Every community is more welcoming when neighbors know one another. In an affordable housing development, neighborhood connections take on a bigger role by providing a sense of safety and stability for residents, says architect Sam Kingore.

Community interaction was at the heart of the redevelopment of Maple Park, a 1940s affordable housing project recently updated and expanded from the original 30 duplex units to 56. Apartments are clustered around a central community building housing a daycare facility and other services.

To foster a close connection among residents, the architect emphasized places for them to meet and interact while minimizing the importance of automobile access. Entries are visible from the street and create focal points for informal interaction and gathering. A narrow drivewaylike loop slows cars and creates a safe pedestrian-oriented space while parking is tucked under the buildings.

The jury also was impressed that the net-zero development met extreme levels of sustainability—incorporating solar PV and hot water, low-VOC materials, and low-E dual-pane windows—for only $149 a square foot. “Residents have the luxury of having no electricity bill, so this is a real achievement,” they lauded.

On Site The project team wanted to incorporate materials with high thermal mass to help regulate indoor air temperature and decrease dependency on mechanical HVAC. But typical thermal mass choices such as concrete can be pricey so they used vinyl composition tile flooring over lightweight gypsum underlayment to achieve a similar effect at a lower cost.