Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven’s Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Laboratory Awarded LEED Platinum

Apr 19th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Story, Green Building

Serves as a model for sustainable rehabilitation of homes and small commercial buildings

April 18, 2012 (New Haven, Connecticut) – Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven (NHS) has announced that its Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Laboratory has been awarded LEED certification at the Platinum level. This certification was established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. There are four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.


“We are extremely proud of the recognition of our efforts by the U.S. Green Building Council,” said NHS executive director, Dr. James Paley. “The LEED Platinum certification is not only a testament to our organization’s commitment to energy conservation and sustainability, but is also recognition of the fact that a neglected and dilapidated structure can be restored to such a high level of energy-efficiency.  We want to thank the USGBC for setting high standards that can be emulated by other organizations all across the country.”

Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven’s Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Laboratory is a demonstration green building that is home to our housing rehabilitation department and post-purchase homebuyer education classes, where we teach basic home maintenance and energy-conservation techniques to homeowners. LEEDPlatinum certification was awarded based on a point system in 6 categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation-in-design.

The NHS Lab achieved 55 out of 69 possible points across all categories and is now the only LEED Platinum rehabbed building and one of only 3 LEED Platinum commercial buildings under the LEED for New Construction and Substantial Rehabilitation program in Connecticut. Features that contributed to the Lab’s Platinum level status include a micro-combined heat and power co-generation unit that heats two other buildings on the campus; a high-performance building envelope; extensive use of salvaged and recycled materials, including recycled rubber walkway pavers on the vegetated roof; daylighting domes; an ultra-low-flow toilet; energy-efficient windows; locally milled wainscoting from a tree removed from an NHS property site; and NHS’ role in the community as an environmental educator via workshops and Lab tours. The building, originally a neighborhood grocery store built in the 1890s, utilizes existing urban infrastructure in a dense urban area that connects readily to the surrounding community via both public transportation and neighborhood walkability, thus also contributing to the Lab’s status as a sustainable site. Additionally, 70% of all materials used on the project were sourced locally.

“The green building movement offers an unprecedented opportunity to respond to the most-important challenges of our time, including global climate change, dependence on non-sustainable and expensive sources of energy and threats to human health,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “The work of innovative building projects such as the NHS Lab is a fundamental driving force in the green building movement.”


NHS is a non-profit organization whose core mission is to increase homeownership; to make homes functional, beautiful and affordable; and to help residents take charge of their neighborhoods. The organization believes strongly that increased owner-occupancy rates, educated homebuyers, and rehabilitated houses will produce stable, revitalized neighborhoods that its clients will be proud to call home.  During the course of its 32-year history, NHS has fully renovated and sold more than 200 houses to low- and moderate-income families and puts approximately 500 families a year on the path to homeownership. NHS rehabilitates all properties to Energy Star standards.

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Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven’s

LEED Platinum certified

Home Improvement & Energy Conservation Laboratory

Key Green Features:

SUSTAINABLE SITES: (LEED NCv2.2:  12 out of 14 possible points, plus an additional innovation in design point, documented)

Choice of a suitable site is the first consideration in green building. In the case of NHS’ Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Lab, the choice was simple; NHS would rehabilitate the formerly vacant 24 Hudson Street property directly abutting the existing NHS office location at 333 Sherman Avenue. The entire NHS campus is located in the midst of the New Haven neighborhoods NHS serves.

