Affordable Housing Specifications

This set of specifications has been on my desk and in draft form for a long time. My interest and involvement in affordable housing convinced me that such specification might help in the building and maintenance of such projects. The draft became a reality as a result of my work with Intercommunity Mercy Housing. It is re-printed here with their permission.

These specifications were selected on the basis of relatively low purchase and installation and low maintenance costs as well as some special considerations important to affordable housing, for example, relatively hight occupancy rates in relatively small units.

This list emphasizes products, materials and construction techniques that are of special importance to these projects. This list is not intended as a complete set of specifications. It does not supplant code and other requirements. It should also be assumed that each project requires some additional specifications.

Some of these specifications are based upon the Washington State “Green Construction Standards” (Evergreen Sustainable Development Criteria - ESDC). These guidelines maybe important to some projects for funding purposes but most of these guidelines are also important in terms of the goals for affordable housing: quality of housing and affordability.

Ongoing help is needed in order to expand and refine this list. Your input is encouraged; please send us your suggestions and comments -


  • System


    Adhesives and Sealants

    Use Low/No VOC Adhesives
    and Sealants. See: ESDC 7-2 (Mandatory)

    Air Sealing

    See: ESDC 5-2 (Mandatory)

    Performance Tested Building
    Air Sealing. See: ESDC 5-14 (Optional 3-7 points)

    Aluminum 110 Volt Wiring

    Replace with copper wire or
    “pigtail” with AMP/Tyco COPALUM connectors. See:
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    Use Energy Star appliances.
    See: ESDC 5-3 (Optional 1-3 points)

    Arc Fault Interrupters

    Protect bedroom circuits
    with AFCIs. Note – some older panels may not accommodate AFCIs.

    Bathroom fans

    Use .3 soan fans that operate 24/7. Fans must be ducted to
    the outside, preferable with an insulated duct that runs vertically to a
    dedicated roof vent. See ESDC 7-5, 7-7 (Mandatory)

    Composite Wood

    Use formaldehyde free products. See: ESDC 7-3 (Optional
    – up to 5 points)

    Construction Waste Management

    See: ESDC 6.1 (Optional – up to 5 points)

    Crawl Space Access Upgrades

    Repair and maintenance staff must easily access the crawl
    spaces. This is particularly important in complexes like these with a history
    of drainage and moisture problems. Code requires a minimum access opening of
    18” x 24”, where possible, a 30”x30” opening should be established (usually
    required only for crawl spaces containing mechanical equipment).

    A fixed ladder should be installed at the opening in crawl
    spaces where the floor is more than 18” bellow the level of the access well.

    Crawl Space Pest Management

    Seal all potential rodent entry points. Screen all vents
    with galvanized, copper or SS hardware cloth. See: ESDC 7-21 (Mandatory).

    Crawl Space Venting

    Provide for crawl space venting at a minimum 1 sq.
    ft./150sq. feet of under-floor. Place vents for maximum cross ventilation.
    Screen all vents with hardware cloth. Remove vegetation from crawl space
    vents. Grade soil for drainage away from vents. (See Crawl Space Pest

    Deck construction

    See attached and section bellow regarding use of recycled

    Decks over entry-ways or lower decks

    Waterproof decking (see attached details)

    Doors – Interior

    Use solid-core or more impact resistant units when
    replacing interior doors.

    In order to promote indoor air circulation, allow for a 1”
    minimum space at the bottom of all interior doors.

    Doors - Exterior


    Drainage systems/Surface Water Management –

    Use on-site and other “green” methods to manage drainage,
    label storm drains. See: ESDC 3-4 (Optional 5 Points), 3-5 (Optional 2
    points), 7-18 (Mandatory)

    Drywall in areas of past or potential moisture/mold damage

    Use paperless drywall and/or smooth durable, cleanable
    surfaces. See: ESDC 7-12 (Mandatory).

    Electrical Panels

    Replace any Zinsco or Federal Pacific Panels with
    new/approved panels.



    Erosion and Sediment Control

    Implement EPA Best Management Practices. See: ESDC 3-2

    Exterior Door Sills

    Use metal sill pans at exposed locations

    Exterior Siding

    Fiber-cement lap siding

    Exterior Siding Paint and Repair – Existing Wood

    Prior to repainting existing wood siding and trim it must
    be carefully inspected. Any damaged pieces must be replaced and loose pieces
    re-fastened with SS screws.

