Innovative Housing: When LEED Isn’t Enough

When Minneapolis affordable housing developer Aeon and architects Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle Ltd. teamed up to build a new 90-unit housing development called The Rose, they were eager to find a more aggressive sustainable building program – one that would pay substantial energy dividends for its tenants over time.

“I’m not bashing LEED. I think LEED has brought us tremendously far and has gotten word out to the masses, so I think it’s been helpful incrementally in getting more and more people used to it.” – Gina Ciganik Aeon’s vice president of housing development

But when the team did the math, LEED’s projected 30% energy savings didn’t offer enough long-term savings to low-income residents. Conservative estimates factoring in a modest 2% rise in energy costs, indicated that utility expenses for Aeon’s residents would total close to $130 million over the next 20 years.

“When I saw that number I thought, ‘That’s staggering.’ That’s staggering to be known as a pretty darn green developer, and there’s $130 million,” she said. “That’s a huge number. And if we’re trying to keep these units affordable, both in terms of their rents and maintaining the property, and we want our residents to have lower energy bills and water bills, we better figure this out.”

The team opted to pursue the Living Building Challenge and the $36.5 million project, now under construction, will be built at $148/SF and offer energy and other benefits not typically associated with affordable housing. To read more about these innovative features, please visit:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s