2016 Finalist

This project has been selected as a finalist in the Energy and Climate category:

the rose

Project Summary

The Rose is a mixed-income, ultra-sustainable property located at the intersection of Franklin and Portland Avenues in Minneapolis. The project was developed and is owned, managed, and maintained by Aeon, a local nonprofit affordable housing provider. The Rose is a new model for the next generation of high-performance, sustainable, and healthy multifamily housing accessible to low-income families. The Rose provides 90 apartment homes for people with a range of incomes; with units designated for formerly homeless people to market rate apartments. Because a similar project has never before been attempted, The Rose has provided both the affordable housing community and the environmental community with invaluable, innovative information to advance both fields.

The Rose is a practical, cost-effective, and scalable model that other developers can replicate. It was intentionally designed as a learning laboratory, advised by nationwide experts, in which sustainability strategies are being tested, monitored, and documented over time. Key features of The Rose include:

  • It is net zero energy ready, with an energy model about 75% less than current energy code. With today’s available technology, even using the most efficient Photo Voltaic arrays, the roof space and surface areas can only supply about one-third of the needed energy. We continue to pursue new strategies, expecting to reach net zero within five years.
  • The site is water-conserving, with projected water usage half of typical apartments.
  • Energy-saving materials in resident units include: advanced comfort glass/frame insulation, window insulation, LED lighting, granite countertops, super water efficient toilets, and more. These improvements will provide significant cost savings. For example, the LED lighting will realize an estimated Energy Use Intensity savings of 1.5 with annual energy and maintenance savings of $15,400, and the insulated fiberglass windows have an estimated EUI savings of 5 and will save $19,400 in energy and maintenance costs each year. This cost savings is enjoyed by both Aeon and residents.
  • Aeon is initiating a robust social science-based resident engagement and leadership effort in partnership with the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University. Our goals are to: meet the Living Build Challenge’s performance goals and targets for energy and water, cultivate a sincere sense of environmental stewardship in residents, and develop value-added best practices to benefit other developers nationwide.
  • To support healthy living, The Rose incorporates indoor and outdoor activity spaces, including fitness centers, a yoga studio, conference room, playground, and large community garden to be used as an edible landscape of fruit and vegetables, promote resident engagement, and provide educational opportunities.

Prototypes of ultra-sustainable buildings exist; however, most are in high-income areas with high construction costs. This perpetuates the idea of sustainability as a luxury, available only to those who can afford it. By constructing The Rose in a very low-income community, Aeon was able to pursue sustainability while broadening access and equity for people with low incomes.

The Rose is demonstrating the efficiency that can be obtained in affordable housing and sharing data to help others cost-effectively achieve similar benefits. By investing the time, energy, and expertise to create a new solution, Aeon is hopeful that many new affordable housing developments might meet ultra-sustainability goals in the future.

Project Website


Project Partners

  • Hope Community (co-developer)
  • University of Minnesota Center for Sustainable Building Research
  • MRS Design
  • Weis Builders

How did the project partners work together?

  1. The Rose is the culmination of a 10-year community transformation project, called South Quarter, a partnership of Aeon and Hope Community. Through Hope Community’s goal to create connections that strengthen the power of community members and communities, they were instrumental in engaging the community in this project. Staff played a leading role in site layout, advocated for financing, and were an active team participant throughout the design process. They were also instrumental in representing the neighborhood of Ventura Village (the neighborhood were The Rose is located), helping to ensure that the neighborhood’s unique needs were met. Additionally, Hope Community took the lead in the development of the community teaching garden, and has raised more than $100,000 to support the initiative.
  2. University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research is our partner for developing data analysis plans and tools, collecting and analyzing data, and comparing The Rose’s actual outcomes compared to goals. The Center is instrumental in providing a deep research background and a statewide pool of data to the project, allowing energy and water benchmarking and tracking from The Rose to advance industry knowledge.
  3. MSR Design was Aeon’s selected architect for The Rose. MSR has won more than 125 international, national, and state design awards for achievement in architecture, interior design, and historic preservation. They also have significant experience in sustainable design. To design The Rose, Aeon and MSR worked collaboratively and used data-driven design process to make all technical and material design selections.
  4. Weis Builders is a locally based, experienced general contractor who was Aeon’s partner in constructing The Rose. Their collaborative approach assured The Rose was completed on time.

How is the project groundbreaking?

The Rose is the only property in Minnesota involved in the Obama Administration’s Better Building Challenge (for which we committed to cut our energy use by 20% in 10 years) and the only affordable multifamily project registered in the Living Building Challenge™ (the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment today).