    Flashing – exterior

    Use appropriate metal flashing per standard specifications
    – caulking is not an adequate substitute.

    Floor Insulation (Over Crawl Spaces)

    Seal to prevent air leakage from crawl spaces. Insulate to
    a minimum of R-30 or the maximum level needed to fill joist cavities. See:
    ESDC Appendix B

    Floor Coverings

    Don’t install carpet in basements, entryways laundry
    rooms, bathrooms, kitchens or other wet areas.

    Use “Green Labe Certified Floor Coverings”. See: ESDC 7-4

    Use healthy flooring materials (non-carpet, non-vinyl)
    where possible. See: ESDC 7-23 Optional 5 points

    Ground Fault Interrupters (GFI/GFCI)

    Protect all circuits in wet areas with GFCI’s (e.g.
    bathrooms, kitchens, decks and other exterior areas.)

    Kitchen Hoods/Exhaust Fans

    Install Energy Star low soan ducted hoods in all kitchens.
    See: ESDC 7-6 (Optional 3 points)


    Use native plants and reduce lawn areas as appropriate
    with needs for play area. See: ESDC 3-3 (Optional 5 points)

    Maintain a minimum separation of 2’ between vegetation and

    (See notes re. Drainage)

    Lead-Safe Work Practices

    Follow Lead-Safe work practices in all properties built
    before 1978. See: ESDC 7-22 (Mandatory)

    Lighting - Interior

    Install Energy Star-labeled or Energy Star Advanced
    Lighting Package in all interior lighting. ESDC 5-4 (optional – 5

    Lighting – Exterior

    Use Energy Star commercial grade fixtures in all outdoor
    and common areas. See: ESDC 5-5 (Mandatory)

    New Resident Orientation

    See: ESDC 8-3 (Mandatory)

    Occupant’s Manual

    See: ESDC 8-2 (Mandatory)

    Outdoor Air Inlets

    Provide for outdoor air supply in window frames or by
    other means. See: ESDC Appendix B and Washington Ventilation and Indoor Air
    Quality Code. (Mandatory)

    Owners Manual

    See: ESDC 8-1 (Mandatory)


    Use Low/No VOC Paints and Primers ESDC 7-11

    Passive Solar Heating and Cooling

    Maximize passive heating and cooling with window placement
    and configurations (vents), overhangs, shades and vegetations. See: ESDC 2-8
    (Optional 5 points) and

    Recycled Content Material

    See: ESDC 6-2 (Optional 2-14 points – less potential
    in rehabilitation projects)


    30 year composition roofing installed with a 10+ year
    workmanship warrantee. Material with 25% recycled content and without Zinc or
    Copper moss inhibitors may qualify for ESDC points.

    Roofing Maintenance


    Roof Overhangs/Eaves

    Where feasible, protect sidewalls and improve drainge with
    18” roof overhangs. See: ESDC 7-19 (Mandatory)

    Salvaged and Engineered Wood

    Use Certified Salvaged and Engineered Wood. See: ESDC 6-3
    (Optional 10 Points)

    Tubs and Tub Walls

    Cast-iron tubs with single piece plastic-laminate tub
    walls. See: ESDC 7-13 (Mandatory)

    Water-Conserving Appliances and Fixtures

    Toilets – 1.6 GPF or less

    Showerheads – 2.0 GPM or less

    Kitchen Faucets – 2.0 GPM or less

    Bathroom Faucets – 1.5 GPM or less

    ESDC 4-1 (Mandatory)

    See: ESDC 4-2 for optional standards – 2 points per

    Water Heaters

    All new water heaters must meet the following standards:

    <60 Gallons - .91

    >60 Gallons - .92

    See: ESDC 5-11 (Mandatory)

    Water Permeable Walkways and Parking Areas

    See: ESDC 6-4 and 6-5 (optional 5 and 10 points)

    Water Pipe Insulation

    Insulate water pipes in all accessible locations.
    See:  ESDC 7-11 (Mandatory)

    Window Installation

    Peel and stick flashing

    Windows – New

    Must meet U-0.30. See: ESDC Appendix B (Mandatory).

    See: Passive Solar Heating and Cooling