A New Neighborhood Approach: Meeting Fort Collins’ Affordable Housing Gap


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Bruce Hendee, RLA

IBE Advisory Board Member


Affordable housing became an issue in Fort Collins shortly after the end of the Great Recession. At that time, a perfect storm of conditions led to a dramatic decrease in the availability of affordable housing that has continued to this day.

In 2014, Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity’s Board of Directors and Executive Director, Kristin Candella, recognized the need to address this shortage of affordable housing stock. In response, the Board set an aggressive goal to build 50 new affordable homes by the year 2020, more than doubling the homes built by Habitat over the last twenty years—an especially challenging task given that all are built with volunteers. The goal required a new neighborhood approach that would yield more homes in less space to keep individual costs down.

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Harmony Cottages perspective.

The Perfect Storm for an Affordable Housing Crisis

As the lingering effects of the Great Recession began to wear off, there were few new housing units on the market. New housing starts had slowed due to the shortage of credit available from lenders in response to tightening legislation from the Federal Reserve. Developers were reluctant to invest in new projects because of the weakened economy and the Construction Defects Law, a new state law that made it easier for builders to be sued in building new condominiums. Construction of new condos came to a halt, putting further pricing pressure on entry-level housing.

At the same time that housing starts were at a dramatic low, Fort Collins was recognized as one of the best places to live and raise a family in America. The city and the Front Range became one of the favored locations to move. Simultaneously, Colorado State University was anticipating significant growth in student enrollment and had over $1 billion in new construction planned over a 10-year period, while Fort Collins-based corporations (such as Woodward and Otterbox) were building major new manufacturing and corporate facilities.

The resulting storm of immigration, lack of housing under construction, and a newly emerging, booming marketplace for jobs created a vacuum in available housing. The shortage caused housing prices to rise and affordability to become an issue.

Cottages and New Urbanism: Maximizing Space & Minimizing Cost

To realize the vision for 50 new affordable homes, Habitat for Humanity decided on a site located at Harmony and Taft Hill Road. But the original land plan contained only 30 lots whereas close to 50 were required to meet the goal. Additionally, the cost of lots would be too high spread over only 30 lots. With a targeted objective of attracting residents making an income in the 35-60% range of area median income, Habitat had to keep site and home costs down in spite of a rapidly escalating residential market.

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Harmony Cottages site plan. Image courtesy of Ripley Design, Inc.

To meet this challenge, Habitat teamed up with a local social impact developer and retained a design team that included two IBE Advisory Board members, Bruce Hendee, ASLA, and Greg Fisher, AIA. The team also included local landscape architecture firm Ripley Design, which has significant neighborhood design experience.

The team was given the charge to develop a denser site plan that added more lots while creating a great community. Design began with an intensive charrette and used a blend of New Urbanism and Pocket Neighborhood concepts, which originated from early neighborhood designs begun by Ebeneezer Howard and Frederick Law Olmsted during the Garden City Movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s. This concept evolved around small garden commons surrounded by cottage-style homes. To increase density, Fisher developed a duplex home style with gabled roof lines that made the duplexes appear as though they were two single-family homes. The community court concept, paired with the unique duplex style, enabled the project to expand from 30 to 48 units, a nearly 60% increase in density. An added benefit was the preservation of 40% open space.

A Collaborative Model for Affordable Energy

A key project requirement was to create highly efficient, low-cost homes. For families earning a low to moderate income, paying for heat often falls to the wayside in the interest of other, more critical needs. Therefore, a design that would keep residents comfortable at a very low energy cost was key.

In consultation with the City of Fort Collins Utilities’ Integrated Design Assistance Program (IDAP), Fisher designed homes with an exceptional building envelope and highly efficient electrical systems. IDAP enabled the team to conduct energy modeling of envelopes to further improve performance. The design process is still underway but has already yielded benefits, including analyzing the impact of the insulation. Spurred by a meeting that IBE facilitated early in the design phase, all insulation was donated by Johns Manville, helping bring down costs.

