Location: Cambridge, MA
Client type: Public Housing Authority
Total SF: 124,000 s.f.
Number - DUs: 180 original, 177 after renovation
Budget: $32,500,000 or $262 p.s.f.
In the early 2000's the Cambridge Housing Authority initiated a program of renovations to upgrade its older buildings, but a growing vacancy rate and declining wait-list suggested deeper problems that could undermine the success of any renovation program. Tise Design Associates was contracted to work with the Cambridge Housing Authority on redevelopment options for over 600 units over multiple sites. LBJ Apartments, a 180 unit high-rise, was the second facility targeted for reconstruction. The design team engaged a marketing consultant to explore specific issues in the City’s affordable housing inventory. We also embarked on a year long process with both residents and the Housing Authority to generate a shared vision for significant change.
LBJ Apartments a pre-cast multi-family apartment building was designed in the early 1970's by Benjamin Thompson, AIA Gold Medal recipient and former dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design. However, the building posed unique challenges in renovations in order to meet 21st century needs:
• Existing studio apartments of 385 SF had little appeal in a market where larger units and separate bedrooms were now the norm.
• Long-term residents aging in place required amenities and services that were not envisioned at the time of construction.
• Sustainable building standards demanded high-performance mechanical and electrical systems, renewable energy sources and sophisticated controls.
• Precast wall and floor panels - rife with waterproofing failures - restricted upgrades for wiring, plumbing and duct work to a few vertical chases.
Residents, both seniors and non-seniors with disabilities, were at first skeptical of the proposed renovations, fearing displacement, intrusive construction and unknown outcomes. Intensive multi-lingual workshops addressed topics such as unit layouts, appliance selection, phasing, and funding. 3D computer models and full-scale site-built prototypes empowered residents to help articulate an ambitious, yet ultimately achievable set of architectural and procedural goals. Ultimately, it was the resident's commitment to building a renewed community that raised the bar on project goals. The outcome resulted in a range of adaptable and accessible features, energy conservation features and the use of “Made in America” products.
Specific tasks included the following:
• Expand unit footprints by enclosing recessed balconies.
• Separate the sleeping from living areas with new partitions.
• Reconfigure kitchens day-lighting, with raised bases for lower cabinets, open shelving, expanded storage, and Corian counters.
• Reconfigure bathrooms for safety and choice, with interchangeable modular tub and shower units.
• Improve common areas to accommodate new social programs and create a non-institutional, market-rate ambience.
• Create an accessible landscape that can accommodate outdoor dining and group activities.
• Improve thermal efficiency by new continuous EIFS skin and high efficiency windows meeting ADA operating thresholds.
Energy consumption requirements were part of a special stimulus grant awarded to the city of Cambridge by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency to explore conservation in high-rise buildings. The baseline criteria required overall consumption to be reduced by 50% over a 5 year monitoring period. Working with 180 occupied senior apartments, we designed a total renovation using state-of-the-art mechanical engineering strategies to support fully occupied, phased renovations.
Renewable systems meeting strict efficacy criteria included:
• heat recovery
• thermal sidewall, with a new high-performance exterior envelope
• high efficiency gas boilers
• a modular chiller
• use of Energy Star appliances, water-saving fixtures
• cabinets and flooring from sustainable sources
We were able to reduce energy consumption 66% in the first year while simultaneously introducing central air conditioning.
Part of the project’s success is due to the Housing Authority's remarkable flexibility in accommodating the needs of its oldest residents. A great deal of its success is also attributed to the extraordinary upgrade in energy performance. TDA received a Boston Society of Architects / AIA Annual Design award for LBJ Apartments in 2015 and a Boston Society of Architects /AIA Sustainability award in 2016.
Stephen E. Tise, Sr., AIA, Principal of TDA, is an award winning architect recognized for master planning and housing design across a broad socio-economic spectrum, synthesizing disparate principles into cohesive, humanistic resident oriented strategies.
His talent for architectural form and detail bridges an obvious gap in project types. His work in affordable housing is widely recognized for its refinement and attention to detail. Steve has always felt that clients with limited housing choices are entitled to the same standard of care as those with unlimited choices.
Today the work of TDA follows Steve's award winning approach synthesizing individual principles of defensible space, New Urbanism and programmed public/private realm open space into humanistic, resident oriented redevelopment strategies that integrate critical social service concepts into physical planning and design.
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