reclaimed an urban enclave.

For decades, the Linden Street site had suffered encroachment by industrial truck maintenance facilities. The brownfield site had no trees or pervious surfaces, and it generated a range of environmental problems for the surrounding neighborhood. A first step was to clean up the site and dispose of toxic soils.

The Mostue associate-in-charge Iric L. Rex, AIA sums up the project: "The Linden Street development 'lives' green, with an emphasis not just on efficiency, but on landscaped views, enjoyable exterior spaces, and sunlit interiors. The entire urban neighborhood benefits from the conversion of this industrial site to family housing and common green space."

Mostue selected construction materials that would reduce future maintenance and energy costs. Panelized walls were efficiently manufactured off site, and finished with instead of wood for the exterior clapboards a fiber-cement siding with a 15-year paint warranty.

For insulating and sealing the walls on site, the architects specified spray-on cellulose to an R-value of 20 and for the roof, R-40 Icynene, which provides superior insulation and a better air seal than fiberglass batt. They chose low-emissivity insulating glass for the windows and Energy Star high-efficiency fluorescent lights.

The buildings' mechanical systems were also engineered for high efficiency. These include sealed-combustion condensing boilers with indirect-fired hot water heaters. Each apartment includes mechanical ventilation for automatic exhaust of stale air. The Conservation Services Group estimates that fuel consumption for heat and hot water at the Linden Street development will be 43 percent less than the average newly constructed housing.

Mostue & Associates focused much of their efforts on the landscape. The rainwater drainage system recharges the groundwater with runoff. Fifty trees, including rare American Elms and a variety of deciduous evergreens provide year-round greenery.

Creating community space was a high priority for the project. Careful grading offers universally accessible entrances without the need for handicapped ramps and railings. A landscaped commons, including pathways and a children's play area, provides access to the neighborhood and encourages community activity.

Mostue & Associates Architects, Inc., is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and the Environmental League of Massachusetts.



ArchWeek Image

In the Linden Street Project in Somerville, Massachusetts by Mostue & Associates Architects, Inc., fenestration, entries, and color break down the scale of the larger buildings. The landscape is shaped by plantings, anchored by two American Elms.
Photo: Amanda Silverman

ArchWeek Image

Open interior spaces emphasize daylight and views.
Photo: Greg Premru

ArchWeek Image

Exterior back stairways of the Linden Street Project in Somerville, Massachusetts minimize interior common space, improving the security of both buildings and site.
Photo: Amanda Silverman

ArchWeek Image

Exterior balcony structures blur the edge between landscape and private indoor space, energizing the urban living experience.
Photo: Amanda Silverman

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Site/floor plans.
Image: Sharon MacNulty/ Mostue & Associates Architects

ArchWeek Image

Three triple-deckers along Linden Street relate to the scale and rhythm of the existing neighborhood.
Photo: Amanda Silverman


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