Greenbuild Special Report: A Record-Breaker Rises

The developer of the 2nd + Delaware project in Kansas City shared strategies for incorporating sustainable features and lowering costs.
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When completed next year, 2nd + Delaware in Kansas City will be the largest U.S. Passive House project. (Arnold Development Group)

Can developers incorporate sustainable features into their buildings without driving up costs?

This question and more were addressed at the 2016 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo panel on 2nd + Delaware, a market-rate multifamily project that is on track to be the largest Passive House-certified building in the U.S.

Panelist Jonathan Arnold of Arnold Development Group, the 2nd + Delaware project’s developer, argued that we can, in fact, incorporate sustainability in our buildings through smarter thinking and strategies that will lower the cost of creating a high-performance project.

“The market will not fully embrace the type of building we want to build unless we can be sure the profit return is higher as well as the impact return,” he said.

Arnold added that there are major opportunities to increase profit while making more sustainable buildings because the way projects are being developed is changing.

“In the next 30 years, the dominant pattern of building will be mixed use, walkable neighborhoods largely driven by the fact that we have less kids and more people are discovering that they want to live in places they can walk,” he said. “This creates an amazing opportunity because we haven’t been building neighborhoods that are walkable.”

By 2020 there will be pent up demand for about 45 million housing units in walkable urban neighborhoods, he said.

Arnold is capitalizing on this demand with the development of 2nd + Delaware, which is not only being built to Passive House standards but is also incorporating lean construction and integrated project delivery (IPD) techniques, which are construction approaches that integrate workers and systems to optimize project results, reduce waste and maximize efficiency.

These techniques are being implemented in the construction phase of 2nd + Delaware through doing first-run studies and mock-ups of the building processes to identify waste and monitor how long it takes to do different tasks.

Arnold noticed that there was a tremendous amount of movement and wasted time in one of the construction team’s practice runs, “which you don’t want to see at a job site because any time there’s sporadic movement, that’s waste,” he said. “We want to look like we’re moving very little but still getting things done… and we don’t want to tire out the workers.”

Once the “waste” areas were identified, the team was able to improve its productivity, which will reduce operating costs of the project. In this case, operating costs came in at about $80 per square foot versus $85 per square foot for a typical multifamily building of the same size, Arnold said.

In addition to making the construction process more efficient, the development team looked to incorporate the most efficient systems possible to meet Passive House standards. Because Passive House is an energy certification system, the focus for the team was on tightly insulating and sealing the building so it is not as impacted by outside temperatures.

“Building insulation is the best bang for your buck when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint,” explained Gavin Staengl of Staengl Engineering, a partner on the 2nd + Delaware project.

The community’s planned 16-inch-thick concrete walls will also help keep the building resilient and able to withstand different weather conditions, he said.

Passive House also requires using an energy recovery ventilation system that reduces heating and cooling needs by about 90 percent from comparably sized apartments.

“We’re investing in a robust building envelope and downsizing and simplifying mechanical systems for this project,” Staengl said.

If all goes as planned, 2nd + Delaware will bring 276 market-rate units to the Kansas City area, and offer green features like urban farming on the roof and a pocket park next to the building, as well as a courtyard in the center of the development. A 500-space parking garage will also go underneath the building instead of on ground level to maximize space. Arnold hopes to begin excavation of the site shortly with the first residents planned to move in by early 2017.

To top off the energy efficient and labor efficient aspects of the project, 20 percent of the units will also be workforce housing.