Sustainable Low-Income Housing Case Studies

McKeesport Downtown Housing – McKeesport, PA

Downtown McKeesport, PA was home to a large YMCA facility built in 1922. When the YMCA closed, ACTION-Housing bought the property to convert it into an entirely multifamily residential facility as part of the Better Buildings Initiative[i]. The facility was renovated to be entirely single resident occupancy (SRO) and the target tenants were those at risk of homelessness. Through renovations, ACTION-Housing worked to make the building more energy efficient to reduce the burden of energy costs on the owners and tenants.

To maximize energy savings, designers decided to follow Passive Design criteria as addressed in Section 3.1. Low-cost triple-paned windows were added throughout the building to tighten the building envelope. Additionally, a geothermal heating system was added and new installed appliances were all ENERGY STAR certified.

The project cost came to $10.4 million, and annual energy savings sit at $24,000. Low-income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) covered a portion of the project cost. ACTION-Housing was able to cut energy usage by nearly 50%. The facility houses primarily individuals who have experienced chronic substance abuse, homelessness, and mental illness. At a given time, it is estimated that about 15% of the tenants are veterans.

Kaupuni Village – Waianae Valley, HI

Kaupuni Village, located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, is the result of a partnership between the Hawai’ian Home Lands Trust, the US Department of Energy (DOE), and NREL[ii]. It is a net-zero energy affordable housing community that integrates energy efficiency and solar energy to eliminate energy costs and provide native Hawaiians with well-made energy efficient homes.

Each home uses ENERGY STAR appliances, implements daylighting to reduce need for artificial light, ventilates naturally through outdoor air, and heats domestic hot water using solar thermal collectors. Remaining energy consumption is fed by a rooftop solar array, making the home net-zero. The homes are still connected to the utility grid in the event that the panels cannot produce enough energy to meet the house demands.

The Kaupuni Village setup is not ideal for all climates and locations in the United States. It is an important case study to consider because it employs solar PV on single-family homes and, in doing so, has scaled net-zero energy from building-level to community-level. Certain technologies and design strategies used in Kaupuni Village can be generalized to other locations and building types.

Arlington Grove – St. Louis, MO

Arlington Grove is a 112-unit apartment building in the 22nd Ward of St. Louis, Missouri. McCormack Baron Salazar renovated old buildings to create the sustainable complex that exists today.

A few of the green initiatives that went into the project include ENERGY STAR appliances, rooftop solar arrays, and water-conservation mechanisms to realize savings of 25-40% on energy and water.



[i] Showcase Project: McKeesport Downtown Housing. Better Buildings: US Department of Energy, 2013.

[ii] Kaupuni Village: A closer look at the first net-zero affordable housing community in Hawai’i. Hawai’i Powered, 2012.