El Camino Real Apartments Earns LEED for Homes Platinum Certification

El Camino Real Apartments Hatch, New Mexico Green Insight Projects

The small village of Hatch, New Mexico has just under 2,000 residents. But every year they watch their numbers swell to over 30,000 for one big reason: The Hatch Chile.

Also known as the New Mexico Chile, these chiles find the perfect altitude, climate, and soil to grow in the Hatch Valley, located in the fertile Rio Grande River Valley. Tourists flock to Hatch to enjoy the many ways you can experience the vegetable in the small town fondly known as The Chile Capital of the World.

Something else Hatch can now boast of is the El Camino Real Apartments which stand as a testament that affordable housing can also have a lower than average environmental impact.

Project Details

With 60 total units and a community building, El Camino Real is designed to assist the agricultural workers who keep the Hatch Chile industry alive by offering income-based rent that fluctuates between the busy growing season and the off-season.

Because of its role as a low-income housing complex, El Camino Real utilized federal low-income housing tax credits. Because of this, the complex had to be designed and constructed to not only be 30% more energy-efficient but also achieve certification through LEED for Homes.

Green Insight worked alongside developer Thomas Development and contractor Cress Builders to assist them in achieving their green building goals. To do so, Green Insight worked with them on:

  • Project green goal facilitation
  • Identifying cost-effective design solutions before construction
  • LEED for Homes credit verification
  • Testing during construction
  • Energy modeling
  • Building materials assessment
  • Review of specifications, construction documents, and project submissions

Project Challenges

One of the biggest challenges the team faced was the location of the complex. Hatch sits on a floodplain and has been known to be overwhelmed by stormwater. The worst flood was in 2006, but many flooding episodes have cost millions of dollars in damage. Therefore the team had to find a solution by designing a project that would not only be safe during a flooding event but would also improve the surrounding area in the process.

Additionally, developers wanted to create a complex that would qualify for both the federal 45L tax credit for energy efficiency as well as New Mexico’s Sustainable Building Tax Credit. This would require significant efforts to design and construct a project that was not only safe but energy efficient.

Solutions

To combat the challenge of stormwater damage, the design team found a way to minimize the damage that the project may receive in the event of flooding. They were able to do this while still maintaining enough space for the project in its entirety. The project also features a retention pond to catch water runoff from the hills above.

Green Insight worked with developers and builders in a variety of ways to make sure they met their energy efficiency goals for the project. Solutions included inspecting of wall, roof, and insulation systems to reduce the heating and cooling loads of each unit.

Fixtures in all units were also selected because of what they contributed to the energy efficiency of the unit. Additionally, solar photovoltaic panels were added to the project to use sun-generated energy to reduce the remaining energy usage of the complex.

Results

Through Green Insight’s collaboration with Thomas Development and Cress Builders, the El Camino Apartment complex not only met but exceeded its goals for sustainability. Altogether, the finished product earned:

  • LEED for Homes Platinum Certification
  • A $360,412 tax credit from New Mexico’s Sustainable Building Tax Credit
  • An $80,000 Federal 45L Tax Credit for energy efficiency

In all, El Camino Apartments was designed and constructed to be 70% more energy-efficient on average, an achievement that helped them earn the highest possible ratings in the LEED for Homes certification process.

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