LEED-seeking apartments house formerly homeless families in San Francisco

May 22, 2020 by  
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David Baker Architects has completed 222 Taylor, an affordable housing complex in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Designed with more than 100 affordable housing units for low-income households and families and individuals who formerly experienced homelessness, the development is a champion of humanitarian architecture. The project also embodies sustainable principles, including high-density living and energy-efficient design. The nine-story mid-rise building is on track to achieve LEED for Homes Mid-Rise and EnergyStar Multifamily High-Rise certifications.  Located in the heart of San Francisco, 222 Taylor replaces a surface parking lot with a mixed-use building comprising ground-level retail as well as studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units on the upper floors. Of the building’s 113 affordable homes , approximately one-fourth of them are permanently reserved for families who previously experienced homelessness. Because the building sits just two blocks from the BART & Muni Station and the Market Street corridor, no parking is provided; instead, the development offers 114 secure bicycle parking spaces. Related: The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community David Baker Architects designed 222 Taylor to respond to its site context in both appearance — the variegated brick facade references the local masonry — and orientation, which is informed by solar studies to maximize access to natural light. Ample glazing along the ground level also activates the street edge to build a connection with the neighborhood. The project cultivates a sense of community with the design of a flexible central courtyard , complete with ample seating and play zones. The courtyard serves as a hub to the bike parking room, laundry, community room and shared kitchen. Walls in the airy entry lobby are decorated with super-graphics made from enlarged watercolors by a local artist. The building will eventually be topped with a roof farm for additional outdoor community space. + David Baker Architects Photography by Bruce Damonte via David Baker Architects

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LEED-seeking apartments house formerly homeless families in San Francisco

New affordable housing in Silicon Valley boasts net-zero emissions

March 16, 2020 by  
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In one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, a new multifamily community has sprung up to provide 66 affordable rental apartments in Silicon Valley. Named Edwina Benner Plaza after the first female mayor of California, the affordable housing project designed by Caifornia-based architecture firm David Baker Architects also boasts net-zero emissions for operations thanks to the use of all-renewable community utilities and rooftop solar panels. Located in the city of Sunnyvale next to Highway 237, Edwina Benner Plaza occupies an underutilized site where a single-story commercial building once stood. The 110,612-square-foot affordable housing project was strategically oriented and arranged to shield the residential areas and common spaces away from traffic noise and pollution. The massing strategy also helps to encourage an active and healthy community life by placing the shared areas — such as activity rooms, laundry, service programs and an after-school center — around a central outdoor play space.  Related: The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community To further promote an environment for healthy living, Edwina Benner Plaza offers diverse supportive services such as an after-school program, adult education and mediation support. The 66 affordable rental units, which comprise one-, two- and three-bedroom units, are made available to families earning up to 60% of the area median income as well as to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Onsite case management reserves 13 apartment units for formerly homeless individuals and 10 units for those at risk of homelessness. Solar panels cover the building’s roof and power the common loads of the residents. Each residential wing is also served by a custom, high-efficiency central heat pump. “An all-electric building, Edwina Benner Plaza is among the first affordable housing projects in the nation to have zero operating emissions,” the architects added. The project has earned a Platinum certification under the GreenPoint rating system. + David Baker Architects Photography by Bruce Damonte via David Baker Architects

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Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

