The Village Centre in Brewer, Maine. Sandy Agrafiotis photography.



Village Centre is a 54,000 SF, 48-unit affordable housing project designed to be one of the largest passive house developments in the country. Located on a former brownfield site previously occupied by the State Street School, the three-story complex is Passive House US (PHIUS+) Certified, and is currently the 2nd largest passive house in the US and largest in a cold climate. The project was also awarded Best Multifamily and Best Affordable Housing project by PHIUS in 2016.

Thornton Tomasetti was the Passive House Consultant responsible for ensuring that the project meets the stringent energy performance criteria to achieve certification, which includes specific guidelines for the building envelope such as peak heat load, primary energy demand and airtightness. The project achieved a source energy use intensity of 50 kbtu/sf/yr and estimated to be over 60 percent more energy efficient than a code building.

One of the greatest challenges for the project was designing systems with such high standards while staying within a conventional budget. As a publicly-funded development under the Maine State Housing Authority, construction costs had a strict limit.

The sustainability team met the challenge by working closely with the architect and contractor to significantly downsize and simplify the cost of the HVAC system while increasing the performance of the building envelope. The scope of work included detailed energy analyses, evaluations of more than ten different HAVC systems and review of a variety of exterior wall and windows to select and install the most cost effective and energy efficient systems. High efficiency energy recovery ventilators are used to provide fresh air and recover the heat from exhaust air, while simple mini splits are used to provide cooling as needed.

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