Energy Commission Grant to Transform Low-Income Housing

RMW architecture & interiors is part of a design team awarded a $3 million grant by the California Energy Commission to renovate an existing mixed-use building in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood into a model of zero net energy (ZNE) design. ZNE design means that the building will utilize no more energy than it can produce onsite over the course of a calendar year, resulting in no energy utility costs and no greenhouse gas emissions from energy use.

The project site is the William Penn Hotel, which houses ninety-one low-income residents, including many formerly homeless and at-risk adults. Built in 1907, the building’s historic exterior gives it dignity. Its heating and cooling systems, however, are significantly out of date, leading to less-than-ideal living conditions for occupants and high energy bills for Chinatown Community Development Center, the nonprofit that runs the Direct Access to Housing program at this site. All of that is set to change. The 4-year project with national and regional leaders in advanced building energy systems will use the grant money to implement cost-effective, cutting-edge design upgrades to the building’s heating and cooling systems, insulation, windows, plug load, and energy controls. The project will also provide triple bottom line benefits with social, economic and environmental value and serve as a model for buildings nationally.

“This is a unique opportunity to engage a historically under-served part of our community in a project that will showcase building technologies and innovations while improving quality of life for building residents, and demonstrating ultra-high efficiency buildings can be designed to benefit all,” says Stan Lew, AIA, LEED AP, Principal at RMW and Executive Director of the San Francisco 2030 District. “This project could become a model for the others, after proving this business case, and our hope is that other affordable housing developers will take notice.” RMW architecture & interiors are the lead designers of the project.