March 16, 2020 by  
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The worldwide outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) prompted many to purchase face masks for protection. Unfortunately, these protective masks have been harming the environment. Why is that? The masks are made of the plastic polypropylene, which is not easily biodegradable. No surprise then that the accumulation of discarded face masks litters the environment and poses serious risks to the equilibrium of  habitats  and the health of wildlife, especially marine organisms. Environmental groups are now sounding the alarm on how cast-off coronavirus masks are escalating the  litter  and plastic pollution predicaments. Related:  The Ocean Cleanup has first success collecting plastic from Great Pacific Garbage Patch “We only have had masks for the last six to eight weeks, in a massive volume…we are now seeing the effect on the environment,” explained Gary Stokes, founder of Oceans Asia, a marine  conservation  organization. Stokes elaborated with the example of the Soko Islands off Hong Kong. On one 100-meter stretch of beach, Stokes discovered 70 masks, then an additional 30 the following week.  Hong Kong’s dense population means that its citizens have struggled with plastic waste.  Single-use plastic  makes matters more challenging. What’s more, Hong Kong does not effectively  recycle  all its waste. Instead, roughly 70% of its garbage ends up in landfills. That 70% is equivalent to approximately 6 million tons of refuse. Conservationists have been attempting to remove these masks from the environment through beach clean-ups. “Nobody wants to go to the forest and find masks littered everywhere or used masks on the beaches . It is unhygienic and dangerous,” added Laurence McCook, head of Oceans Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong. Jerome Adams, the United States Surgeon General, has also  advised people to stop purchasing medical face masks , as they are ineffective at preventing COVID-19. Scaling back public purchasing of the masks would not only keep more masks available for medical professionals, but could also reduce the amount being discarded and its impact on the environment. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay

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Discarded face masks now threatening wildlife habitats

This DIY off-grid home in Hawaii includes a permaculture farm

March 16, 2020 by  
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Living an off-grid lifestyle is a dream for many, but it’s also incredibly tough to achieve. Still, there are a select few who manage to do it with such style that it makes the transition from running the endless rat race to sustainable living look relatively easy. Ambitious couple Arina and Zen Moriya have done just that by creating an off-grid oasis within the jungles of Pahoa, Hawaii . The Root Down Farm is a self-built homestead that enables the couple to embrace a close connection with nature. The sustainable permaculture farm and off-grid home are located in a community called Puna. After visiting in 2008, the couple immediately fell in love with the community’s progressive, laid-back style and history of  sustainable living. The region’s mild weather, along with the lush jungle vegetation, led them to purchase a 3-acre lot to begin a new way of life. Related: Serene off-grid tiny home sits tucked away in a Hawaiian rainforest The resulting Root Down Farm includes three structures: the main house, which is 1,272-square-feet, a 384-square-foot cottage and a sweet, 360-square-foot bungalow that the couple rents out on Airbnb. All of the structures are surrounded by an expansive permaculture farm that provides vegetables and fruits for the couple and their friends. Inside each building, the furnishings were chosen to reflect the couple’s minimalist design style . Nearly everything was handmade by Zen or found secondhand. The couple did most of the construction work themselves over the span of 2.5 years, along with help of a professional contractor and a few very good friends. The climate was an essential element in their building strategy, enabling them to rely on a few passive features. “Because we don’t have harsh winter, we were able to build structures with no windows (only screens to keep bugs out) and build with single wall with no insulation,” Zen told Inhabitat. Perhaps the only downside to building in a remote area on a tropical island is the fact that they weren’t able to find many repurposed materials to use for the structures. Instead, they turned to nature. “Reclaimed building materials are not easy to find on this island. There is only one or two vendors who salvage old building materials on this island but they charge premium,” Zen explained. “We did try to use as much natural material as possible, such as ohia tree for the main post in the house, guava trees for railing and fence.” Root Down Farm operates completely off of the grid thanks to solar power generation . There is no access to electricity, water or sewers in the area, so the couple built their own self-sufficient systems. They use multiple wells for their water needs and all of the structures are equipped with composting toilets. The permaculture gardens that surround the properties were a crucial component of the project. Arina and Zen now enjoy an abundance of organic food year-round, including coconuts, avocados, banana, papayas, root vegetables, tomatoes and more, all of which they also share with friends. + Root Down Farm Via Apartment Therapy Images by Zen Moriya

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This DIY off-grid home in Hawaii includes a permaculture farm