  • An erosion and sediment control plan was used during construction to limit runoff of soil or debris into the City’s stormwater system.
  • Renovating the building eliminated another vacant building in the City.
  • The building was tested for asbestos contamination and was remediated.
  • The Lab is located in a dense urban area, utilizing existing infrastructure and connecting readily to the surrounding community.
  • The Lab is readily accessible via public transportation, due to the many bus lines within walking distance, and is located in a dense residential/walkable neighborhood.
  • The campus has enclosed secure bicycle parking and showers for bicyclists’ use.
  • Parking spaces are designated for low emitting/fuel efficient vehicles, as well as for carpools/vanpools. NHS staff is encouraged to carpool, bike or take public transit to work.
  • The campus site plan was designed to accommodate:
    • underground conduits which connect the Lab to other campus buildings, allowing for the Lab’s micro-combined heat and power (MCHP) co-generation unit to heat two other campus buildings;
    • drywells, vegetated areas, and porous brick paving, all of  which infiltrate storm water back into the ground instead of flowing into the City sewers;
    • a compact vehicular and pedestrian traffic layout;
    • open space for use by pedestrians and as habitat – including ground-level plantings using a mix of native and adapted plants, a pedestrian plaza paved with salvaged brick, and a Lab rooftop garden terrace.
  • The Lab’s roofing includes areas of vegetated and cool roof surfaces, which decrease urban heat-island effect.
  • The roof also has recycled rubber walkway pavers, daylighting domes, high efficiency dual-stage AC units, a photovoltaic PV system and additional free roof space for possible future solar projects, all available to be viewed by visitors on building tours.

WATER EFFICIENCY: (LEED NCv2.2:  5 out of 5 possible points documented)

Limiting the amount of potable water used for non-drinking purposes is the most important way for building owners to conserve this valuable resource. Inspired by NHS’ example, local homeowners and landlords are already beginning to incorporate some of the Lab’s water-saving strategies into their own projects.

  • An ultra-low flow toilet was installed, saving 50% of potable water used for flushing, the biggest water use in the Lab building.
  • Water-saving kitchen and bath faucets were also installed.
  • The drought-resistant adapted and native landscape plantings require no permanent irrigation system.

ENERGY & ATMOSPHERE: (LEED NCv2.2:  15 out of 17 possible points, plus an additional innovation in design point, documented)

Saving energy is not only important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but when done thoroughly, can radically reduce utility bills. For an agency supported in part by public funds, keeping campus utility costs in check is crucial.  Furthermore, the new homeowners of the Energy Star rated housing NHS develops need to be able to afford their utility bills as well as their mortgages. The Lab building rehabilitation served as a testing ground for some of the energy saving techniques now used in NHS houses.  Other energy savings methods are more suitable for small commercial buildings such as this one, and NHS holds Lab tours on a regular basis to inspire others to design green features into their commercial projects.  

  • NHS retained a commissioning agent as well as mechanical engineers to ensure the efficient design, installation, and use of all energy systems in the building.
  • A whole-building energy model predicted energy savings of close to 50% for the Lab building as compared to similar buildings built to code using the industry energy-efficiency Standard ASHRAE 90.1. NHS continues to track actual utility usage, which is even more efficient than the model’s prediction.
  • There was no use of atmosphere-damaging CFC or HCFC-based refrigerants in the building.
  • An on-demand hot water heater reduces the amount of natural gas used for heating hot water.
  • To reduce the need to purchase electricity from the grid, the Lab incorporates:
    • a 1.2 kW solar PV photovoltaic system for generating electricity on-site;
    • 13 tubular skylights to reduce the need for electric lighting, which have controls to limit excessive daylight & heat in the summer months, and refracting lenses to diffuse the daylight throughout the space;
    • lighting such as the NHS custom-designed fixtures using salvaged street light lenses in the classroom and energy-efficient fixtures in the offices;
    • Two-stage exterior lighting on daylight sensors and timers to minimize energy use.
  • Heating, cooling and ventilation are achieved efficiently:
    • Closed cell spray foam insulation was installed throughout to create a high performance building envelope, and a blower door test was conducted to determine building “tightness” for air leakage;
    • Office ceiling fans and a programmable energy management system ensure good thermal comfort for building occupants;
  • Features were carefully planned to do double duty, reducing electricity purchased from the grid while efficiently ensuring occupant’s thermal comfort:
    • A micro-combined heat and power (MCHP) co-generation system produces electricity on-site and a waste heat by-product which heats the Lab and two other campus buildings; the co-gen unit and its backup boiler are both high-efficiency natural gas-fired units.
    • Energy-efficient windows provide generous daylight throughout the building for all occupants; their operability, and the strategically placed exterior awnings, blinds, and solar heat–reducing films provide thermal comfort.
  • NHS purchased 31,745 kWh of renewable energy credits for only using “green” electricity on the entire NHS campus; NHS is an EPA Green Power Partner.

