El Camino Apartments’ integrated design made it possible for residents to achieve financial sustainability by offering rental costs in keeping with agricultural workers’ seasonal income. Resilience and efficiency strategies lowered operating costs while supporting wellbeing.
Agricultural workers in the city of Hatch, New Mexico were uniquely vulnerable to seasonal economic fluctuations. While the soil and water conditions are beneficial for growing the chilies that are unique to this region, there are few opportunities for work. This affordable residential community, El Camino, became a healthy and resilient solution for the people of Hatch. An integrative design and construction process resulted in a 70% improvement in energy efficiency over the baseline and reduced long-term costs for residents. Recognising how El Camino changed the community’s quality of life for the better, USGBC celebrated the project with a Finalist award in the LEED for Homes Project of the Year competition.
Habitability and Comfort
- For a vulnerable population, choices that support health and comfort are especially valuable. The design team selected materials for durability and wellness. The community chose a no-smoking policy to foster healthy air quality.
- Mobility-accessible units are available.
Community and Connectivity
- Less than a mile from downtown churches, banks, and bus services.
- Unique outdoor environments of different scales offer opportunities for connection and solitude, including walking paths, rest areas, playgrounds, a gazebo, and low-water, xeric landscapes.
Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change
- Designed to be 70% more energy-efficient than average construction, and zero-energy-ready, El Camino reduces energy costs and increases resilience.
- Rooftop solar photovoltaics take advantage of the optional solar exposure in the southwest of the United States, generating clean energy and offsetting the remaining energy usage.
- With climate change, the risk of damaging seasonal storms has increased. On-site stormwater management reduces the risk of flooding. Going beyond the site, a retention pond slows runoff from the surrounding hills.
- This high desert climate receives less than 12 inches of rain a year. The project design minimizes water use by selecting low and no water use fixtures and planning for water reuse.
Resource Efficiency and Circularity
- Energy modeling was used throughout the design process to maximize efficiency. This approach allowed the project team to evaluate the energy demands of each component, including heating, cooling and ventilation systems, water heating, and appliances.
- The building envelope’s design was also integrated into the energy modeling and cost evaluation processes.
- Exterior shading elements and interior blinds reduce heat gain and reliance on air conditioning.
- The project was designed to be affordable for the agricultural workers of Hatch by offering income-based rent that fluctuates between the busy growing season and the off-season, supporting the workers whose labor helps the Hatch Chile to continue to be a celebrated part of the cuisine of the southwest.
- Through resilience and efficiency measures, the residents have low – or even no – utility bills. This supports residents’ financial wellbeing.
- Low maintenance interior and exterior materials prolong the lifecycle of materials and reduce long-term costs.
- The design team prioritized creating healthy indoor air quality, which promotes better health and leads to fewer doctor visits. Most occupants do not have health insurance, so the community is designed to promote day-to-day health.
- All 40 units meet the Federal Tax Credit for Zero Energy Ready Homes with a 50% energy reduction requirement, which brings an additional $80,000 in tax credits.
- The New Mexico Sustainable Building Tax credit of $360,412 USD also offsets expenses.
• LEED for Homes Finalist for Project of the Year.
• LEED Platinum | Certified Augus