Design Tips, Construction Standard Updates and more

Staff Architects
Did you know Minnesota Housing has three staff architects available for technical assistance? 
Find out which architect works in your region.
Erika Arms: 651.296.9850
Jerry Narlock651.215.6239
Mike Thomas: 651.297.5135
Energy Saving Tips
A new water and energy saving tips brochure is now available. It’s a quick checklist of recommendations that pay for themselves within just a few years. 
Preservation Points
For projects seeking preservation points through the Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), a Critical Needs Assessment workbook must be included with an Initial Application.
Note that this Critical Needs Assessment will be in addition to all other Physical Needs Assessments/Capital Needs Assessment submittals noted in Chapter 3 of our Rental Housing Design/Construction Standards. Visit the Minnesota Housing Preservation page for more information.
Sustainability Housing Updates
Minnesota Housing, Minnesota Green Communities and Enterprise Green Communities convened a task force to develop recommendations on best assessment practices for moderate-scope multifamily rehab projects. The key outcome of this effort was a new, simpler prescriptive pathway in the Overlay.
The Enterprise Green Communities Criteria is currently going through an additional update and revision process. A new version is planned for early 2015.
Vertical Packaged Terminal Air Conditioning (VPTAC)
When designing and energy modeling new four-story apartments for compliance ENERGY STAR MFHR, meeting the 15% energy improvement may be a challenge.
The garage energy penalty being enforced by ENERGY STAR (and Minnesota Housing) may be difficult to overcome with current traditional Gas-Fired VPTAC efficiencies.
Although Minnesota Housing does not pre-approve manufactures, it’s our understanding that Magic-pak and DynaPak each have a product with a 90+ efficiency rating which may be available for your project now or later this year. This higher efficiency may help your project meet required energy efficiencies.
Minnesota Housing is pleased to launch the first Rental Housing Design & Construction eNews. We created this newsletter to better communicate our rental housing design and construction information with our developers, architects, contractors and other stakeholders.
You'll be receiving information about this year's Consolidated Request for Proposals shortly. We hope the tips in this newsletter will assist you in the application process.
Please email us if you have comments, questions or suggestions for future newsletters. You can also email us with photos and stories about your projects and the great work you're doing! 
Project Spotlight: St. Philip's Gardens
Summit-University neighborhood of St. Paul
Before
After
Architect: LHB
General Contractor: Watson/Forsberg
Originally built in 1972, this moderate rehabilitation completed in late 2013/early 2014 de-institutionalized the feel of the property through the use of attractive yet durable finishes, materials, and varied interior/exterior colors. The 1970’s shed roofs of the townhome units where enhanced with the addition of front entry porches which also help with site security by providing an "eyes-on-the-street" opportunity for residents. 
The scope of work included site/pedestrian improvements, storm water management, complete building envelope improvements, interior finishes, new cabinets, plumbing fixtures, lighting, and new appliances throughout. The project preserved forty-one project based section 8 units, created four long term homeless units, and added one new accessible unit (within a new building).
  • Construction cost: $5,115,000 ($94,722 per DU)
  • Total development cost: $10,233,994 ($189,518 per DU)
  • Minnesota Housing funding through Affordable Rental Investment Fund - Preservation and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits
Design Tips & Opportunities
  • Encourage active renters. Provide a monumental stair between the 1st and 2nd floor of a new apartment building to encourage residents to walk the stairs. 
  • Family meal time is important! Remember to include a separate dining area when creating rental housing for families. A kitchen island or peninsula is not ideal for large family eating or younger children.
  • Consider flooring placement. Remember to include and designate floor transitions on the floor plans. Make sure a single piece of furniture will be completely on one surface. Poor carpet/hard surface transitions at kitchen islands or peninsulas, for example, can render the space useless.
  • Identify unit types. All plans submitted to Minnesota Housing should have a unit tabulation on the cover page that clearly identifies the number of each dwelling unit type (1BR, 2BR, etc.), floor level location, square footage of each unit type, number/location of accessible dwelling units, and total dwelling units.
Rental Housing Design/Construction Standards Updates
Minnesota Housing’s Rental Housing Design/Construction Standards is revised for the 2014-2015 Consolidated RFP. Visit the Minnesota Housing Building Standards page to download the updated document.
Summary of revisions:
Chapter 2 – General Occupancy New Construction Minimum Standards
  • Adjacent bathrooms for split bedroom dwelling unit layouts requirement has been omitted.