All homes were designed to accommodate three-kilowatt solar panels without charging residents more for their homes or more in energy costs. Fisher ensured the homes were positioned to ensure maximized rooftop orientation of solar panels. The solar provider, Namaste Solar, has generously offered to donate $1,200 of the cost of every solar panel for the first phase. Kyocera, the solar panel manufacturer, is considering providing reduced-cost solar panels. And, the City of Fort Collins is considering matching financing up to $25,000 toward a solar installation for the first phase through an income-qualified solar program.

The total cost of solar per dwelling unit is approximately $12,000. With initial donations of approximately $5,000, the remaining balance is $7,000 per unit. Two approaches are being considered to cover this balance: a Habitat fundraiser and social impact investment. Through the latter, philanthropic investors would purchase the solar panels and be repaid through a 30% solar tax credit combined with capturing the net difference in energy costs through net metering. Once repaid, the money could contribute toward new social impact investments.

A Youth-Designed Playground

A unique detail of the neighborhood plan is a playground designed in large part by Kinard Middle School students. With the landscape architects and school staff, students researched playground design for children with various disabilities and met at a local neighborhood park to draft designs atop sidewalks and picnic tables. The fresh perspectives they generated greatly enhanced the community design.


The Harmony Cottages project site is now under construction with plans to build six to eight homes per year, based on availability of donations and volunteer labor. With home construction beginning in 2017, estimated buildout is 2023-2025.

To learn more, visit the Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity’s website.


About Bruce

Bruce Hendee is the former Chief Sustainability Officer and an Assistant City Manager with the City of Fort Collins. Bruce is also founder and former owner of BHA Design, a landscape architecture and planning firm located in Fort Collins.

He has organized and directed various efforts in the Fort Collins area, including development of a new division within the City called Sustainability Services. While at the City, he led an effort to create a new Climate Action Plan, a new Economic Health Strategic Plan, and development of a Social Sustainability Department. In 2012, the division was recognized with the Robert Havlick Award awarded by the International City/County Managers Association) as one of the most innovative new city management systems.

As the CEO of BHA Design in Fort Collins, he led the firm in numerous projects along the Front Range including master planning and design for University of Colorado Health, PVH, Harmony Campus, and Medical Center of the Rockies. Other notable projects included the master plan for the Downtown River District, Fossil Creek Park, Spring Canyon Park, and projects with the University of Colorado and Colorado State University.


Go “Off the Rails” with the Urban Lab

Andy.jpgAndy Madrick

Sustainability Associate, Landscape Architecture


On Friday, October 7, the Urban Lab will select the winner of its “Off the Rails” competition. This juried competition challenges innovators to envision the revitalization of a busy, neglected strip in downtown Fort Collins, Colorado—one that is currently limited by the conflict between an active railroad and the adjoining public streetscape. “Off the Rails” garnered submissions from around the globe. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of the future of Fort Collins.

When: Friday, October 7, 6-9 PM during Fort Collins’ First Friday Art Walk

Where: Galvanize, 242 Linden Street, Fort Collins, CO

The Urban Lab is proud to announce that it has attracted a national panel of esteemed jurors, an international submission pool, and a high level of community engagement and sponsorship.

International Applicants

“Off the Rails” entrants include students and professionals, from Fort Collins to as far away as China, who contributed ideas as diverse as their backgrounds. This international perspective will lead to a more colorful vision of what the city could become in the near future.

National Jury

“Off the Rails” attracted a national panel of judges:

Mayor Wade Troxell—Mayor of Fort Collins since April 2015, Troxell’s top priorities are: 1) Fort Collins as an innovation community and 2) Civic leadership for youth and young adults.

Hansy Better Barraza—As both a practitioner and an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, Hansy is an expert in design methods that embrace social responsibility.

Walter Hood—Hood teaches landscape architecture and environmental design at the University of California, Berkeley. His studio practice, Hood Design, focuses on architectural commissions, urban design, art installations, and research.

Ed Goodman—Goodman’s diverse background includes more than 30 years of interdisciplinary problem solving with experience in entertainment, engineering, community design, marketing, branding, technology, organizational ecology, dreamscaping, experience design, and more.

Local Sponsorship

The Urban Lab garnered an outstanding amount of sponsorship for “Off the Rails” from local businesses along the Mason Corridor, demonstrating the community’s investment in the long-term future of the built environment. With community support, the Urban Lab believes that this competition will set the stage for a more vibrant, more engaging public space along Mason Street.

