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Dec. 17, 2012

USGBC Awards LEED Platinum to South Boston’s Castle Square Apartments

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has awarded LEED Platinum Certification, which is its highest green building rating, to a 540,000-square-foot mixed-use property in Boston’s vibrant community of South End.

In June 2012 Castle Square Apartments completed the nation’s largest Deep Energy Retrofit on an existing affordable housing community, after a complex renovation process that lasted two years. A Deep Energy Retrofit is defined as a renovation with energy savings greater than 50 percent but the retrofit work at Castle Square Apartments managed to achieve a 72 percent reduction in energy usage.

According to the property’s retrofit website, the key difference between the Castle Square Apartments renovation and standard energy efficiency renovations is insulation, which were completely lacking in the original construction plans. Located at 476 Tremont Street, Castle Square Apartments was constructed in the 1960s and is owned by Castle Square Tenants Organization in partnership with WinnDevelopment, the real estate development arm of WinnCompanies, as a minority owner. The property is a good example of affordable housing developments that were built during that time in the U.S. and which observed minimal to no energy-efficient construction techniques.

The property now features a new five-inch super insulated shell  on the outside of the building, an insulated reflective roof, high efficiency windows and extensive air sealing, all of which, when combined, have increased the building’s insulation value by a factor of ten. Additionally, small high efficiency cooling and heating equipment, LED and CFL lighting, Energy Star appliances, solar hot water systems and low-VOC paint add to the building’s dramatic energy usage reduction. Since the project was not a gut rehab but focused mainly on the implementation of isolated systems, fewer resources were used in the process and residents faced minimal disruption, without having to leave their apartments.

Castle Square Apartments includes four seven-story mid-rise buildings and 19 town house buildings with one-, two-, three-, and four-bedrooms totaling 500 housing units, 192 of which underwent the Deep Energy Retrofit.

The retrofit project was financed by a combination of private and public partnerships including MassHousing Financing Agency, HUD, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), Bank of America, NSTAR, National Grid, as well as The Kresge Foundation and Enterprise Foundation. As many as 655 construction jobs were created for this project.

According to Design Cost Data, the total cost of the Deep Energy Retrofit at Castle Square Apartments was $8.18 million, or $42,593 per apartment. The redevelopment team consisted of Elton + Hampton Architects, CWC Builders, Inc. as the general contractor and Pinck & Co. which served as the construction project manager. Building Science Corporation, Petersen Engineering, Biome Studio, Rees-Larkin Development, Klein Hornig LLP, Backus Associates and Viva Consulting were also involved in this retrofit project.

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Images of Castle Square Apartments after and before renovation courtesy of www.castledeepenergy.com