PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Bernice Elza Homes, a 6,500 SF innovative affordable housing initiative designed by UPenn students, begins construction today. This collaborative project between the students, the architects, and the community will take affordable housing to a new level by incorporating sustainable design techniques.
Bernice Elza Homes, located in West Philadelphia, will provide low-cost housing for formerly homeless teen mothers and their children. The PECCDC, the developer of the project, also envisions an on-site case management office to coordinate services for the families as they move toward independence.
The Bernice Elza Homes design presents an affordable solution through the use of sustainable design features, such as natural day lighting, ventilation, storm water management techniques, incorporation of low VOC paints and materials for interior finishes. The students incorporated these design features keeping in mind the rigid cost limitations associated with the project.
Sustainable affordable housing is a largely untapped area often due to the sizable costs to install the systems and reluctance to explore new ideas on modest budgets. However, most developers don’t realize that the savings in energy costs far outweigh the initial investment. The project group hopes to receive Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority funding to support the use of photovoltaic panels to harness solar power. The incorporation of this technology could help reduce the energy bills by as much as 50% in summer and 25% in the winter months.