LEED Platinum-targeted Santa Monica apartments are powered by solar energy

January 30, 2020 by  
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Los Angeles-based design practice KFA Architecture has recently completed Pico Eleven, a new multi-unit residential housing project designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification. In addition to the building’s inclusion of solar panels, energy-efficient appliances and passive solar strategies, Pico Eleven has also dedicated approximately one-third of its units to affordable housing, with four units set aside for very low-income households. Located near Downtown Santa Monica, the housing project reflects its waterfront environment with reclaimed timber siding that recalls the rustic California beach house aesthetic. Nestled into a sloping hillside just blocks from Downtown Santa Monica , Pico Eleven comprises 32 units spread out across four floors and is organized into three distinct masses that step down the slope. The 33,000-square-foot building also includes two levels of subterranean parking with space for 64 vehicles. Eleven of the 32 units — which mainly comprise one- and two-bedroom units — are reserved for rent control, while four units are designated low-income. Related: Eco-friendly crematorium is envisioned for Santa Monica To take advantage of the building’s proximity to the waterfront, the architects have added three upper-level decks with sweeping ocean views and amenities including built-in barbecue grills, gas fire pits and outdoor seating. Outdoor space is further integrated into the design with the private patios that come with every unit as well as the inclusion of two large, open courtyards with drought-tolerant landscaping. Open floor plans and expansive glazing on the sides of every residential unit also give residents access to ocean cross breezes and plenty of natural light. In addition to an emphasis on cross ventilation and daylighting throughout Pico Eleven, the architects have added photovoltaic panels to the roof to generate electricity for the entire building. All units come with energy-efficient appliances and residents have access to two electric vehicle charging stations as well.  + KFA Architecture Images via KFA Architecture

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LEED Platinum-targeted Santa Monica apartments are powered by solar energy

Why stakeholders are raising the pressure on US business leaders to address climate

January 10, 2020 by  
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EDF released its annual survey of perceptions of environmental impact from 600 business leaders in retail, manufacturing, energy, technology and finance.

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A decade of covering the intersection of sustainability, careers and human resources

January 10, 2020 by  
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What’s changed in the 10 years headhunter Ellen Weinreb has been writing for GreenBiz.

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A decade of covering the intersection of sustainability, careers and human resources

Benjamin Fleury creates affordable, modern apartments with a low-energy footprint in Paris

July 30, 2019 by  
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Local architecture practice Benjamin Fleury has completed a residential complex with 26 affordable apartments in Montreuil, a commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris. Affordable housing cooperative COOPIMMO commissioned the design and construction of the building as part of its mission to produce social accommodations with a “renting-purchasing system.” Thoughtfully integrated into the suburban context, the contemporary apartment complex also boasts low-energy consumption and has earned the MINERGIE-P label for its energy-efficient features. Located on the Rue des Chantereines, the 26 Apartments in Montreuil is surrounded by a mix of 1960s housing blocks that range from structures that are five to 10 stories in height to smaller, standalone homes with gardens. Creating a building sensitive to these different building typologies was paramount to the design, as was injecting a contemporary morphology. As a result, the architects decided to split the affordable housing complex into two blocks: a street-facing “urban” block that sits opposite the multistory, midcentury housing blocks and a second “residential” block tucked farther back on the block. A communal garden and gathering space planted with deciduous trees occupies the space between the two buildings. Related: A vacant lot in New Orleans is converted into resilient and affordable housing for war veterans “These accommodations where first offered to local families who could not easily afford to be owners,” Benjamin Fleury said in a project statement. “The principle of the social ownership is simple: in addition to the regulation of low prices, families can contract a loan without pre-existing capital, and then become owners after a first step of renting. Because of the economic flimsiness of the buyers, who already have to assume their loans, it appeared essential to reduce effectively the maintenance costs of the building.” In addition to reducing the cost of maintenance, the architects wanted to reduce energy costs. Passive solar principles were followed to take advantage of natural light, ventilation and shading while heat loss and unwanted solar gain are mitigated with triple-glazed windows. Insulation is also built into the double-layered facade. A double-flow mechanical ventilation system and solar hot water heaters help reduce heating demands. + Benjamin Fleury Photography by David Boureau via Benjamin Fleury

