Updated: Jun 19
We won first place again!
It was a proud moment last year when LaRosa Building Group was awarded first place in the Large Multi-Family/Mixed-Use/Large category by the Connecticut Building Congress for Rockview Phase II in New Haven, CT. We always felt there was something special about the Rockview project. Formerly a 1950s rundown low-income housing complex, the Rockview project was re-developed into a quality mixed-income rental property with 62 affordable and 16 market-rate units in the northwest corner of New Haven. This project earned Energy Star v3.1 certification and the Indoor airPLUS label on all the residential units.
While Rockview was last year's winner, this year Rocky Neck Village in East Lyme, Connecticut received the same recognition, winning first place in the Large Multi-Family/Mixed-Use/Large category by the 2023 CBC Project Team Awards.
“Our submitted projects have been winning CBC awards for general construction, safety, and performance beyond the call of duty since 2008. But this is the first time we have been awarded First Place in the Large Multi-Family/Mixed Use category two years in a row. This consecutive win highlights the talents of our team and their abilities to navigate challenges together,” explained James LaRosa, Chief Executive Officer, LaRosa Groups.
This consecutive win is also a testament to Senior Project Manager, David Paul Pernal, who passed away at the age of 66, halfway through the project.
David was extraordinarily talented and a true professional. He had a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering with a minor in architecture from Roger Williams University. When he joined LaRosa, he brought years of experience as an accomplished senior project manager in the modular and construction industry. For three and a half years, he successfully delivered LaRosa projects with the utmost quality, and his dedication to his job was legendary. Pernal’s ability to mentor the LaRosa Groups team members was second to none, which allowed the team members to assume some of his roles seamlessly after his death.
The loss of our Senior Project Manager was only one of the many challenges we successfully navigated as a team, earning us this prestigious CBC award.
Here are a few of the strategies the team used to complete the project successfully:
Passive Housing: Passive House is the most stringent residential housing code and has 90% more energy than current typical buildings, even those which are energy-star certified. But with the benefits of passive housing come the challenges. One of the biggest hurdles was meeting the stringent requirement for air tightness. While the building code has a certain threshold for airtightness, the threshold for passive housing is much greater.
Team Resolution: Using a process called AeroBarrier which uses a blower door test to identify any leakiness and then blows sealant through nozzles to fill in the gaps, we were able to meet the air tightness requirements. We also had to meet the insulation requirements, which were also more stringent. In some cases, eight inches of insulation were inserted under the slabs of the house; normally, there are two inches. This added to the material expense and required the contractors to be extra careful in laying the slabs.
Aesthetic Design: Building the development to meet Passive Housing certification standards and keeping the aesthetics of the project, created by the design team, and required by the town of East Lyme, was a challenge. The team tried to submit a redesigned boxier version of the project which would have been cost-effective and easier to conform to Passive Housing standards, but the city did not want to reduce the esthetics.
Team Resolution: The intense collaboration between the design team and the Passive Housing consultant resulted in a design that mirrored the aesthetics of the original one yet integrated the air-sealing details required for Passive House certification. This project also had to meet fire codes. Passive House standards are designed to minimize and create very tight air barriers that sometimes conflict with building codes. The LaRosa Project Manager and the team researched alternative materials and ideas to bring to the design team so they could develop options to meet those codes cost-effectively.
Construction sequence: The project had an unusual architectural design, with many jogs and inside and outside corners to blend into the Lyme community.
Team Resolution: These corners made meeting Passive Housing standards more complex, and the LaRosa team had to modify the construction sequence. In most housing projects, you frame and put on the exterior sheeting. To meet the Passive Housing standards, the team had to complete 90 percent of the framing, add the sheeting and then complete the framing.
“We stayed late. We worked Saturdays. Together with our team of loyal subcontractors, we were able to master the sequence modifications,” added Peter Bourque, LaRosa Project Manager.
Increased costs: Passive house buildings are expensive due to the cost of the materials and the additional labor required.
"You must build, stop, and then build some more, which is not the general way we proceed in our construction projects," explained Michael Anderson, Director of Operations at LaRosa Groups and who took over for David as Senior Project Manager.
There were also additional costs due to the addition of the AeroBarrier, which was not in the original projections, as well as the unanticipated escalating costs of lumber, etc.
Team Resolution: Whenever something came in over budget, LaRosa worked with the engineers to reduce the costs while complying with the owner’s needs and wants.
“It was a truly collaborative process,” explained Vincent Parete, Co-Director of Estimating at LaRosa Groups. “A prime example was the electrical systems. We reduced wiring to code and substituted light fixtures that fit the design of the project and the budget.”
It took a team of committed professionals to maintain the unique esthetics of this project, incorporate passive house standards, meet building and fire codes on a cost-effective level, and deal with the increased costs.
There are many people to thank for the completion of this project:
Funding from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA)
Design from the architectural team - Wallace Architects
Strategic recommendations from the Passive Housing consultant
Implementation by the trained LaRosa team members
The tenants of Rocky Neck Village can now benefit from lower electric bills, healthier quality of life, and the ability to reduce their carbon footprint while living in a location that is considered one of the best places to live in Connecticut.
“It is with great pride that we share our team’s success with our first large-scale housing project that was designed to offer tenants hope and a future. It’s all about the team, and this award confirms our ability to meet and exceed expectations,” concluded James LaRosa.
Integrating Passive Housing standards in the construction of multi-family affordable housing is our area of expertise. Let us help you with your next project. Schedule your free consultation today.
For more information about our award-winning Connecticut construction company, visit www.larosabg.com.