Green affordable housing to break the cycle of poverty

Back in June, we brought you word that the Via Verde affordable housing complex had opened its doors to residents in the Bronx. 

Now, in another gain for green affordable housing in New York City, The Hegeman Residence has opened in Brooklyn. 

Designed by Cook + Fox Architects and developed by Common Ground Community – a non-profit with a mission is to end homelessness – the development provides housing for low-income and formerly homeless individuals, as well as a range of on-site social services in a model known as supportive housing.

This 64,649-square-foot building (which comes to us via Archdaily) was developed as part of Common Ground’s Green Campaign, which emphasizes healthy living through health and indoor air quality, restorative and biophilic design, and best practices for helping tenants save money on their monthly energy bills. 

In accordance with that focus, the apartments at The Hegeman feature views of green spaces and plenty of access to natural sunlight, as do the building’s offices — notably, even those located below the ground level. An inner courtyard provides a green space for community gardens as well as a protected space for families and other residents to relax and socialize.

The Hegmen is located in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, which currently has the highest concentration of NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) developments in New York City. This is due to the area’s history: when a wave of arson in the 1970s destroyed most of the residential structures, it left the area blighted. 

In the wave of urban renewal that followed, many of the homes and apartment complexes that were rebuilt were designated as low-income housing.

The area has since seen many of the problems associated with poverty, including (ironically) homelessness. Common Ground’s approach is to help its residents overcome the conditions that contribute to homelessness through on-site services addressing essential health, mental health, and occupational needs, while also creating opportunities for socializing, recreation, and community connectedness.

Currently, Common Ground has operates sixteen affordable housing complexes in New York City.

A key green feature of the Hegeman is the fact that is a brownfield development, located on the site of a former parking lot. Energy efficiency was a consideration throughout the building’s layout and design: energy efficient lights tied to motion sensors help to save electricity when rooms aren’t in use, and individual room-metering capabilities give residents and administrators control over the building’s overall energy usage. 

The Hegmen’s 3,400 square-foot green roof helps the building keep its cool during the hot summer months, and insulates it during the winter, all while helping to slow and filter storm water rolling off of the site.

A roof-mounted solar array powers the building’s exterior lighting, and infrastructure is in place for a future co-generation system (increasingly a hot item in New York). The building’s residential units are finished with durable, non-toxic materials, increasing indoor air quality while decreasing the costs and resources associated with replacements and repairs.

All told, the building is expected to take LEED Silver certification, as per Common Ground’s design focus for new developments since 2005.

Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling