Innovative technologies for affordable home building
and operation to be showcased in Atlantic City on October 7(Ref.#9)

Newark, Sept. 11, 1999 -- The future of home building in America may well be on display when a group of seven single family and two family demonstration homes employing innovative construction technologies is introduced to the public at Atlantic City on October 7.

The event is set for 11 a.m. at the homes, located on two blocks in the city's Northeast Inlet section bordered by Grammercy Place, Madison, Rhode Island and Massachusetts Avenues.

The project is known as the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Housing Demonstration Technology Park. NJIT has received administrative grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) is undertaking the actual development of the site and homes, with additional financial assistance from the Atlantic County Improvement Authority (ACIA).

The NJIT Housing Technology Demonstration Park project will showcase technologies that in varying degrees reduce the materials, time, labor, and ultimately, the overall costs of home ownership.

The immediate goal of the NJIT project is to make home ownership more accessible to low-and moderate-income New Jersey residents. CRDA's particular goal is to try to provide such opportunities for Atlantic City residents while continuing its mission to help redevelop the Northeast Inlet.

Creating more affordable housing in the state is in keeping with the 1975 and 1983 Mount Laurel court decisions, which prompted the New Jersey Fair Housing Act of 1985. The Act established the Council on Affordable Housing to set obligations for production of affordable housing for each of the state's 567 municipalities.

The long-term goal of the project is to reduce the cost of home ownership for all Americans by fostering more widespread use of innovative construction techniques and materials. CRDA, as the overall developer of the NJIT Housing Technology Demonstration Park project, has in turn contracted with Nehemiah Construction Company of Egg Harbor Township, NJ, and the joint venture of Resources for Human Development/First, Inc., for the construction of the homes utilizing these techniques.

The 1,200 square foot, three-bedroom, two-bath homes employ construction innovations ranging from weight-supporting structural insulating panels to light steel framing. The technologies also reduce the cost of operating a home through the use of better insulation, efficient heating and cooling equipment and, in one house, solar energy technologies.

Other innovations include insulating concrete forms, in which polystyrene foam blocks serve as forms for the concrete as it is being poured and later as insulation, and modular wood construction using manufactured, load-bearing wood paneling and plywood I-beams to span wide spaces in place of conventional wood beams and joists. Parked outside the solar-powered home as an extra attraction will be an auto powered by fuel cells akin to the ones used on spacecraft.

Construction financing for the project comes from The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) of Philadelphia (www.trfund.com), a regional community development financial institution that uses capital and technical expertise to build wealth and create economic opportunity for low income communities and low and moderate income individuals. Low-interest financing for the energy components of the homes was provided by the Nonprofit Energy Savings Investment Program, an initiative of The Reinvestment Fund that helps nonprofit organizations reduce their energy bills through energy conservation improvements and other strategies.

Notes Ezra Ehrenkrantz, director of NJIT's Center for Architecture and Building Science Research (CABSR), "It's probably the first time that the best housing technologies applicable to affordable housing have been gathered together and demonstrated in one location."

Most of the homes will be available for inspection prior to their completion in order to demonstrate the type of construction used. The intent is to show that such innovative technology can produce affordable houses that are not only inexpensive to purchase but also to maintain over time.

"Municipalities nationwide face the perpetual challenge of revitalizing decaying neighborhoods while having sparse funding and limited resources with which to achieve this goal. The Housing Technology Demonstration Park provides an innovative and affordable answer," states Jim Kennedy, executive director of the CRDA.

Notes Ehrenkrantz, "We have defined affordable not just in terms of initial cost but in terms of the total cost of owning a home. These homes are designed to be very inexpensive to maintain and meet the highest current residential energy conservation standards."

"But to gain acceptance among both builders and consumers, the innovative technology must be a marketable commodity," says Peter Kastl, CABSR director of housing and building technology. "When someone decides to build an affordable housing project or any other, the first question is, can they do it at a reasonable cost?" he says.