Aeon used the Living Building Challenge™ as inspiration to create a green, cost-efficient, and equitable property that is providing others with a blueprint to achieve the next level of sustainability.

  • Green: Aeon set and met extremely high goals for Energy Use Intensity levels, building health, material use, and more – one of the first multifamily projects in the country to have such high goals.
  • Cost-efficient: Most celebrated green projects have very high price points, making them difficult to replicate. Construction budgets of $250-$500 per square foot are not unusual; yet, Aeon was able to achieve similar results at a $148 per square foot. Given lower operational costs, the expected simple financial payback of this investment is just eight to 11 years.
  • Equitable: Aeon chose to locate the property in Ventura Village, a very low income neighborhood in Minneapolis, an area that had seen little in the way of urban development over the past several decades.

The Rose is now a learning laboratory, followed by interested stakeholders nationwide. We ensured a strong, ongoing platform for mentoring and sharing of information with interested stakeholders, policy makers, and regulatory officials. This effort was led by a team comprised of a national cross-section of industry leaders who identified the best methods for sharing sustainability practices, high-performance information, and replicable solutions.

What are the project goals?

Goal 1: Provide affordable and sustainable apartment homes, prevent homelessness, and increase density and mixed-income housing opportunities. Importance: Numerous reports indicate the benefits of higher density, mixed-income developments to be: reduced congestion and vehicle emissions, smaller ecological footprint, and improved long-term economic stability.

Goal 2: Create a model for others interested in sustainable development and build the industry’s capacity to develop quality, sustainable, and affordable apartment homes. Importance: Affordable housing developments are dramatically under-represented in practices of sustainable construction, which The Rose, as a learning laboratory, is working to change. Aeon views sustainable development to involve each of three key circles: economics, the environment, and social justice. By developing The Rose with social justice as a vital component, we are helping other developers to not only use resources efficiently, but to also look at housing as a means to solve community issues (such as the need for green space and safe spaces).

Goal 3: Share knowledge and lessons learned with stakeholders nationwide. Importance: Our pioneering efforts mean that other developers can now achieve similar goals much more easily while at the same time incurring less expense, time, and risk. In addition, Aeon’s work is educating policymakers on the importance of a big leap forward in sustainable building design.

Goal 4: Develop an environmentally-conscious community through resident engagement strategies and supporting area transit goals. Importance: The Rose is near ample public transportation to encourage bicycling and pedestrian activity. In addition, our extensive resident engagement initiative is increasing knowledge of environmental issues, teaching how to apply conservation methods in daily living, and helping residents take on leadership roles in sharing information and generating interest around environmentalism.

What are the project outcomes?

In the interest of space, we will focus on just three outcomes:

1. Aeon created the next generation of ultra-sustainable multifamily housing, at a price point attainable by the masses and affordable to low-income households. The Rose was constructed at $148 per square foot. It is net zero ready status, with an energy model 75% less than current energy code and projected water usage half of typical apartments. We achieved economic integration, with units reserved for households that are formerly homeless, Section 8 qualified, low-income, and market rate. Using geothermal heating and cooling, energy efficient appliances, and solar paneling, The Rose is highly energy efficient – a benefit passed on to residents through reduced utility bills.

2. We are catalyzing industry change by providing broad access to data and meaningful information for others to use. A repository for details on property design, building methods, data, and outcomes is available and accessible to all stakeholders who wish to develop sustainable properties and adopt sustainable practices. To continue to build the knowledge base, Aeon will produce annual feedback and data from the first five years of operations, as well as data on the lifetime of sustainable infrastructure.

3. The Rose was designed with environmental justice top of mind and provides green space and play areas; improves health through better air quality, fewer toxins, and onsite health amenities; and inspires use of alternative transportation – such as walking, biking, and public transportation. It demonstrates Aeon's commitment to a high standard of quality. Residents are proud to walk up the front steps of their home, and neighbors admire The Rose as a community asset.

Event Details

Thursday, May 25, 2017
5:00 - 5:45 p.m. Registration & reception
5:45 - 8:00 p.m. Dinner & program
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Dessert & reception 

Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

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Presenting Sponsors

Environmental Lay Group

Great River Energy

Reception sponsor

25th Anniversary Sponsors


Community Action

Critical Collaborator

Stoel Rives LLP

Emerging Leader


Energy and Climate

The Weidt Group

Natural Resources

Sustainable Business

Supporting Sponsors

Minnesota Power

partner SPONSORs

In-kind sponsors


CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Consulate General of Canada

Rochester Public Utilities

Associate Sponsors

Bremer Bank
G & K Services
Nova Consulting
Smith Partners