In 2015, DC was in search of a progressive and innovative approach to affordable and sustainable housing. They launched an Affordable Living Design Competition challenging teams to design (and potentially build) 10-15 single-family affordable townhomes that meet the rigorous criteria of the Living Building Challenge. Our submission earned an honorable mention and sparked our passion for high-performance design.
According to ILFI, Living Buildings are among the healthiest and most efficient in the world with resilient and self-sufficient systems that offer long-term energy security. All Living Building Challenge projects must be holistic—addressing aspects of all seven Petals of place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty through Core Imperatives.
On a DHCD-owned site in the Deanwood neighborhood of DC, we designed 15 single-family townhomes to meet Living Building standards. From net-zero energy and water to the inclusion of healthier materials and biophilic principles, our design emphasizes elements of beauty and social equity to address the preconceived notion that sustainable design is utilitarian and expensive.
The ideas from several charette sessions with partners Mi Casa, Skanska USA, IBC Engineering, and WSP paired with extensive research on climate, community, and urban planning informed an integrated design and engineering process focused on continual cost reassessment. Our efforts transcended the Living Building Challenge requirements, resulting in a new model for the development of affordable and sustainable housing in DC.
Knowledge from this study inspired us to apply for and receive multiple District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) grants to investigate how large track developments in Washington, DC can meet high sustainability targets, including a feasibility study for DC’s Kingman and Heritage Islands to enhance their environmental and societal benefits to DC. We’re actively seeking partners to continue this work.