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Green Building News

Onion Flats’ Big Multifamily Passivhaus Plan

A mixed commercial/residential development in the East Falls section of Philadelphia aims for Passivhaus performance

Rebuilding in Philly. The development proposal for this mixed-use community in Philadelphia’s East Falls neighborhood includes highly energy efficient buildings equipped with photovoltaic systems designed to bring them to net-zero-energy performance.
Image Credit: Onion Flats

Philadelphia-based developer Onion Flats has been mentioned in GBA at least twice before in connection with TED, a 1,130-sq.-ft. single-family home that was selected as one of three residential projects to win a spot in “From the Ground Up: Innovative Green Homes,” a competition co-presented by Syracuse University’s School of Architecture, the Syracuse Center of Excellence, and nonprofit housing and community groups Home HeadQuarters and the Near West Side Initiative.

Fifty-two teams submitted project proposals for the competition, which were evaluated for their design, sustainability, and affordability. Construction costs were capped at $150,000. All three winning projects were built in Syracuse’s Near Westside neighborhood.

Using PV to achieve NZE

More recently, Onion Flats, founded in 1997 by brothers Tim and Pat McDonald, has been focused on a project of markedly larger scale, although still with energy efficiency at the forefront. Last month, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority selected the firm to lead the redevelopment of a city-owned property close to the Schuylkill River, in the East Falls neighborhood. This project will be mixed-use: 126 rental units, 8,700 square feet of retail space, and an open area called “River Terrace.” Its performance goal, however, is to meet the Passivhaus standard, as an Inhabitat post noted, and to operate at net zero energy with the help of a photovoltaic system.

“I feel like this is an opportunity to do what we’ve been trying to do for a long time, to really kick it up in scale and do something that will not just impact a neighborhood but the city as a whole,” McDonald told PlanPhilly, a local news source affiliated with PennPraxis, the clinical arm of the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania.

Onion Flats now has until June to enter into a full redevelopment agreement, which will include a final sales price for the city-owned property, notes Newsworks, the online outlet of radio station WHYY. If construction begins in early 2013, as anticipated, the project could be completed in spring 2014.

We’ll have more on this as the project progresses.

One Comment

  1. Graham Swett | | #1

    Go McDonald Brothers
    Every design/build firm should be as creative, energized and socially responsible as these guys....can't wait to see this project come to fruition........oh, and we should all have as much fun as they do too!

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