Get green with this Passive House in Pittsburgh
Plattform at 930 is the first of a set of three houses to be constructed on three vacant and contiguous lots in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, located at 930 – 934 Mellon Street. The site is nestled in the heart of the neighborhood, just two blocks from the Bryant Street shopping district and minutes from Highland Park. The developer, Platform at 930, LLC, is managed by Laura Nettleton of Thoughtful Balance. Laura designs her “Plattform” houses using Passive House standards. They will be built by Eco-Craft Homes, modular home builders based in Pittsburgh. Eco-Craft’s advanced prefabricated construction approach allows them to build virtually any home plan in as little as 90 days after ordering windows, compared to the 8-18 months required for conventional on-site construction. Laura Nettleton engaged the community in public meetings about the project and the community influenced the design of the houses so they will be well received when they are built.
Passive House is a “rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building.” By 2010, according to Wikipedia, 25,000 Passive House structures had been built in Europe, while only approximately 13 existed in the United States. But by 2017 that number had increased to over 1,200 structures in the US. While this concept is taking hold in the United States, there are only three houses in Pittsburgh that are built using these standards. Passive House requires exacting energy standards and provides energy reductions that can be a means to achieving housing affordability. It could be impactful to expose the community at large to examples of these projects in the city. The developer believes that building houses of high quality that are sustainable is possible without paying a premium. When she found the lots on Mellon Street she was excited because not only did they present an opportunity to showcase high quality and sustainable housing, but also to complete the blighted urban fabric and fill in the “missing teeth” on this street.
The lots at 930 – 934 Mellon have been blighted and unused for some time now. The City of Pittsburgh took ownership in 1997 and conveyed them to the local community development corporation, Highland Park Community Group (HPCDC) in 2003. Now HPDC has signed a sales agreement with the developer to allow all three houses to be built and the lots will be put back to good use. Sales agreements for the lots require the developer to have buyers signed on by no later than December 1, 2018. HPDC have also purchased the landmark Scheibler building adjacent to the site and have plans to renovate it in the future into condominiums.
The neighborhood of Highland Park takes its name from the park nestled on the edge of it - a beautiful refuge and recreational area used by many people in Pittsburgh – and just a 15 minute walk from the site. The site is also just two blocks away from Bryant Street, a small neighborhood commercial district with a number of small businesses, shops, a café, and restaurants. The neighborhood seems to be undergoing a renaissance with numerous of the existing homes under renovation. New houses are being built on empty lots and property values are increasing.
Anticipated Project Timeline
December 22, 2017 Order windows for model house (90-day delivery)
January 30, 2017 Marketing of Plattform house begins
March 5, 2018 Windows arrive
March 31, 2018 Secure bank financing
April 15, 2018 House construction begins in the factory
April 15, 2018 Foundation work begins
July 1, 2018 House delivered to site
October 31, 2018 House completed and ready to sell
The house at 930 Mellon will cost approximately $582,000 to build, including both construction and soft costs. The funds raised through this offering will be used to complete the funding sources for the house, which also include a $67,532 loan from the developer (which covered pre-development expenses) and a construction loan of approximately $411,000. As yet a bank has not been selected.
The target amount of this offering is $50,000 with an additional $55,000 in oversubscriptions available on a first-come, first-served basis. If the full goal of $105,000 is not met, the developer will make up the difference by increasing her personal loan to the project. Shares for this offering are $1 each, and investors must purchase a minimum of 500 shares each for a minimum investment of $500. Investments greater than $500 must be made in additional increments of $250 each. With the purchase of shares, each investor becomes a shareholder in the company.
If the project is successful, each investor will receive a preferred return of 12% on their investment, to be paid from the net proceeds of a sale before the developer is paid any profits. The developer will receive any remaining profit in lieu of fees, after investors have been returned the full balance of their equity and their preferred return.
The offering will close at 11:59 pm on June 30, 2018 and investors can cancel their commitment up until 11:59 pm on June 28, 2018 . After that, as long as the target amount has been met, any funds raised will be released to the developer and investors will become shareholders of the company. When the target amount ($50,000) of the offering has been reached, investors will be notified. If the target amount is reached before the closing deadline, the developer may decide to change the offering deadline, but will provide at least five days’ notice of such a change to all investors. And investors will also be notified and asked to reconfirm their commitment if any other material changes are made to this offering. If the target amount is not reached, then all investment commitments will be cancelled and all commited funds will be returned to investors.
Highland Park is one of Pittsburgh’s beautiful neighborhoods. It is bordered to the north by the Allegheny River and it connects to the neighborhoods of Larimer, East Liberty, and Morningside. It enjoys the park, also called Highland Park which is part of Pittsburgh’s Parks Conservancy and includes amenities like the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, the reservoir, a Victorian Landscaped Garden (pictured to the left), walking and biking trails, playgrounds, ballfields, and gathering places. The park is a valuable amenity, over one square mile in size, that many people from other neighborhoods in the city make use of.
The neighborhood is bordered on the south by East Liberty, a section of the city that had been blighted for years due to a failed urban renewal plan in the 1960’s. Because of this, Highland Park was cut off from the rest of the city’s East End and some of its houses became derelict and depressed the area’s housing prices. Fortunately for Highland Park it had a core group of residents that were dedicated to their neighborhood. Both community groups for East Liberty and Highland Park have promoted community development in the neighborhood that reflects values of diversity, historic preservation, and sustainability.
In recent years East Liberty has undergone a vigorous transformation which has been the subject of national attention. Highland Park, previously cut off by East Liberty’s blight, has enjoyed the benefits of its revitalization as well. Bryant Street (pictured to the right), just two blocks from the project site, has become a vibrant urban business district that is a destination for many city dwellers wanting to experience its restaurants and shops. According to West Penn Multi-List, home prices in Highland Park have rapidly climbed over the past few years. The median estimated home value in the neighborhood in January 2015 was $288,00 and had risen to $413,200 as of February 2018. The community has enjoyed investment from people wanting to relocate to Highland Park for its beautiful housing stock, tree-lined streets, access to the park, and Bryant Street.
INHABIT Real Estate Collective, a small boutique brokerage specializing in the East End neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, is marketing the Plattform homes. In short order INHABIT has mobilized a team of pros to produce the Plattform Brand, voice and marketing materials best exemplified with Plattform's Website. They will be using a multi-media approach to online marketing, including targeted advertising on Facebook, along with an on the ground grassroots effort of neighborhood events.
Laura Nettleton, the manager of Platform at 930, LLC, has over 30 years experience in development, sustainable architecture, and community engagement focusing on the cutting edge of sustainable and low-energy design solutions for affordable housing and other mission driven projects. In 2005 she formed Thoughtful Balance, an architectural and consulting firm dedicated to passive house, sustainable strategies for resilient shelter, resource conservation, healthy communities and mission driven work. Her firm has completed six Passive House projects in Pittsburgh and has five more in planning and construction. Thoughtful Balance focuses on simple sustainable housing solutions that are affordable and available to everyone.
Laura serves on the AIA Pittsburgh Chapter board and the American Institute of Architects. She is a founder, past president and current board member of PHWPA Passive House Western Pennsylvania, a non-profit dedicated to understanding low-energy and near zero energy buildings using Passive House strategies for everyone. Her projects have received numerous awards and she has presented them at over 40 conferences in the US and Europe. She was nominated by the Green Building Alliance as a “Luminary “ in Pittsburgh.
Laura finds comfort in the idea that cultures can radically change having witnessed it firsthand. She first worked in an architectural office where she was the only non-smoker, and she graduated from Johns Hopkins’ second class to admit women.
According to Passive House Institute, Passive House is “a building standard that is truly energy efficient, comfortable and affordable at the same time.” Further, the institute maintains that buildings designed to meet Passive House standards use 75%-90% less energy than conventional structures. The heating and cooling bill for this house, Plattform, is estimated to be less than $55 per month depending on the resident's energy consumption habits. The house is Net Zero ready meaning that if solar panels were to be installed on the roof it could be a zero-energy house.
The institute maintains that Passive Houses are quieter than conventionally built houses because they have so much insulation in their walls. They are more comfortable in the winter as they have no drafts or cold spots. They have better air quality than traditional houses because they have a complete change of air every three hours. This means they are very healthy and comfortable environments to live in. The Plattform house is designed using Passive House technology and combines it with other sustainable features such as healthy materials, water conserving devices and a small rain garden in the rear yard.
The 2600 square foot house is designed with lots of open interior spaces, all flooded with light and connected with the outside in multiple ways. Living spaces are an open floor plan with an open kitchen, island seating plus a dining room. The living room opens out to the yard and a deck. There is a front porch off the dining room and a roof deck that is available for entertaining on the top floor.
The three bedrooms are serviced by two and half bathrooms, walk-in closets, a laundry and a Juliet balcony off the master bedroom. There is a fully conditioned lower level as well that adds to the living area with space suitable for a game room, playroom or home office. The 2-car garage is accessible from the alley. Custom cabinets, hardwood floors, stainless appliances, quartz countertops, open stairs and recessed lighting let the rich materials and quality of the house be expressed with simple clean lines. The high quality European triple-pane windows operate as both casements and awnings. The house is equipped with Water Sense faucets. And the future owner has the opportunity to customize their own finishes.
