Nominated by Timothy McDonald
As the first LEED duplexes in the country, and most importantly being sold at a market rate price, Thin Flats proves that sustainable building does not have to be more expensive. This is a fundamental mission of Onion Flats.
Some of the feature of Thin Flats include: "Row" home structure:most efficient form of housing, designed so that natural ventilation and lighting reduces need for artificial lighting and mechanical heating and cooling, radiant floor heating, solar thermal domestic hot water, HRV air filtering system, 6000 gallon rain water cistern collects all rain water that falls on buildings, 100% pervious site, intensive green roof, low flow faucets and fixture that reduce water consumption by 50%, drought tolerant, non-invasive and native plants, central home automation monitoring system that reduces lighting and overall energy costs (consumes 50% less energy than is required by code), FSC certified flooring, bamboo plywood stair treads and cabinetry, high efficiency appliances, grade 1 insulation package, recycled steel fencing, 30% flyash in concrete, electric car plug-in ports in parking areas (with optional electric car), recycled wood-composite siding, low VOC paints and adhesives, recycled drywall, 90% of all construction waste recycled and diverted from landfill.
Thin Flats is a unique experiment for Philadelphia, the region and the country. Scheduled to be the first LEED Platinum duplexes in the country, this project demonstrates that the highest level of sustainable building and living is not only possible but accessible in a dense urban setting. It also shows how this is achieved by working with existing typologies of dwelling in the city: the Row house/duplex. As such we hope that Thin Flats will be model of sustainable building for the country. We trust this project will educate the general public, private developers and politicians through concrete and measurable ways that sustainable building must be common place, not a series of novelty exercises for those who can afford it. We believe that through Thin Flats it will become that much more apparent to wider audience that the question is not what is the cost of “living sustainably” but rather what is cost of living otherwise.
Onion Flats, since 1997, has worked and lived by the fundamental precept that “sustainable” design is first and most importantly “great” design and that great design does not have to cost more than poor design. Poor design is simply design that doesn’t respond appropriately to one’s environment, ie, is irresponsible. Responsibility in design might simply involve orienting a building respectfully and effectively on its site, or thoughtfully bringing natural light and ventilation into a room, or putting a garden on one’s roof (we call it a Groof) to reduce heating/cooling loads, reduce storm water run off and double the outdoor garden space of the site, or planting low maintenance, drought tolerant and native plants around your home, or heating a floor surface (and therefore one’s body) rather than a volume of air (and therefore one’s head), or using paints and sealants that don’t contain harmful chemicals, or working with materials and people that are local, or collecting rain water and reusing it, or generating heat and power from the sun for free rather than paying for it from a non-renewable resource utility company. These all seem like intelligent, rational, cost effective and “natural” ways of being, thinking and designing, don’t they? If not, we hope that Thin Flats helps to make such ways of designing as commonplace and accessible as they are inspiring. We look forward to the day when “green” is not the new “black” as it has been so often suggested lately but rather the old “blue”, tried and true.
LEED Platinum status (pending...should be certified in January) The project must prove that it uses 50% less energy than is required by the IECC 2003 w/2004 code Manages and reuses all storm water on site. Reduced water consumption by 50%. Becomes an educational tool for all consumers, developers and politicians as to how one build affordable sustainable homes in urban environments.
The essence of living and building “sustainably”, as this project demonstrates, is about living and building thoughtfully, creatively, efficiently and sensibly. Thin Flats proposes “green” living is not an alternative lifestyle or a novelty product, but rather is grounded in common sense and is common place. Considering the impact of global warming on our planet and its resultant and ever-increasing “natural disasters”, the fluctuation in non-renewable fuel costs, the impact of the wars fought to protect those non-renewable resources and national security threats as a result of such wars, one begins to wonder if we have forgotten the meaning of common sense. Thin Flats puts the highest levels of sustainability within reach of the average consumer.