2015 Winner: Verdant Brainiac
The most scalable green renovation project, particularly one that is innovative and overcame significant challenges.
Who led the charge
Ali Gaylord Senior Project Manager, Bridge Housing Corp.
From her position on the Development team at BRIDGE, Ali Gaylord has developed a sharp eye for financial restructurings designed to maintain the high quality of BRIDGE’s portfolio of properties. Always on the look for creative ways to support projects, Gaylord has leveraged a variety of federal, state, and private funding sources to complete several renovations and recapitalizations.
- Get the right architects and energy engineers on your team and incorporate them in the decision-making process
- The analysis should be both physical and financial, taking into account lifecycle costs
- Good consultants can help both with developing scope and with getting access to funding that’s targeted to certain types of improvements.
Richmond City Center Apartments: From Lean to Green
“We’ve been able to increase stability for our building by better controlling the effects of rising energy costs,” says Senior Property Manager Ali Gaylord of renovations made to the Richmond City Center Apartments. But the best result of the project has been improving the quality of life for residents.
By 2013, the 64-unit complex in Richmond, California, was in bad financial straits and hardly a sustainable property. With a fresh flow of capital from a financial restructuring, the owners, Bridge Housing Corporation, commissioned a full building renovation.
Their primary goal: Enact a “green and blue” plan to reduce overall energy and water usage. To make it all happen, the Bridge team replaced sloped and flat roofs, installed new energy-efficient dual-pane windows and sliding glass doors, and put photovoltaic solar panels to work (one of the few aspects of the project that Gaylord says was easier than expected), supporting 60 percent of common-area electric load, among other improvements.
The initiative was not without its obstacles. “The overall project had a lot of surprises and unforeseen conditions, but the biggest problem we faced was the fact that the new high-efficiency furnace in each resident unit creates about one gallon of condensation per unit,” she says. “Because this was a retrofit, there were no condensate drain lines in the furnace closets and it was a big challenge to figure out where to direct the large amount of condensation.” The team solved the problem (“the best we could,” says Gaylord) by creating small downspouts from the furnace closet and directing water off the side of the unit balconies.
"Our residents are living in a healthier environment–and their homes are using less energy. It’s a positive impact on their financial situation."
In common areas, the team re-landscaped courtyard planters with low water or native plant material and installed a water-saving irrigation system. Individual apartment units were also equipped with programmable setback thermostats, as well as energy-efficient refrigerators and bathroom exhaust fans.
By taking a whole-building approach, the project has generated economies of scale. “Our project also offers a model for how an affordable housing property can incorporate energy and water efficiency projects, along with energy generation, into a recapitalization scope,” Gaylord adds. She advises others tackling similar projects to “Keep an open mind about the scope. You may be able to do more than you think.”
CLOSE UP: Richmond city center apartments
What did we do?
Launched full building renovation that included a "green and blue" plan to reduce overall energy and water usage.
Why we did it:
The cost savings associated with energy and water upgrades was a major goal, along with establishing financial resources.
Bridge implemented a holistic retrofit that was sensitive to residents’ daily lifestyles, as well as their finances.
- Overall energy use has plunged 23.4 percent
- Solar panels support 60 percent of the electric load in common areas