Castle Square Apartments in Boston will undergo a complete green renovation by 2012.

Castle Square Apartments in Boston will undergo a complete green renovation by 2012.

A 1960s affordable housing complex in downtown Boston is being renovated to the LEED New Construction-Gold standard, with super-insulated walls, air-sealing technology, and solar roof panels. The improvements are projected to slash Castle Square Apartments’ energy output by 70% at no additional cost to the residents, the developer says. In addition, the renovation of the 500-dwelling complex will implement a system rarely seen this side of the Atlantic: Kingspan insulated panels

The insulation, used mainly in Europe and Canada, consists of metal panels built over the building’s exterior that sandwich 6 inches of insulating foam for a thermal barrier that won’t eat into the interior living space. Its design makes it ideal for an occupied renovation, according to Darien Crimmin, vice president for energy and sustainability for WinnDevelopment, which co-owns the building with the Castle Square Tenants Organization.

“This renovation is extremely unique,” says Crimmin. “It’s never been done to this extent before. What we’re doing here is piloting a super-insulated shell.”

But super-insulated panels will not be the only form of defense against unwanted air transfer. Food odors leaking into neighboring apartments through air ducts are one of tenants’ biggest complaints, so the project plan calls for an aggressive system that will seal existing ducts from transporting pollutants from unit to unit.

Other green features include formaldehyde-free cabinetry and low-VOC carpets and paints. The project is part of a study for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comparing indoor air quality of a retrofit building with a typical apartment complex.

In addition, LED lighting, R-5/U-0.2 windows from Serious Windows, and 1,000 square feet of solar panels for heating water will help bring the complex up to the LEED-Gold standard, saving the building about 70% on total energy consumption, compared to what it uses now, Crimmin claims. 

Federal stimulus money is helping WinnDevelopment boost the project design to the Gold standard. Crimmin says construction will start in October and the project is scheduled for completion in 2012. Castle Square residents pay a fixed monthly rent that will not change even though the new green materials and techniques come at a premium price.

“I don’t want to say there is no cost increase on the construction side, because there definitely is, but there will be no cost effects on the residents,” says Crimmin.

Boston-based WinnDevelopment develops and manages multi-family, mixed-income properties throughout the U.S. It recently adopted LEED standards for all its affordable housing developments and plans to use lessons learned from renovating Castle Square for future projects.

Evelyn Royer is editorial assistant for EcoHome.