Cambridge, MA – Cambridge Health and Human Services Department and Cambridge-based HMFH Architects recently completed a new 10-unit emergency shelter residence within a now historically-preserved and sustainably-designed 19th Century building. The Cambridge Historical Commission honored the project and the City with a 2018 Cambridge Preservation Award.
The 1885 period home once stood among a row of stately residences lining Mass. Ave. During recent decades, 859 Mass Ave was adapted to office use and over time fell into a state of neglect and disrepair.
The building’s interior was demolished down to the studs and structural beams, allowing the team to design 10 family-sized shelter units. Designed to accommodate an adult and one or two children, the spaces include private baths and shared kitchens with dining areas on each floor. The YWCA manages the residence under contract with the City of Cambridge.
The design team worked with the Cambridge Historical Commission to document the building’s original features such as exterior siding, windows, and roof materials. Every exterior detail including trim, paint colors, and front stairway design was considered in making design and materials decisions to achieve a restoration true to the original appearance and neighborhood presence.
The project is designed to meet the requirements of the City’s net-zero energy standards with the goal of reducing energy use to as close to zero as possible and producing enough renewable energy on site to meet its own annual consumption.
The newly-restored residence features three different kinds of solar panels, high-efficiency mechanical systems to lower heating and cooling utilization, and LED lighting with sensor technology. The thermally-resilient design was achieved by doubling the thickness of the exterior walls and insulation and specifying ultra-high efficiency windows and doors to significantly reduce energy use.