For the last ten winters, Castle Square resident Carol Reid has used her oven to heat her apartment. In the summer, she has seven fans going to keep cool.
On Wednesday, Reid had trouble containing her excitement while talking about the groundbreaking renovations currently underway at the affordable housing complex. The retrofit includes updated kitchens and bathrooms, new energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and high efficiency windows.
“This is absolutely the most wonderful thing,” said Reid, who serves as Vice President of the Castle Square Tenants Organization.
The project, which received $6.7 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is scheduled for completion in March, 2012. A portion of the renovation, which targets 192 units in midrise buildings along Tremont Street, represents the largest Deep Energy Retrofit in the United States.
“Castle Square will need about a quarter of the energy it needed to operate before,” said U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at Wednesday’s ceremony. “The average family is going to save $430 per year on utility costs alone.”
A major energy-saving component of the retrofit takes place on the building’s exterior, which will be covered with a five-inch super insulated shell. Overall, energy use in the units is expected to decrease by 72 percent.
“That’s a really amazing number,” said Mayor Thomas Menino, who toured the building along with Donovan and Congressman Michael Capuano. “Castle Square’s achievement is an important example to Boston and to the world.”
Reid and other members of the Tenants Organization were actively involved in the planning process, which began almost four years ago. The group meets weekly to discuss challenges related to renovating an occupied building.
“It’s an inconvenience,” Reid admitted, adding that the group has set up “hospitality suites” for tenants whose units are being worked on. “I went in there myself just to relax,” she said.
As part of the renovation, Castle Square’s community center will be vastly expanded and modernized, allowing for expanded programming including a computer repair clinic and technology learning center. The Tremont Street retail promenade will receive a facelift as well.
"This is bringing us into the 21st century," said Tenants Organization President Ann Moy. "This is our home and having this energy savings is going to benefit our families."