flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
catfish1 - bottom
Currently Reading

Carbon-neutral apartment building sets the pace for scalable affordable housing

Multifamily Housing

Carbon-neutral apartment building sets the pace for scalable affordable housing

Project Open has no carbon footprint, but the six-story, solar-powered building is already leaving its imprint on Salt Lake City’s multifamily landscape. 

By Mike Plotnick, Contributing Editor | September 10, 2019
Project Open, Salt Lake City, Carbon-neutral apartment building sets the pace for scalable affordable housing

Project Open, a net-zero energy, $16 million, 112-unit rental community in Salt Lake City’s Guadalupe neighborhood. Utah artist Chuck Landvatter painted the seven-story, 30-foot-wide mural of a man and girl (modeled on the artist’s daughter). Photo: Brandon Hyatt Photography


The $16 million Project Open rental community of 112 one-bedroom units is the product of Giv Development, a Salt Lake City developer that specializes in mixed-income housing communities. Its not-for-profit arm explores new concepts for affordable, sustainable housing. 

“We’re interested in developing a scalable net-zero model that will start to shift market dynamics and encourage developers to recognize that building this way is the economically intelligent thing to do,” said Giv Group Executive Director Chris Parker.

The all-electric building is located in the city’s Guadalupe neighborhood, an urban district on the front lines of gentrification. “We want the building to serve as a bulwark against the population being pushed out as property values continue to rise,” said Parker.

About 70% of Project Open’s units are set aside as affordable, some with rents as low as $375 a month. A historic furniture warehouse behind the building was converted into amenity spaces and 14 studio workspaces for rent by resident artists and entrepreneurs.

“I love what Giv is doing to make sure the neighborhood will remain affordable for people who have lived here for generations,” said tenant Valarie Williams. She moved into the building when it opened in January 2017 and also rents studio space for her part-time hand-lettering business. “The fact that it’s sustainable and also gives me a space in which to create was icing on a really great cake,” she said.


The clubhouse of Project Open resides in a historic furniture warehouse that Giv Development renovated into 14 affordable creative studios, a gym, and a conference room, in addition to the clubhouse. The reconstructed building is now another emission-free component of Giv’s Project Open complex. Photo: Brandon Hyatt Photography


Goldman Sachs, Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund, and Utah Housing Corporation provided funding. Although no solar tax credits were issued, Rocky Mountain Power set up the solar program and provided transportation and energy-efficiency rebates.

Lowering carbon emissions is a high priority in Salt Lake City. Air quality is particularly poor during winter months, when prolonged inversions cause cold, stagnant air to settle in mountain basins and trap pollutants. The metro area ranked eighth nationally in so-called PM2.5 spikes, which measure small particulate matter pollutants, according to the American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report.

Addressing the region’s air quality problems is “an issue that has to be taken up collectively or no one gets much benefit,” said Parker. “Utah’s population is expected to double in the next 30 years, so there’s a bit of urgency here.”


FINE-TUNING THE carbon neutral apartment APPROACH

Space limitations on the roof made it impossible to power the entire six-story building with rooftop PVs. Instead, residents purchase their electricity from Rocky Mountain Power’s Subscriber Solar program, via solar panels housed at a power facility in central Utah. “The program offers reliable solar production without any upfront capital costs, which provides a real market incentive to move to electrification,” said Parker.

Each residence is heated and cooled by an individual heat pump, but Giv also opted to install a supplemental resistance heating system to make sure residents can stay warm in Utah’s brutal winters. Tankless electric water heaters added to total energy demand, necessitating an upgrade to a 150-amp circuit breaker in each unit. 

“It really caught us off guard how difficult and time-consuming it was going to be to route power to the units,” said Tyler Hollon, Business Development Specialist at general contractor Wadman Corporation. “We had to run six-gauge wires to each unit and didn’t really plan for enough room in the walls to make everything fit.”

Hollon anticipates all-electric buildings will become the local standard as technology advancements and construction ingenuity continue to make the project economics more appealing. “I wouldn’t be surprised if half the units will be built this way in two years,” said Hollon, whose firm is currently building about 1,200 carbon-neutral residential units throughout the Salt Lake City area.