The total amount projected to build the house at 930 Mellon is approximately $583,624. In addition to the equity raised through this offering, it is anticipated that bank financing of approximately $411,000 will be provided for construction along with developer financing of $67,532 to cover pre-development and other soft costs. The total development cost is a total of hard, soft and land costs. Hard costs are construction costs along with a contingency set aside for unforeseen circumstances. Soft costs include any bank fees and interest, insurance, engineering, architect and developer fees, and other such holding costs. Anticipated project costs and sources are detailed in the tables below.
|Base home cost||$451,964|
|Total Construcdtion Costs||$516,092|
|Predevelopment and Soft Costs|
|Closing costs and legal fees||$9,000|
|Interest on credit line||$3,150|
|Small Change fee||$4,200|
|Real estate taxes||$300|
|Bank inspection fees||$1,760|
|Other professional fees (surveys, permits, drafting etc)||$25,000|
|Tap and other site utility fees||$2,300|
|Total Pre-development and Soft Costs||$67,532|
|Developer line of credit||$67,532|
|Small Change investors||$105,000|
If contingency funds are required during construction, the developer may advance additional funds through her credit line or other funding sources. Upon sale a realtor commission of 5% will be paid out of closing funds along with an anticipated 3% of sales price in transfer taxes and other closing expenses.
The developer anticipates listing the house for $687,000 or $264 per square foot. Net proceeds after deducting a 5% realtor commission and 3% in other closing costs, including transfer taxes and legal, are anticipated to be $632,040. The table below shows anticipated cash flow under two scenarios - at asking price of $264 per square foot, and at a sales price of $250 per square foot and the resulting net profit in each scenario.
|Per square foot||$264||$250|
|8% closing costs||($54,960)||($52,000)|
|Developer line of credit||$65,582||$65,582|
|Small Change investors||$105,000||$105,000|
|12% preferred return to Small Change investors||$12,600||$12,600|
The sales price was arrived at by evaluating the sale of a house at 5724 Walnut Street renovated to Passive House standard. When compared to houses of similar size and with similar amenities, the house at 5724 Walnut Street commanded a premium of almost 20%.
|Property||Sale price||Date sold||Sq. feet||Beds||Baths||Price per s.f.|
|5724 Walnut Street||$895,000||06-30-15||2,490||4||4.5||$357|
|6416 Kentucky Avenue||$790,000||08-04-15||2,630||3||3||$300|
|648 College Avenue||$685,000||12-29-15||2,824||4||3.5||$243|
|655 College Avenue||$750,000||09-24-14||2,706||5||3||$277|
Under the LLC Agreement, any distribution of proceeds will be made in the following order of priority, after bank and developer loans have been repaid:
- First, the Available Cash shall be distributed to the Contributing Members until they have received a full return of their Unreturned Investment.
- Second, the balance of the Available Cash, if any, shall be distributed to the Contributing Members until they have received the Preferred Return.
- Third, the balance of all remaining Available Cash, if any, shall be distributed to Sponsor.
The table below illustrates this order of payment priorities made under two scenarios, if the house is sold at asking price of $687,000 or if sold at a lower price of $650,000.
|Per square foot||$264||$250|
|8% closing costs||($54,960)||($52,000)|
|Developer line of credit||$67,532||$67,532|
|Small Change investor equity||$105,000||$105,000|
|12% preferred return to Small Chang investors||$12,600||$12,600|
|Return on $1,000 investment||$1,120||$1,120|
Caution: This table is merely an illustration based on current assumptions and estimates as of the date of this offering and may change at any time based on market or other conditions and may not come to pass. All investments carry risk of loss and there is no assurance that an investment will provide a positive return. Many things could go wrong with this offering, including those listed in the Risk Factors.
A crowdfunding investment involves risk. You should not invest any funds in this offering unless you can afford to lose your entire investment. In making an investment decision, investors must rely on their own examination of the issuer and the terms of the offering, including the merits and risks involved. These securities have not been recommended or approved by any federal or state securities commission or regulatory authority. Furthermore, these authorities have not passed upon the accuracy or adequacy of this document. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission does not pass upon the merits of any securities offered or the terms of the offering, nor does it pass upon the accuracy or completeness of any offering document or literature.
These securities are offered under an exemption from registration; however, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has not made an independent determination that these securities are exempt from registration.
There are numerous risks to consider when making an investment such as this one and financial projections are just that - projections. Returns are not guaranteed. Conditions that may affect your investment include unforeseen construction costs, changes in market conditions, and potential disasters that are not covered by insurance. Download this risk disclosure for a more expansive list of potential risks.
Unless otherwise noted, the images on this offering page are used to convey the personality of the neighborhood in which the project is planned. Properties shown in these images are not included in the offering and investors will not receive an interest in any of them.