Senior citizens have a new place to call home in Camden, New Jersey, a place that’s not only comfortable, but environmentally friendly as well. Conifer Realty completed Conifer Village at Ferry Station in February 2012, a modern senior housing project that includes 40 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units and offers several green accoutrements.
The project, developed, owned, and managed by Conifer Realty, a 35-year-old firm based in Rochester, New York, includes two high-efficiency boilers for hot water, 16 SEER central air-conditioning, and a 58-kilowatt solar system on the roof. The solar array will power at least three quarters of the common area, which includes management offices, a community room, and an exercise area. Sam Leone, project director for Conifer Realty, says that three months into leasing, the property was almost fully occupied.
Most of what’s inside Conifer Village is green too. The appliances and lighting are Energy Star-rated, and Conifer installed low-flow fixtures, low-formaldehyde insulation, and low-E glass windows from Silver Line by Andersen. Cabinets are made from FSC-certified solid hardwood and meet the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers’ Association’s airborne toxic control measures. The carpet and padding are made from recycled material and are Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label-certified. Conifer also used ceramic tile in the bathrooms because it is more durable and healthier than vinyl tile. “It doesn’t have an off-gas,” Leone says. “Vinyl tile has an off-gas, particularly when it is first installed. Ceramic tile is also more resilient to moisture.”
Ferry Landing, a 48-unit family project adjacent to Ferry Station, also was completed in 2012 and features balconies that used a Trex-type of product that Leone says is both durable and made from recycled content. The first two of five buildings were completed in August; the others were ready for occupancy two months later.
Conifer had experience in green building before Ferry Station. Gateway Village at Somerdale, in Somerdale, New Jersey, was completed in July 2011 and included many of the same green features as Conifer Village. The development—30 one-, two-, and 3-bedroom apartments—was built in partnership with the Camden County Housing Association. “There was a prior developer that had received site approval and an allocation of tax credits, but the project didn’t work out, and we worked out a deal to take the project over,” Leone says.
The rent-restricted property is part of a mixed-use redevelopment project that includes a shopping center with a Walmart. Residents are in walking distance of the shopping center, a movie theater, and a Philadelphia rail line. The project recently received a Smart Growth award from New Jersey Future, which celebrates sustainable development projects.
Unlike Conifer Village, Gateway does not generate its own solar power, but it does have occupancy sensors in the common areas and tankless water heaters in the units. “There are some additional up-front costs for tankless water heaters, but we find them to be extremely efficient,” Leone says. “It also allowed us not to need so much mechanical space in the apartment.”
Due to vinyl siding restrictions imposed by the municipality, Conifer used a product called fiber cement siding by Certainteed, which is made from cementitious fibers and does not have any of the toxic properties of vinyl.
Gateway is landscaped with drought-resistant native plants. “The site’s on a hill and has some neat slopes in it,” Leone says. “We wanted to take the best advantage of what was there, and we wanted the green space to have an impact, so rather than plant grass, we used a ground cover that doesn’t have to be mowed.” Two varieties of noninvasive liriope, also known as lilyturf, were planted to help reduce erosion. “It was a more expensive up-front investment,” he says, “but there will be little landscaping expense to maintain it, and the residents like it.”
EAM Associates rated the plans for both Ferry Station and Gateway to ensure they met all energy requirements. Gateway qualified for tier two of New Jersey’s Energy Star program with a score of 60. “That roughly translates to being about 30 percent more efficient than a typical home,” Leone says.