Passive House, the Village Centre, to Open this Month

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Village Centre passive house in Brewer Maine image courtesy of Community Housing of MaineWhen the Village Centre opens this month, the nation's second largest Passive House in North America will be in Brewer. The three story, 48 unit building, consists of affordable one, two, and three bedroom apartments, all equipped with Energy Star appliances. Community Housing of Maine has developed the unit, and Thornton Tomasetti served as the Sustainability Consultant.

Passive Houses are those built on design principals used to achieve energy efficiency, comfortable temperatures, and high indoor air quality. The highly insulated building has been engineered to avoid thermal bridging, or the presence of cold floors and walls in the winter that Mainers are all too familiar with. Indoor air will be frequently exchanged with fresh outdoor air, while heat will be extracted and reused as the fresh air flows in to the house. 100 photovoltaic panels will be installed on the roof to capture energy to be converted to electricity for the house and for the grid.

The result of these efforts is a house with no central heating system. Some electric heat will be generated as needed to maintain comfortable temperatures, but that will only be needed on the rare occasion.

The 7.6 million dollar housing development is the work of Community Housing of Maine, a non-profit organization that provides inclusive and affordable housing to meet the needs of Maine's working population and service enriched housing for people with low income and disabilities. The target audience for Village Centre is for working families and individuals who earn 60 percent area median income, adjusted by family size.

The efforts to increase efficiency raised the project's cost by approximately three percent. Ryan Cullen, Executive Director at Community Housing of Maine, believes it was worth the effort and investment. "We hope other builders will follow suit and learn from what we have demonstrated with this housing,” Cullen said.

The energy efficiency measures of the Village Centre are part of larger efforts of the development to promote livability and accessibility. The centre provides a community center and an outdoor playground for families. While there is onsite parking available, Village Centre is within walking distance of downtown Brewer and the Brewer Recreational Center and there will be a sheltered bus stop on site to allow for alternate transportation.

“This is cutting edge workforce housing in a sustainable package. People will have comfort and convenience while nestled into a village center near many amenities. It is a great place to live,” D'arcy Main-Boyington, Director of Economic Development for the city of Brewer stated. 

Thanks to Vickey Rand for providing the information for this article. Please contact her at vickey@chomhousing.org with any questions. Image credit: Kyra Walker.

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