Eliot Congregational Church
Leers Weinzapfel Associates / Architect
Community Purchasing Alliance of Massachusetts / Development Consultant
TLee Development LLC / Advising Development Consultant
Eliot Congregational Church / Client
BVH Integrated Services / MEP/FP Engineering
ARUP North America / Structural Engineering
WB Engineering / Code Consultant
Dharam Consulting / Cost Estimating
About the Project
Affordable housing at Eliot Church will serve the underserved inner-city community in Roxbury, MA. In addition to affordable housing units, the large, expansive existing church building can be leveraged to provide community support spaces often necessary but often overlooked with affordable housing, business incubator resource center, after-school activities and community food pantry, to name a few which many non-profit and faith-based organizations provide.
Housing is the most basic need in our society. Affordable housing even more so for the most underserved residents in our cities and Boston is no exception. Though affordable housing must work within the funding parameters, it does not mean that it has to be a cookie-cutter solution using the least expensive materials, often not well built. By harnessing the team’s mass timber experience and leadership, the goal of the project is to bring all the benefits of mass timber – environmental, experiential and social to enhance the quality of life for our most needy residents, rather than assuming with prejudice that because it is affordable housing, it can be of lesser quality than our standard market rate housing.
The project is intended to incorporate core sustainability principles such as re-use of existing building and new construction with renewable material for structure-wood, both mass timber and light frame- for low embodied carbon and carbon sequestration. Exposure of mass timber elements will be key in limiting additional resources for finishes while providing a space of well-being, taking advantage of wood’s inherent biophilic qualities. The project is intended to provide 24 units across an addition and renovation that would work with proposed project source funding common to affordable housing development and includes operational budget for long term viability. 10% of the units are planned to be affordable to households making very very low income (about $30k per year) while the remaining 90% of the units are intended to be affordable to households making about $55 to $70 per year, well within Boston area’s low income thresholds.
An Interview with Tom Chung FAIA LEED AP BD+C
March 2022 | Tom Chung is a Principal at Leers Weinzapfel Associates.
1. Why did you apply for the accelerator and how do you think using mass timber is uniquely beneficial to your project?
It was a great opportunity to help with mass timber research on an affordable housing project, which as a building type has had limited use of mass timber given cost constraints.
2. What is exciting to you about your project as it relates to advancing the use of mass timber in the region?
It’s exciting to think about equity in housing, that affordable housing can also take advantage of a more sustainable type of building construction with increased user well-being, given the biophilic qualities of wood.
3. What are some challenges you’ve experienced or seen in trying to utilize mass timber? How will this program support you in overcoming these challenges?
Cost, code issues and constructability are all challenges given that it’s a newer form of construction and this program will support addressing these challenges for affordable housing.
4. If you could only tell the general public one thing to remember about mass timber construction, what would it be?
It’s like going to the forest in your own home, given its fresh pine scent, warmth to touch and it’s soothing to the soul.