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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Commissioner Bonges' Report from Elm Place NESEA Visit

Milton Planning Commission
Subject – Elm Place Passive House tour

Figure 1 Roof showing other guests, solar and HVAC.

Fellow commissioners, Friday 7/21 I had the pleasure of participating in a tour of Elm Place sponsored by the NESEA (New England Sustainable Energy Association).  Elm Place is Vermont's First Multifamily Passive House.  A passive house must meet strict energy requirements and testing:

As compare to a LEED certification, which is more about sustainability and energy is just one (important) element.

The challenge to building a passive house is not being “business as usual”.  Suppliers must look into their more advanced products, sub-contractors require some additional training and oversight.  The biggest challenge was said to be integration and commutation.  You cannot have framing (done), drywall (done), heating (done), but these must all work together to maintain the building envelope.  A chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

The added cost was 1% in material and 1% in consulting and licensing for a total of 2%.  This will be paid back with energy saving in the first 5 years of operation, along with the less tangible resident comfort.  The building is expected to use 95% less heating than one built to RBES and 65 less total energy. 

All parties talked of how much they learned, which will make the next project that much smoother.  The HVAC (Mitsubishi mini splits) was overbuilt because the contractors “did not believe the numbers” regarding heat loss.  Also, each apartment has two thermostats which can be fighting each other.

They have 22k of solar, room on the roof for at least that much again.

The building was sold out within three weeks of opening.

The Cathedral Square rep said this site was chosen because of the availability of all the services the residents would want (pharmacy, grocery, park, senior center mentioned) and yet still in a low traffic area.  She mentioned they very much liked the direction the DB1 was going.  This was w/o prompting on my part, I had just asked “why here”.

Henry A. Bonges III