McKeesport Downtown Housing

McKeesport Downtown Housing, formerly a YMCA, is an 84-unit SRO for people at risk of homelessness. The old brick and terracotta building was important historically for McKeesport. The decision to design the project to Passive House criteria actually went a long way to making the pro-forma work. This project was the first large scale retrofit to be designed to meet Passive House Standards in the US.

Space was at a premium and a reorganization of space allowed for making larger resident rooms. Through a community process with various stakeholders, amenities were identified and added to the project, including a community room, a bike storage area, exterior smoking balconies, single-user rest rooms, a bed bug room for non-toxic treatment of bed bugs, and communal kitchens to provide healthy options for food. The renovation includes new additional lighting, air-conditioning, make-up air and ventilation systems, an elevator, and cooking facilities. A cold-weather shelter, 60-day emergency housing, bridge housing, and section 8 apartment rentals make up the housing programs within the shelter. Thoughtful Balance designed the interiors, and selected the furniture for durability and resistance to bed bugs.

AIA Pittsburgh, Award of Excellence in Sustainable Design, October 2015


  • 64,974 sq ft
  • Built for $124 per sq ft
  • EUI of 23
  • Uses 66% less energy than the original building AFTER adding lighting, ventilation, make-up air,
    an elevator, and air-conditioning

“This is amazing to me…feel it.  It is 7 degrees outside and the wall is still warm.” 

Property Manager, McKeesport Downtown Housing


“Loving care and attention to detail are present everywhere in this very tight-budgeted solution. It is an excellent example of creating a sustainable option for those who might need it the most."

Jury, AIA Awards