MATERIALS & RESOURCES: (LEED NCv2.2:  6 out of 13 possible points, plus an additional innovation in design points, documented)

Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven staff are keenly aware of ways to use materials and resources conservatively throughout our operations, especially in our primary line of business, affordable housing development. We “recycle” houses, turning New Haven’s vacant and abandoned housing stock back into affordable, beautiful, energy efficient homes.

  • NHS has a campus-wide recycling program with recycling containers throughout.
  • The Lab renovation utilized a waste recycling plan which resulted in recycling most of the construction and demolition waste.
  • There was an emphasis on retaining most (over 75%) of the existing structure of the Lab building and reusing materials during the Lab’s renovation.  Examples include relocating a concrete stoop and interior framing members, and incorporating windows, columns, flooring, and other salvaged building materials.
  • Furniture and fit-out items were also reused and/or repurposed, including lighting fixtures made with reused city street light refractors.
  • Wainscoting was milled locally from a tree removed from one of the NHS housing sites.
  • 70 % of all materials used in the project were sourced locally.

INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY: (LEED NCv2.2:  12 out of 15 possible points documented)

Indoor environmental quality has direct correlation with occupant health, comfort, and productivity. NHS staff members working in the building and people attending classes in the large demonstration room benefit directly. Innovative approaches modeled by the Lab can be used at other small commercial facilities, and tours are frequently offered to inspire others to build top quality facilities.

  • NHS implemented a construction indoor air quality management plan to ventilate the building during and after construction the construction process to prevent dust and chemical fumes from lingering.
  • Ventilation air was carefully designed for the building since the occupant load varies from a handful to several dozens of people at one time when classes, tours and events are happening.
  • Carbon dioxide sensors are located in various spaces to automatically modulate outside fresh air as needed, based on interior carbon dioxide levels (a direct indicator of human occupancy), to minimize the energy required to condition ventilation air.
  • The HVAC system allows for the occupants to open windows, shut down mechanical equipment, and utilize natural ventilation for comfort and health. The energy management system identifies when the outdoor environmental conditions are acceptable to do this.
  • Proposed materials (paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, carpet and composite wood materials) were reviewed prior to installation for their volatile organic compound (VOC) compliance with several LEED® recognized indoor air quality standards. No urea formaldehyde wood products were used.
  • Daylight and temperature controls are located in offices to allow occupants to adjust their working conditions to their preferences, and an occupant survey was conducted to gather feedback and fine tune employees’ thermal and physical comfort in the work environment.
  • NHS has implemented a No Smoking Policy on the entire NHS campus.

INNOVATION-IN-DESIGN: (LEED NCv2.2:  5 out of 5 possible points documented)

NHS seeks to be a green buildings “leader by example” within its immediate realm of influence:

  • NHS provides environmental education via their energy-efficiency classes taught in the Lab as well as via tours of their green building, thereby exposing hundreds of people to energy-saving, sustainable ideas. In addition to housing NHS’s largest classroom, the building itself serves as a model and has signage throughout to explain its various green features. NHS made a conscious decision to locate its housing rehab staff in this building, so contractors, building officials, and other regular visitors to rehab staff offices cannot help but be exposed to the green features displayed.
  • NHS has worked with several different LEED accredited professionals to assist with the design and functioning of their Laboratory building, from the time prior to the renovation to more than 1-1/2 years after the renovation was completed, in order to optimize the sustainability features of the Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Lab facility.


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One Comment to “Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven’s Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Laboratory Awarded LEED Platinum”

  1. Rose S Zolnik says:

    Kathy Fay & Debra Lombard,
    Congratulations on being awarded the LEED Platinum recognition. It was a pleasure spending time with both of you.
    Rose S Zolnik
    Broker, LEED GA

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