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PHILADELPHIA-The Nellie Reynolds Gardens senior living project will become the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s first totally green building. The site at 25th and Glenwood streets is currently being cleared for construction of the 64-unit rental facility.

The building will be topped with a 20,000-sf, $1-million “Roofrug” made of three-inch-deep natural vegetation combining between five and 10 species of fleshy-leaved Sedum plants as cover. Installed by locally based Roofscapes Inc., it is designed to provide cooling in summer and moderate cold temperatures in winter to provide an estimated energy savings of between 10% and 20%.

“We know that every dollar we save on energy costs is a dollar we can invest in housing and neighborhoods,” says Carl Greene, PHA’s executive director. “Saving money on energy is more important than ever, especially when federal funding for public housing has been cut severely.”

Described as a “thin grain roof,” it is especially designed for buildings no higher than three stories with a minimum roof space of 10,000 sf. The rooftop vegetation will also keep 300,000 gallons of rainwater from running into the city’s sewer system. The ground-cover plants rely solely on natural rainfall and will flower at different times producing a variety of color.

Rising utility costs and concern for a healthy environment prompted PHA to make the commitment to go green, says Greene. Other green building initiatives at the project include Energy Star appliances and fixtures, recycled or “green label” carpeting and environmentally friendly paints, primers and caulking.

Ted Dillon, a home energy analyst for the Energy Coordinating Agency, estimates the combined efforts will reduce emissions by between 13% and 14%. PHA expects to receive LEED certification for the building, and Greene says the environmentally friendly features also helped speed PHA’s application for a building permit and obtain financing for the project.

The construction cost is $23.4 million. The three-story Nellie Reynolds Gardens facility encompasses 85,000 sf and includes a 12,000-sf Living Independently for Elders center that will provide health care services administered by the state.

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