On March 25, just off the edge of Temple University campus in North Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Housing Authority began its demolition of the 1950s era high-rising Norris Apartments. Instead of controlled implosion with the use of explosives, the PHA’s weapon of choice this time (and for the first time) was the more energy-friendly and lower-costing wrecking ball.

The PHA plans to replace this dated apartment complex with LEED-certified apartments in a project that will total $19.3M. This environmentally oriented building certification program focuses on key areas of human and environmental health, including energy efficiency, proper material selection and water conservation. The planned development will contain 51 new units, each complete with solar hot water panels on their rooftops, Energy Star-efficient windows and appliances, low-pressure plumbing fixtures, fluorescent light fixtures and native landscaping all oriented in such a way to utilize cross ventilation. Within the development (bordered by Diamond, Norris, 11th and Alder Streets) there will be a center courtyard to provide residents with green living space and serve to limit rainwater runoff to avoid overflow in the city sewer system.

According to the PHA’s interim executive director, Michael Kelly, the “new Norris Apartments signify PHA’s progressive approach as it develops modern, sustainable, quality affordable housing.” The construction of the new Norris Apartments, and demolition of the old, is symbolic of the PHA’s rebirth as an organization, hopefully abolishing their blemished past in favor of a fresh, new start. The construction of this new energy-efficient development seems like a great way to do just that. The project is scheduled for completion by spring 2012. —- Alex Graziano