Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority (SFCHA) is about to welcome residents to Villa Alegre, Santa Fe’s first LEED Platinum affordable multifamily housing development. Villa Alegre is the second LEED Platinum housing project in New Mexico and the first to be developed by a civic housing authority.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification system. LEED provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed to maximize energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. The minimum requirement for LEED Platinum certification (the highest level possible) is 80 points. Villa Alegre will receive 92 points.

Villa Alegre is an infill project on previously developed land with community resources within walking distance. Landscaping utilizes drought-tolerant plants and a zoned drip-irrigation system. The project has been built using efficient off-site panelized construction, which minimizes waste. Environmentally preferable products have been used wherever possible, including concrete made with 30% fly-ash from the Four Corners power plant to replace Portland cement, and blown-in fiberglass insulation with 25% pre-consumer recycled content. 75% of the construction waste, including asphalt, cardboard, wood, metal and plastic has been recycled during construction.

Solar photovoltaic supplys approximately 40% of Villa Alegre’s electricity, with 1120 Schott Poly 230 solar panels, each producing 280-300 KWH/year. Although it is difficult to predict exactly how much energy each residence will use, the assumption is that Villa Alegre will use 20% less electricity than an average NM home. LEED points are also given for using products close to where they’re manufactured, and the Schott panels, manufactured in Albuquerque, also qualified for ARRA funding and Buy-American provisions. Villa Alegre is also the only public housing project in the state that utilizes geothermal energy, with individual ground-source heat pumps for heating, cooling and domestic hot water.

A primary goal was to reduce energy costs for residents by “sealing the envelope” to ensure that energy won’t leak out of the homes. Villa Alegre’s Home Energy rating (HERS) will be between 20 and 40. The lower the HERS rating, the more energy efficient. The mandated minimum HERS rating for NM is 60.

Indoor air quality is enhanced in each unit by using low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, caulking and other materials during construction. A mechanical ventilation system will run 24/7 at low cost, pulling moist, contaminated air out of the units and bringing fresh air back in, rather than re-circulating stale air. 90% of flooring will be low-emission hard flooring rather than carpet. The white TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin formulation) roofs reflect the sun rather than absorbing heat like most roofing materials, which also contributes to energy efficiency and maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures – cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. Windows, insulation and roofing all contribute to energy efficiency and comfort. All homes also have water-conserving appliances.

Another key component of the “green process” is manager- and tenant-training. There will be operation manuals for each home geared to the homeowner, with advice on green living, and a one-hour mandatory walk-through for each tenant. Tenants will also receive a starter kit of green cleaning products.

Since 1964, SFCHA has developed and managed affordable single family and multifamily communities. The Authority has created eight master-planned communities and owns over 1,200 units in the Santa Fe area. The Authority built the original Villa Alegre project in 1964 with 74 family units on the 9-acre site and 30 additional units four blocks east. As the years passed, the project deteriorated into a community claimed by a local gang and plagued by drugs, crime, and not surprisingly, high occupant turnover. Realizing it was time to start anew, SFCHA began to work with architects, neighbors and the city to develop a plan for a new community. To help finance the $24 million redevelopment, the Authority was awarded Low Income Housing Tax Credits administered by the NM Mortgage Finance Authority. The Authority also benefited from the Tax Credit Assistance Program and NM Sustainable Building Tax Credits. The project broke ground in June 2010 and has generated a significant number of jobs.

Ed Romero of SFCHA says, “Green building and the affordable market we serve align in a multitude of ways. We are now developing projects that are durable with little maintenance required, energy efficient so the renter’s utility bills are as low, and with indoor air quality that is healthier and can lower renters’ medical bills. All of this culminates in a happier, healthier household who can spend their limited funds on a better quality of life.”

Villa Alegre’s 50 senior units are already rented. Of the 60 family units, there are four public housing units and 48 two- and three-bedroom units, with eligibility at 50-60% of median income. Tenants will pay differing amounts of rent for those units depending on income. There are also nine family market-rate units available. For more information, contact Karlyn Mercado at Monarch Properties at 505.988.1116, or email karlynmercado@yahoo.com.