UniverCity Urban Lab is hosting “Off the Rails” in partnership with the City of Fort Collins and the Downtown Development Authority.

Laying the Foundation for Sustainable, Regenerative, Just Cities: EcoDistricts Summit 2016


katie_color.jpgKatie Vega

Sustainability Associate, Public Health


Sustainable. Regenerative. Equitable. Multi-generational. Community-driven. Collaborative. These six concepts stayed with me after my experience at the EcoDistricts Summit held at Denver University from September 13-15, 2016. The Summit is an annual conference hosted by EcoDistricts, a non-profit focused on developing a new model of urban regeneration and community development. The Summit convenes multi-disciplinary practitioners, researchers, experts, developers, professionals, academics, students, facilitators, and community members to collectively build a vision for a more sustainable and resilient future. IBE assisted in coordinating the Summit’s Research Forum, which took a deeper look at what’s needed to develop interdisciplinary teams across institutions to strengthen the bridge between collaborative research and practice.

As a new graduate and public health researcher, the EcoDistricts Summit was an incredible experience that inspired and challenged us to rise up and tackle existing and developing challenges in our own communities. My degree is in public health, but the Summit connected me to a large, diverse network of placemakers from the public and private sectors. During the three days, I saw firsthand how cross-disciplinary collaboration is the first critical step to better understanding topics like healthy community design, gentrification and displacement, clean energy and climate resilience, district-scale performance metrics, and urban regeneration. By opening the door to contributions from fields other than our own, we gain greater perspective on issues facing our increasingly urbanizing communities and can begin to develop truly innovative solutions.

During plenary sessions, examples of successful cross-disciplinary collaborations were shared from cities like Portland, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Panelists discussed the relationships that supported these neighborhood and district-scale projects, but most importantly, emphasized the community engagement that drove the efforts. Panelists argued that disinvestment in communities has led to increased gentrification and displacement in our cities and towns. In fact, the number of city tracts being gentrified has reached record proportions—such as in Portland, where 58% of eligible tracts have been gentrified since 2000, and Denver, close behind at 42% (ACS). Panelists shared strategies to create in-placement—from creating more affordable housing below 15% of Annual Median Income to launching Streetwyze, an online crowdsourced data tool that uses civic engagement to prioritize public investment.

One of the most important takeaways from the Summit was the notion that equity awareness should be institutionalized. This idea may seem like common sense, but the truth is that our city departments have placed most, if not all, of the responsibility for public health on a limited number of departments (such as Social Sustainability, Public Health, and the Housing Authority). In reality, departments across cities are responsible for the health of their citizens. A suggested approach is to engage leading community organizations in city planning processes and to invite community members to speak to City Council and individual departments. Perhaps by humanizing each department’s work, all city employees can be inspired to collaborate with fellow departments and community stakeholders to develop solutions that achieve health equity. No one person is responsible for all of the challenges rising in our urbanizing environment. Yet each person, no matter what field they represent, has important skills and experience to contribute toward solutions. This is the call to action that was put forth at the EcoDistricts Summit: We cannot take the weight of the world on our shoulders alone, but together—in collaboration with our cities, placemakers, and community members—we can create more sustainable, resilient, and equitable places.

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The relationship between IBE and EcoDistricts began almost two years ago when IBE was selected as a member of the Fort Collins EcoDistricts Incubator Team. Since then, IBE has been developing its approach to district-scale sustainability approaches in Fort Collins and Denver. As an EcoDistricts Summit partner, IBE participated in the Summit and assisted in coordinating the EcoDistricts Research Forum. Comprised of studio sessions, keynote speeches, plenary sessions, and tours of inspiring developments around Denver, the Summit provided an opportunity to network with community facilitators, professional landscape architects, and students from universities across the U.S., and to connect with a diverse group of advocates for healthy community development.

Resource
American Community Survey (ACS), 2009 – 2013. Retrieved at http://www.governing.com/gov-data/census/gentrification-in-cities-governing-report.html.

