Wait nearly over for No Libs’ Stables for people


The Stables are under construction.  Credit: Onion Flats
The Stables are under construction.
Credit: Onion Flats

Some things are worth the long wait. In the case of Stable Flats, or simply the Stables, the wait is nearly over and the payoff for patience looks splendid. The former horse-holding location is evolving into an eco-friendly, 27-unit townhouse building, with three units completed so far. Collaborating on design and development are Onion Flats and Domani, and to say it’s been a long time coming would be an understatement.

The Stables, formerly used to house the working horses of Old City, was dreamed up as a residential project years ago, but put on hold. “In 2008 the world fell apart, and so did this project,” says Onion Flats president Tim McDonald, referring to the economy’s influence on the housing market. “It started as a different project,” he adds. “It was going to be a 70-unit condo project, but we changed it to a townhouse building a few years ago, partially because of our interest in Passive House.”

The Passive House Institute is an organization that has created a certified standard for energy-efficient homes. The Stables will be the second “passive” house in the state, meaning it meets all airtight, low-energy regulations, and heating costs can be reduced by as much as 90 percent. That means one seriously green building. Oh, and the first project in Pennsylvania to wear the Passive House crown? That would be Belfield Homes in North Philly — also by Onion Flats.

The developer wants to prove that although the energy efficiency bar is set pretty high for a passive house, creating one is not an impossible feat. “With the Stables we’re learning if the system of building that we designed is repeatable. Was Belfield a fluke or can we do it again? I think the Stables is a demonstration of a way of building,” explains McDonald. “I see no reason we wouldn’t continue to build this way.” Great news for all the energy-conscious folks who are in the market for inventive and sustainable housing.

“The thing about Passive House is you can design a project, but it has to be airtight. The way you test that is with a blower door. That’s always the geek-fest moment of truth, when you’re all standing around the blower door to see if you hit the most difficult standard in the world.”


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