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‘Super-Insulated Shell’ Called Key to Landmark Energy-Retrofit Project

Friday, May 20, 2011

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U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino on Friday paid a visit to what is being billed as the nation’s “largest and most aggressive energy-savings project of its kind.”

Donovan and Menino toured Boston’s 500-unit Castle Square Apartments in Boston’s South End, where the largest “Deep Energy Retrofit ever undertaken in the U.S.” is expected to slash energy use by 72%, say the Castle Square Tenants Association and WinnCompanies, a major affordable-housing developer and property-management company that directed the retrofit program.

The cornerstone of the project: the installation of a “super-insulated shell” on the building exterior that also will visually transform the property. Combined with a “super insulated” solar-reflective roof, high-efficiency windows and extensive air sealing, the retrofit program will increase the insulation value of the building by a factor of 10, the developers say. Additional energy savings will be achieved using small high-efficiency cooling and heating equipment, LED and CFL lighting, Energy Star appliances and solar hot water. Residents will remain in their apartments during construction.

Castle Square, in Boston’s South End, is described as “one of the city’s most critical resources for affordable housing.” The property’s 192-unit mid-rise building is the site of the energy retrofit.

 Castle Square before
Before: A view of the Castle Square Apartments prior to the start of the “Deep Energy” retrofit project.

The energy improvements are being made as a part of a comprehensive property-wide green renovation to be completed in March 2012. Highlights include a vibrant street façade and retail promenade on Tremont Street and the construction of a community center where Castle Square Tenants Organization will expand its program offerings, such as youth education and leadership, a technology learning center, a computer repair clinic, senior programs, multimedia production, and a teen center.

The Retrofit Wall System

The mid-rise building was originally constructed with no wall insulation, a design that yielded an abysmal R-3 rating. The retrofit will increase that value to R-40, the developers say. The roof upgrade provides an R-value of 40, up from the existing roof’s R-20.

In the retrofit, a liquid-applied air/moisture barrier is being applied to the original brick exterior wall, followed by a mineral-fiber air flow suppression layer and a new insulated metal cladding panel (see diagram).

 Castle Square insulated exterior wall system
 Castle Square Insulated Exterior Wall System

Heather Clark, principal of project team member Biome Studio, said keys to the project’s energy-saving technologies include the design of the exterior metal cladding, the air/moisture barrier and the mineral-fiber insulation.

“Shells of this type usually have a drip edge, but with that the insulation value would be reduced due to air and moisture” present in the drainage-plane space, Clark said during a phone interview with Durability + Design. The mineral-fiber material provides insulation while still allowing the area between the air/moisture barrier and the exterior cladding to function as a drainage plane.

The retrofit program began at the end of last year, with completion anticipated in 2013. Installation of the new exterior wall system and a sheet-membrane solar-reflective roof will get under way this summer, Clark said.

In addition to the energy-savings payoff, the exterior cladding—supplied by Kingspan Insulated Panels—will provide a significant aesthetic transformation, with primarily beige-colored panels to be accented with highlights in red and other hues.

Clark said extensive air-sealing measures in all the residential units will also play a central role in the energy-efficiency program. She said this “compartmentalization” of the units—sealing of new windows and of any gaps and penetrations for plumbing and wiring—will account for an estimated 40% of the energy savings.

Serving a pivotal role in the retrofit program is Building Science Corp., which provided consultation on details of the wall assembly and weather-sealing systems, Clark said.

‘A Model for Upgrades’

HUD is providing $6.7 million in funding for the project through the department’s Recovery Act Green Retrofit Program. HUD Secretary Donovan said the program “is creating hundreds of jobs and setting the standard for energy retrofits throughout the country.”

“By helping to make this development more energy efficient, we are also improving the quality of life for the hundreds of families who live here,” he said.

Larry Curtis, WinnDevelopment president, said the project “will result in unprecedented energy savings that ultimately benefit the residents of Castle Square and the city of Boston.

“We are proud to be part of such an ambitious project, and hope this will serve as a model for affordable housing and multifamily upgrades throughout the country,” he added.

 Castle Square after
After: Drawings of the buildings as they will appear after completion of the retrofit. In addition to energy savings, the new exterior will change the look of the buildings, “creating a vibrant street façade and retail promenade,” the developers say.

In addition to a position as one of the largest affordable-housing developers and property managers in the U.S., WinnDevelopment says it possesses “substantial expertise in developing and operating green properties.”

Participants in the project team also include Elton+Hampton Architects, Peterson Engineering Inc., and CWC Builders Inc.


Tagged categories: Air barriers; Building envelope; Energy efficiency; Reflective roof coatings; Solar reflectance

Comment from Jon Edwards, (5/23/2011, 11:12 AM)

This comment is for Heather Clark at Biome Studio: This project is fascinating - Could you describe the mineral fiber drainage plane in more detail and its approximate cost per square foot? Thank You! Jon Edwards BUILDING PRODUCTS GROUP jon.bpg@gmail.com www.buildingproductsgroupllc.com St. Louis, MO

Comment from Larry Royer, (5/23/2011, 2:25 PM)

Is it REALLY going to be ugly highlighter YELLOW??!! OMG that is an eyesore!!!

Comment from Larry Royer, (5/23/2011, 2:30 PM)

Is the roof solar reflective? or just white light reflective from TiO2? that doesn't reflect IR, the main heat comes from IR . Metal cladding? that will dent and look crappy in no time.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/25/2011, 8:42 AM)

Larry, TiO2 is good at reflecting from ~400-750 cm-1 in the IR region. You're right that it is pretty much transparent to the rest of the IR.

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