IBE Facilitates Colorado’s First Outdoor Green Wall

andy

Andy Madrick
Sustainability Associate, Landscape Architecture


In 2014, the City of Fort Collins launched the “Nature in the City” initiative to ensure every citizen has access to nature close to where we live and work. The focus of the initiative is on how our built environment can better contribute to our sense of nature within Fort Collins. One of the deliverables that IBE has been supporting is the development of a set of design guidelines aimed at implementation of design features that enhance ecological function and access to nature within the built environment.

However, many of these approaches have not been proven in our regional climate. One of these design features are ‘living’ or green walls.Living Wall

Partnering to Build Colorado’s First Outdoor Green Wall

IBE lead the administration, design, and installation of the first perennial, outdoor green wall in the State of Colorado in collaboration with: Perspective Design, the Urban Lab, CSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, and The City of Fort Collins Planning, Parks, Operation Services, Stormwater, and Natural Areas departments.

Why a Green Wall?

Green walls improve both indoor and outdoor air quality, provide the building insulation from heat and cold while protecting the wall from water and sunlight.  They help lower summer temperatures in cities by reducing heat gain on hard surfaces, known as the urban heat island effect. Green walls add vegetation to the urban environment and provide habitat for urban animal species.

Green walls are also great for people. Studies have shown that viewing and interacting with greenery reduces stress and mental fatigue, while improving feelings of neighborhood safety and overall well being.

The Fort Collins Green Wall project will serve as a high profile case study on the feasibility and creation of green walls in arid climates. The wall has been designed to showcase plants work best in a vertical setting and how urban habitats can be enhanced through green walls.  The project will continue to monitor success, evaluating the resilience of the plants, the efficiency of watering, and if energy savings are seen in the adjoining building structure.

 

Learn more:

American Society of Landscape Architects, Green Infrastructure

City of Fort Collins Nature in the City Initiative

The Urban Lab 

 

IBE Student Intern Opening!

Are you a student at CSU and have experience with marketing & graphic design?  Please apply for our internship!

Work on a variety of marketing and graphic design projects including collateral, website, copy, presentations, and managing our blog/social media presence. Tasks will include project management, graphic design, marketing, and writing for internal and public facing publications.

  • Internship is paid – $11-13 based on experience.
  • Position will require 5-10 hours per week with the potential for additional hours as project work allows.
  • Hours are flexible during normal business hours.
  • Minimum 18 month commitment, starting April 2016.

Key Functions: Graphic Design, Social Media, & Copy Editing

  • Graphic Design
    • Design and manage IBE marketing collateral
    • Edit and format presentations
    • Support IBE projects and clients in graphic development, report design, presentation design, etc.
  • Social Media
    • Follow key industry trends
    • Disseminate achievements of internal projects
    • Maintain presence on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
    • Manage blog calendar, support author delivery
  • Copy editing
    • Review, write, and manage website content
    • Draft new content for blogs, press releases, etc.
    • Review all content published by IBE for grammar and style

Desired Skills

  • Excellent communication and writing skills
  • Ambition & strong ability to take initiative
  • Exceptional enthusiasm and a commitment to learning
  • Experience with social media and wordpress
  • Experience in basic HTML, CSS, etc.
  • Proficiency with Excel, Word, & PowerPoint
  • Proficiency with Adobe Creative Cloud products (Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design)
  • Ability to commit at least 18 months and work at least 5 hours per week
  • Related course work in design, web development, and writing

About IBE

The Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) is housed within the College of Health and Human Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU) and our mission is to advance the development of healthy, thriving built environments. We form interdisciplinary teams of on-campus faculty and students, and off campus professionals to take research to practice.  Our paid internship program offers experiential education and practical knowledge for students who aspire to be leading sustainability professionals. Students are supported and mentored by senior institute staff and provide professional work products for our clients.

Learn more about our mentorship program.

 

How to apply

Please send the following items to Stephanie Barr at s.barr-at-colostate.edu.

  • Cover letter that includes:
    • An overview of your key strengths, both professionally and personally
    •  A description of your past experiences related to the primary duties and qualifications
    • The reasons you feel you’re a great addition to the IBE team
  • Resume that includes:
    • Previous work experience & current commitments
    • University program and relevant courses
    • 3 References
  • A writing sample (for example: a class paper, blog article, essay, report, etc.)