The next two questions are, "Are the construction techniques reliable?" and "Is the customer likely to want the finished product?" says Kastl. The NJIT team believes that the answer is "yes" to all three questions. "We are dealing only with construction techniques that are market-ready," says Kastl.

For one, the technologies may be innovative in home building but some have been used in other building types such as office and retail structures, and even in home building in other parts of the U.S. Notes Kastl, "Earlier attempts to introduce new building technology to reduce construction costs often failed to catch on because every house had to be completely engineered. There wasn't an existing body of common knowledge about engineering design standards and field practices. Now there is."

For another, the technologies have been approved by all appropriate national building code authorities as well as by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which regulates building construction (although each community enforces the standards).

Kastl notes that since many construction industry firms have experience working with these technologies, the "learning curve" is reduced.

There's strong support within such industries as concrete and steel for technologies using more of their products to build homes. Kastl says that some of the industries, such as solar, are still in the fledgling stage and will benefit greatly from the exposure gained here.

Another factor favoring the use of innovative technologies is the erratic price of conventional construction woods. Environmental constraints and worldwide demand can limit U.S. access to construction timber, says Kastl.

Public acceptance is expected to be strong, because the new techniques permit the construction of homes that don't look any different from those constructed using traditional wood framing techniques.

"From the standpoint of the ultimate buyer, the prospective homeowner, it has to look like a house," says Kastl. "It has to have all the messages in it that says "home" and it has to be comfortable and familiar in the way that it appears and feels."

In addition, although the houses make use of industrialized construction methods, they are not "cookie-cutter" houses. "The technology permits design versatility and customization," says Kastl.

They are also very "liveable," he notes. "For example, the steel-framed house is not much different to live in than a typical wood-framed house, with gypsum wallboard sheathing on the inside." He says a homeowner can do the same things done in a conventional wood-framed house, such as hang cabinets and pictures with standard hanger devices. "From the homeowner's point-of-view, there won't be much difference," says Kastl.

Ultimately, the housing market for these technologies won't be limited to affordable housing, says Kastl. "Everyone should like these new construction technologies if they'll be able to buy more house for their money."

Throughout Atlantic City, CRDA-funded projects that are changing the face of the city are truly working partnerships with casinos, city and state government leaders, agencies and institutions. "The Housing Technology Demonstration Park project itself is an exemplary model of successful public-private partnership meeting the needs of the community and its residents," says Fred Nickles, chairman of the Board of the CRDA.

Established by the State of New Jersey under P.L. 1984, c.218, CRDA is empowered to maintain public confidence in the gaming industry as a unique tool for urban redevelopment in Atlantic City and other areas throughout the State by providing eligible projects in which casino licensees may invest. Since its inception, the CRDA has invested more than $150-million in new housing in the City of Atlantic City, replacing housing worn and weathered by time, filling in vacant lots, stabilizing existing neighborhoods and building whole new neighborhoods - each with its own architectural character.

NJIT is a public research university enrolling nearly 8,200 bachelor's, master's and doctoral students in 76 degree programs through its five colleges: Newark College of Engineering, School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, the School of Management and the Albert Dorman Honors College. Research initiatives include manufacturing, microelectronics, multimedia, transportation, computer science, solar astrophysics, environmental engineering and science, and architecture and building science.

Yahoo! Internet Life magazine recently ranked NJIT the "most wired" public university in the nation, and has ranked it one of the top ten "most wired" campuses among both public and private universities for three consecutive years. In addition, U.S. News and World Report's 1999 Annual Guide to America's Best Colleges ranked NJIT among the nation's top universities, and Money magazine's Best College Buys 1998 rated NJIT as the sixth best value among U.S. science and technology schools and among the top 100 overall.

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Contact Information:  Peter Kastl,
NJIT Director of Housing and Building Technologies
903 596-3098
Ed Einhaus, CRDA Director of Housing
(609) 347-0500

  
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