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SCinIC | Site Visits & Tribe Updates | Akwesasne Housing Authority Site Visit

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Akwesasne Housing Authority Site Visit«

July 31, 2012

New Sunrise Acres unit. PV array. Solar domestic hot water on Sunrise Acres unit roof. An older Sunrise Acres unit.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe is located in New York and Canada, along the U.S.-Canadian border, on the St. Lawrence River. As the location might lead you to believe, this community is located in a cold climate. Over the course of a year, the nearest weather station, about 13 miles away, recorded 6,588 heating degree days and 574 cooling degree days.1 Degree days give an indication of how long and intense the heating and cooling seasons are. These are used to help track how electricity and gas usage correspond to seasonal weather changes.

In the summer of 2011, the St Regis Mohawk's Akwesasne Housing Authority (AHA) completed construction on a cutting edge housing development for seniors. The development features 20 residential units. These are single-story 2-bedroom apartments in 4-unit multifamily buildings. The development also includes a training center. The buildings were built with insulated concrete form (ICF) walls and heated/cooled with a geothermal system. Other energy efficient technologies and strategies include: metal roofs, blown in cellulose insulation (6 in over fiberglass batts), insulated slab foundations, low-e windows, solar tube system domestic hot water, ENERGY STAR rated appliances, and CFL lighting. The development also contains six photovoltaic arrays (each array produces 5.04 kilowatts) to decrease electricity costs. The development was funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act funds..

AHA began to collect utility data to compare with utility costs of its older elderly multifamily units and, thus, determining the most cost effective retrofits. AHA reached out to the Sustainable Construction in Indian Country (SCinIC) initiative for assistance in modeling this data comparison and recommending energy cost reduction measures (ECRMs).

SCinIC team visited AHA July 31-August 1. There team members toured the new units and the training facility, visited the largest hydropower project in the United States (a joint project with Canada), and collected some additional data.

The comparison multifamily units were built in 1998. They are 2-bedroom, similar in size to the new units, and are in 4-unit single story buildings. The comparison units are a typical wood frame construction with siding over Tyvek house wrap over OSB sheathing. The roofs are asphalt shingle with R-38 insulation above the ceiling. The slab foundations are insulated and windows are double pane glass in vinyl frames. The units are kerosene oil heated and cooled with individual window units; buildings include electric water heaters. Units did not yet have ENERGY STAR rated appliances but did have some CFLS.

According to the SCinIC's energy analysis, in one year each of the older buildings units spent $8,176 in heating and electricity costs, while the new buildings each spent $4,110. This is a 58 percent decrease. Part of the decrease is from lower meter costs and lower rate cost. Watch for a report to be issued shortly which will include cost-effective energy cost reduction measures that AHA can use to lower the utility costs of its older units, building on the success of the new units.