These Seniors are Living Green

By Scott McCourtney

A beautiful LEED Platinum certified senior living community is paving the way for future housing. Paisano Green Community is 73 units with four different building concepts. With townhomes, courtyard units, flats and single room occupancy units, any senior can feel at home. Not only that, but can feel good knowing that the entire property is Net-Zero.

“This project has set a new standard for quality, sustainable construction and has brought significant attention to west Texas, the El Paso area and the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso. We are hoping that encourages additional sustainable development throughout the city,” said JV DeSousa Architect and Founding Partner of Workshop8.

“Affordable housing consumes significantly more energy per square foot than private housing. This is not only detrimental to the environment, but also puts an unfair burden on the millions of low-income households that sacrifice necessities such as food and medical care in order to meet monthly energy and rent payments. As cuts to the national HUD budget will continue over the next decade, we must diligently work to make more funds available to construct additional super-efficient housing and retrofitting existing affordable housing,” stated Gerald Cichon, CEO of Housing Authority of the City of El Paso.
The development of this wonderful community began after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act went into law in February of 2009. Of the $787 billion enacted by this law, $4 billion was allocated to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. $3 billion of these funds were given to public housing authorities like Housing Authority of the City of El Paso (HACEP). The reaming $1 billion was allocated on a competitive proposal basis. HACEP applied for part of the $300 million of funds that were for green building and renovation projects. In 2009, HACEP was informed that they would receive $8.25 million for construction for the construction of the Paisano community. HACEP then solicited proposals from top architectural firms in a national design completion in which they offered three prizes of $25,000 each to the top three finalists for the first round in February of 2010, followed by the second round of judging in April of 2010 to select the winning firm. Workshop8 of Boulder, CO was the grand winner of numerous applicants. HACEP then selected Pavilion Construction of Portland, OR for the general contractor.

The design and construction of the Paisano Green Community was only possible due to the high level of collaboration between HACEP, Workshop8, Pavilion Construction, and many local subcontractors. The high level was a direct result to push this project through as expeditiously as possible due to time requirements established by the Recovery Act. If an obligation or expenditure deadline was missed, HACEP would have lost their funding and the project would have stopped. The biggest challenge was securing the general contractor with only 50 percent of the design documents complete so that they could obligate 60 percent of the funds by September of 2010. The goal of the Recovery Act was to stimulate the economy as quickly as possible. HACEP therefore had to ramp up all of their efforts and work around the clock to make that happen. All finished work was completed in October of 2012. However, there were some struggles along the way in regards to the surrounding areas.
“A few hundred yards to the west of the site is the Bridge of the Americas. This is the busiest border crossing in the El Paso area with literally tens of thousands of cars and trucks passing through it each and every day. Out of this grew the idea of a large central park-like space, an oasis of sorts, around which the residential units would be arranged to create a self-contained neighborhood where residents would feel safe and secure. [Also], many of the vehicles crossing the border sit and idle for long periods of time as they wait to pass through the border security station. The result is a lot of vehicle exhaust being emitted all day and all night just to the west of the site. During the winter months, prevailing winds blow this vehicular exhaust across the site. To minimize the impact of vehicle exhaust from the outside on the indoor air quality in the residential units, the project included ERVs (energy recovery ventilators) with filtration systems. These units bring in fresh air and pass it through a heat exchanger to recover the energy from air being exhausted to the outside while at the same time filtering the air to improve indoor air quality for the residents.” said DeSousa

This integrated community protects the residents from multiple elements. The Paisano Green Community works only in this particular location. It would never occur anywhere else due to its location in the Chihuahuan Desert. HACEP installed 640 solar panels manufactured by Siliken Manufacturing USA that generate 155kW of electricity. They also installed two Xzeres 442SR wind turbines, air tight construction of the units, the use of four different insulation systems, low-flow water toilets and high albedo roofs that reflect a larger portion of the sun’s energy. In the end seniors will be living better than most us.

Scott McCourtney is an assistant editor of Builder and Developer. He may be contacted at

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