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Meeting the Rural Housing Needs of Washington Farmworkers

A shortage of safe, affordable housing is an all too common challenge faced by our region’s seasonal and year round farmworkers. The Yakima Farmworker Housing Plan, 2011-2016 estimated more than 65,000 farmworkers and family members in Yakima County alone do not have adequate housing. These farmworkers include both those who work seasonally but live year-round in a community, as well as those who are temporary, migrant workers following the crops.

O’Brien & Company is proud to be working with several affordable housing providers to help deliver high quality, affordable housing solutions for the agricultural communities in rural Washington. The end results are green and affordable community-based multifamily rental housing, reinforcing the idea that it is essential to focus not only on first-cost but also on long-term operating costs as the solution to this challenge.

Three recent projects in eastern Washington – Pioneer Lane II, Esperanza Migrant Farmworker Housing, and Genesis Prosser Family Housing – committed to multiple green building and energy efficiency certifications as requirements from various funding sources. All are pursuing or have received certification under Washington’s Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard (ESDS), Enterprise Green Communities Criteria, Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes, and LEED for Homes. Pursuit of certification through just one of these frameworks demonstrates commitment to sustainable practices – pursuit of all four raises the bar for both building performance and project delivery process. Our team has helped each of the project teams efficiently navigate the different frameworks and find areas of synergy in the design process. We also worked to streamline the verification and certification process to minimize redundancy and optimize field verification inspections to control travel costs. The result has leveraged the best aspects of each standard or rating system into a best practice hybrid.

Pioneer Lane II
A combination of town homes and flats in Omak, WA, Pioneer Lane II achieved the highest level – LEED Platinum –  certification, along with certification through Enterprise Green Communities, Evergreen Standard, and Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes. The project’s use of mini-split ductless heat pumps, and dedication of nearly 1/3 of the site as an infiltration area helped achieve energy and stormwater credits, contributing to the Platinum certification. O’Brien & Company delivered technical assistance to the project team and also served as the LEED for Homes Provider, and verifier for LEED for Homes and Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes certifications.

Project Team:
Developer: Timber River Development
Architect: ZBA Architecture
Landscape Architect: AHBL
Contractor: Casassa Construction
Civil Engineer: Coffman Engineers
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: L&S Engineering

Esperanza Migrant Farmworker Housing
Owned and run by the Housing Authority of Grant County, the Esperanza Farmworker Housing in Mattawa, WA, will consist of 16 flats for seasonal migrant workers who need short term housing solutions.

O’Brien & Company acted as the LEED for Homes Provider and Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes verifier to ZBA Architecture, and is helping the team pursue certification under LEED for Homes, Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes, Enterprise Green Communities and the Evergreen Standard.

The new development replaced the innovative housing solution from the late 90’s of using repurposed shipping containers as a durable seasonal home for farmworkers. The new units are designed to comfortably accommodate larger groups and families that often live and work together – many have multiple kitchens and other amenities to improve comfort for seasonal workers. And although the residents will only call Esperanza ‘home’ for a short period of time, the Housing Authority is not missing the opportunity to engage the farmworkers in playing a role in helping to sustain the performance over time, by offering key operations information in a Spanish language Tenant Manual.

Project Team:
Owners: Housing Authority of Grant County
Development Consultant: Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing
Architect: ZBA Architecture
Landscape Architect: AHBL
Contractor: Fowler General Construction
Civil Engineer: Coffman Engineers
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: L&S Engineering

Genesis Prosser Family Housing
Catholic Charities is the owner and developer of the Genesis Prosser Family Housing community. The development consists of 51 two to three bedroom town homes in Prosser, WA, which are designed for farmworkers and their families. Currently under construction, these buildings will emphasize energy and water efficiency. O’Brien & Company is acting as the LEED for Homes Provider and Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes verifier on the project, as well as providing additional technical assistance as needed to achieve sustainability funding requirements.

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