Related content: Deluxe parking: A condo building in Philadelphia offers its owners a completely automated parking service


Project Open phase two, currently under construction and scheduled to open later this year, will offer a wider range of living options, from live/work studio apartments to four-bedroom units. The two-building complex will integrate high-efficiency mini-split heat pumps, hybrid heat pump water heaters, and no-backup resistance heating units to save energy. It will also incorporate more amenities that support a low-carbon lifestyle, such as an electric vehicle ride-share program, e-bikes, and a fresh food space to lessen the need for frequent trips to the grocery store.

A planned third phase, expected to break ground in 2020, will incorporate some condominium units.

Ultimately, Giv wants to provide local developers, contractors, and architects with real-world residential models that outperform conventional properties from an economic, environmental, and social equity standpoint. Project Open is creating a public website where it will share real-time data on each building’s energy use, construction costs, and the specific building systems and products that were used.

“We envision Project Open as an open source research tool for anyone—including us—to keep thinking about solving the challenges we currently have with the way we build,” said Parker.


DEVELOPER Giv Development  
ARCHITECT Architecture Belgique  
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Canyons Structural  
CIVIL ENGINEER Focus Engineering  
ENERGY CONSULTANT Provident Energy  


Photo: Brandon Hyatt Photography

Photo: Brandon Hyatt Photography

Photo: Brandon Hyatt Photography

Related Stories

MFPRO+ Research | Feb 28, 2024

New download: BD+C's 2023 Multifamily Amenities report

New research from Building Design+Construction and Multifamily Pro+ highlights the 127 top amenities that developers, property owners, architects, contractors, and builders are providing in today’s apartment, condominium, student housing, and senior living communities.

MFPRO+ Research | Feb 27, 2024

Most competitive rental markets of early 2024

The U.S. rental market in early 2024 is moderately competitive, with apartments taking an average of 41 days to find tenants, according to the latest RentCafe Market Competitivity Report.

Designers | Feb 23, 2024

Coverings releases top 2024 tile trends

In celebration of National Tile Day, Coverings, North America's leading tile and stone exhibition, has announced the top 10 tile trends for 2024.

MFPRO+ Special Reports | Feb 22, 2024

Crystal Lagoons: A deep dive into real estate's most extreme guest amenity

These year-round, manmade, crystal clear blue lagoons offer a groundbreaking technology with immense potential to redefine the concept of water amenities. However, navigating regulatory challenges and ensuring long-term sustainability are crucial to success with Crystal Lagoons.

Building Tech | Feb 20, 2024

Construction method featuring LEGO-like bricks wins global innovation award

A new construction method featuring LEGO-like bricks made from a renewable composite material took first place for building innovations at the 2024 JEC Composites Innovation Awards in Paris, France.

Student Housing | Feb 19, 2024

UC Law San Francisco’s newest building provides student housing at below-market rental rates

Located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin and Civic Center neighborhoods, UC Law SF’s newest building helps address the city’s housing crisis by providing student housing at below-market rental rates. The $282 million, 365,000-sf facility at 198 McAllister Street enables students to live on campus while also helping to regenerate the neighborhood.

Multifamily Housing | Feb 16, 2024

5 emerging multifamily trends for 2024

As priorities realign and demographic landscapes transform, multifamily designers and developers find themselves in a continuous state of adaptation to resonate with residents.

MFPRO+ News | Feb 15, 2024

UL Solutions launches indoor environmental quality verification designation for building construction projects

UL Solutions recently launched UL Verified Healthy Building Mark for New Construction, an indoor environmental quality verification designation for building construction projects.

MFPRO+ News | Feb 15, 2024

Nine states pledge to transition to heat pumps for residential HVAC and water heating

Nine states have signed a joint agreement to accelerate the transition to residential building electrification by significantly expanding heat pump sales to meet heating, cooling, and water heating demand. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by directors of environmental agencies from California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island. 

MFPRO+ News | Feb 15, 2024

Oregon, California, Maine among states enacting policies to spur construction of missing middle housing

Although the number of new apartment building units recently reached the highest point in nearly 50 years, construction of duplexes, triplexes, and other buildings of from two to nine units made up just 1% of new housing units built in 2022. A few states have recently enacted new laws to spur more construction of these missing middle housing options.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021