  • Commercial space is required to be metered separately from housing space.
  • Fire extinguishers are required in all new townhomes and rental single family homes.
Chapter 3 – General Occupancy Rehabilitation Minimum Standards
  • Needs Assessor qualifications are now included.
  • Fire extinguishers are required in all existing townhomes and rental single family homes.
  • A clarification in the “Preliminary scope of work/cost estimate” section is included. The preliminary scope of work/cost estimate must be prepared by an architect, engineer or qualified rehab specialist. 
Chapter 6 – Accessibility Standards
  • The number of required “Type A Accessible” units for new construction is revised to be 5%.
  • Visually and Hearing Impaired units are now required for new construction. At least 2% of all units must comply.
  • Accessible parking stalls must match accessible units provided. Additional common area accessible parking shall be provided to meet ADA.
Chapter 8 - Sustainable Housing
  • A revised version (dated April 2014) of the Minnesota Overlay and Guide to the 2011 Enterprise Green Communities has been released. See updates noted below.
Chapter 9 – Design and Construction Standards for Federally Funded Projects
  • The borrower’s architect must provide an Accessibility Analysis for compliance with Section 504 for rehabilitation projects receiving federal funding.
ENERGY STAR for Homes v.3
A few new construction projects have reached out with questions on earning ENERGY STAR v3. Here are some items on the ENERGY STAR v3 checklist not typical to code construction in Minnesota today:
  • Install R-21 batts, minimum
  • Seal ducts completely and complete duct testing
  • Sealed/gasketed HVAC filter door and cabinet
  • Confirm ACCURATE Manual J and D and size heating and cooling systems accordingly
  • Hire a certified HVAC contractor
  • Complete HVAC commissioning: airflow testing and balancing, refrigerant charge tests, etc.
  • Confirm builder is certified as an ENERGY STAR partner (requirements here)
  • Secure site visits and testing by RESNET certified and ENERGY STAR accredited rater
One challenging item on this list is finding certified HVAC contractors. There are two certifying agencies where you can search for qualified HVAC contractors: Advanced Energy and ACCA. These are updated continually as additional contractors certify. As of March 3, 2014, there are 12 certified contractors in Minnesota. General contractors should encourage their favorite HVAC subcontractors to seek ACCA certification, as they may not be allowed to work on future ENERGY STAR projects.
General contractors included in an ENERGY STAR project team are required to join ENERGY STAR as a Residential New Construction Partner. It is important to engage a RESNET Energy rater early in the project and have them work with the general contractor and the ENERGY STAR Partnership process.
Minnesota Overlay to the Green Communities Updates
The Minnesota Overlay to the 2011 Green Communities Criteria has been revised in time for the 2014-2015 Consolidated RFP. Visit the Minnesota Housing Building Standards page to download the document.
Summary of revisions:
  • The Definitions of Construction Type is revised to provide a clear distinction between Substantial Rehab and Moderate Rehab.
  • Minimum requirements for multifamily moderate rehab projects are updated to include Criteria 7.6b Ventilation and Criteria 7.8 Combustion Equipment as Mandatory. 
  • Section 5: Energy Efficiency
    - Criteria 5.1b, Building Performance Standard, New Construction, multifamily buildings four stories or more.
    - A clarification is included regarding a “Garage Energy Penalty” being enforced by Enterprise Green Communities for projects using the Energy Star Multifamily High-Rise (MFHR) program. Enterprise has issued a formal letter regarding this matter.
    - A Prescriptive Pathway for compliance with moderate rehab building performance standards of Criteria 5.1c and 5.1d has been included. It’s based upon the Moderate Rehab Building Performance Standards Protocol Study noted above.
  • Criteria 7.6b, Moderate Rehab is a new Overlay item. This criteria was an optional 5 points, and is now a mandatory item. The Overlay includes Abandoned Ventilation System requirements and other dwelling unit ventilation requirements. It should be noted that this criteria's 5 points will count towards the minimum 15 points for moderate rehab. 
  • Criteria 7.8, Combustion Equipment. This criteria was only mandatory for new construction and substantial rehab. It is now mandatory for moderate rehab as well. This new Overlay item requires a Combustion Action Plan for existing Natural Draft Combustion Equipment proposed to remain.
  • Criteria 7.11, Radon Mitigation. This criteria Overlay is revised.  Multifamily Radon Mitigation requirements are removed from the Overlay and are now located at Minnesota Housing Environmental Standards page.
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