2015 WAS A BANNER YEAR. LET’S MAKE 2016 EVEN BETTER!

slider-07Thanks to IBE’s community of supporters, we’ve had a banner year. Together, we’ve worked passionately to build positive changes in the building industry, our communities, and the world. Join us as a partner to build upon our top accomplishments of 2015:

  1. Driving stakeholder value through sustainability in real estate investment. Harrison Street Real Estate Capital (HSRE) was awarded the GRESB (Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark) Green Star after IBE’s assistance for two years. IBE has developed and HSRE’s corporate sustainability program and guided initiatives that garner social, environmental, and positive economic impact for its investors.
  2. Studying the effects of school buildings on health and performance. EPA awarded CSU $1M to study the effects of school buildings on health and performance. Led by IBE, this research project is engaging the Sociology, Epidemiology, and Resource Economics departments. After this 4 year, longitudinal study a report summarizing the results will be published and will provide a decision making tool for school district capital improvements.
  3. ecodistrict

    The EcoDistricts Framework

    Developing a new focus on urban resiliency. Through seed funding from CSU’s Vice President for Research, IBE has created a steering committee to investigate triple-helix solutions for Fort Collins sustainability. With a goal to raise over $1M over the next three years, this team is using EcoDistricts, a national framework, to maximize project synergies and impact and help Fort Collins reach carbon neutrality.


  4. Helping design teams reach better decisions faster. 
    In July, IBE published “The Social Network of Integrative Design.” This white paper offers a social science-based approach to forming and facilitating effective, efficient design teams.
  5. Facilitating third party certification to drive higher building
    performance.

    To date, IBE has managed 35 LEED certif9ac39-greenglobes-165ications. We’re currently managing the certification in LEED and Green Globes of another nine projects.
  6. Mentoring tomorrow’s leaders. This year, IBE’s mentorship program hosted 15 students (representing eight CSU schools and colleges), bringing our tally of total mentees to more than 65. One alum, Evan Hughes, wrote us this summer to say, “I interviewed with Tishman and got hired as a Project Engineer, which almost certainly wouldn’t have been possible without IBE. Without a job in New York I probably would have starved or been eaten by rats, so I basically owe IBE, Josie, and Brian my life. IBE was absolutely one of the most valuable parts of my time in grad school.”

Help us build on these six accomplishments in 2016: Become a partner of IBE by making a tax-deductible donation  today. Thanks for your support!

Research Associate Job Opening

The Institute for the Build Environment is now looking to hire a new member to our team. Please read the following job description:
Title: Research Associate I and II (depending on experience)
Employment Type: Administrative Professional
College: Health and Human Sciences
Department: The Institute for the Built Environment
Salary: Salary is commensurate with level of training and research or teaching experience.
Requirements: The Institute for the Built Environment seeks applications throughout the year from individuals who are interested in obtaining a temporary (i.e., time-limited) Research Associate position within the unit. Research Associate I Applicants applying for such a position must hold at a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree plus one year experience in an appropriate discipline, such as construction management, landscape architecture, civil engineering or another design and construction related field. Research Associate II Applicants should hold a minimum of a Master’s degree plus two years related experience in stated disciplines above. Applicants should have prior experience in the day-to-day organization of design projects, including coordination of project teams, coordination of data and research collection, and project management. Excellent oral and written communication skills and good computer skills are important requirements. Reflecting departmental and institutional values, candidates are expected to have the ability to advance the Department’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Salary is commensurate with level of training and experience.
Application Deadline: 06/30/2015
To Apply: Interested applicants should electronically submit a cover letter stating their interest  in employment, a current resume/curriculum vita, a statement of experience, and the  names and contact information for three references to the Institute for the Built Environment: joan.trussell@colostate.edu
Pool is valid through June 30, 2015, at which time applicants wishing to remain in the pool must reapply.
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Colorado State University is committed to providing a safe and productive learning and living community. To achieve that goal, we conduct background investigations for all final candidates being considered for employment. Background checks may include, but are not limited to, criminal history, national sex offender search and motor vehicle history.