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Benjamin Fleury creates affordable, modern apartments with a low-energy footprint in Paris

A vacant lot in New Orleans is converted into resilient and affordable housing for war veterans

July 2, 2019 by  
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New Orleans-based firm Office of Jonathan Tate has unveiled a modern residential complex for combat veterans and their families. Located in the Gentilly district of the city, the Bastion Community is comprised of 29 two-unit apartment buildings laid out specifically in a way to foster social interaction. Additionally, considering the area’s history for severe flooding, the development was constructed with several resilient features . Located on a formerly vacant lot that spans 6.4 acres, the Bastion Community is now a vibrant residential complex comprising 29 apartment buildings, each containing two units. Within the development, there are various one-, two- or three-bedroom options, ranging from 720 square feet to 1,200 square feet. Related: BIG completes low-income “Homes for All” project in Copenhagen Already known locally for creating modern but affordable housing complexes, the architects specifically designed the Bastion Community to be a “protected but inclusive and thriving live-work environment” for post-9/11 combat veterans and their families. The layout of the homes as well as the on-site community and wellness center were part of a strategy to create a strong sense of community for those who often feel isolated. The homes are uniform in their design, which includes pitched roofs, pale exterior tones and wooden fencing. All units were built to be adapted to be ADA accessible . Considering the location has a long history of flooding , resiliency was at the forefront of the design. All of the structures are elevated off the landscape via concrete piers to allow flood waters to flow freely under the buildings without causing harm. Additionally, landscaping and building strategies for filtering, storing and returning water to the soil were also incorporated into the design. In addition to their resiliency, the apartments were designed to be sustainable and durable for years to come. Tight insulation and high-performance HVAC equipment were used to cut energy costs, and there are tentative plans to install solar panels in the future. Each unit has high vaulted ceilings and operable windows to allow for natural air ventilation. + Office of Jonathan Tate Via Dezeen Photography by William Crocker and aerial photography by Jackson Hill

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A vacant lot in New Orleans is converted into resilient and affordable housing for war veterans

Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harms way

April 25, 2019 by  
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Nearly one out of every 10 low-income housing projects is in a flood zone. In Houston , residents of a government-subsidized complex have sued the landlord, arguing that the subsidy system unfairly traps them in a cycle of devastation with no choice but to continuously return to where their lives are at risk and where they have lost everything — year after year. Half a million Americans live in government subsidized housing that is at direct risk for flooding. This number is modest, because the estimate is based on historical climate data and does not reflect rapidly increasing rainfall patterns. Related: National Weather Service claims 2019 flooding could cause record-breaking damage In 2016, a storm flooded the Arbor Court Apartments in Houston and residents like Sharobin White lost her car and everything in her apartment. Then in 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and again White lost her car and all her possessions. Like thousands of low-income families, Ms. White’s housing voucher is specific to her building and therefore returning to her apartment — despite the trauma and toxic mold — is her only option. Low-income residents take legal action According to an investigative article by the New York Times, the Arbor Court Apartments — like many low-income complexes — is a privately-owned building that has a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The landlord receives payment from the government in exchange for renting to low-income tenants. Despite the known risks and exorbitant recovery expenses after the flood in 2016, the government renewed its contract with Arbor Court. Given the housing crisis throughout the country, HUD argues that without these complexes, thousands of families would be homeless. In other words, the department believes providing vulnerable housing is more urgent and beneficial than sending half a million Americans out onto the street. Similarly, the landlord’s lawyer argues that this building is just as at risk as others in the area and that despite two back-to-back floods, such catastrophes are not the norm. Climate science, however, indicates that these “ freak storms ” are indeed becoming more frequent and therefore not something that the government can afford to ignore. Low-income communities require massive amounts of assistance and funding after disasters and are least capable of recovery. By taking the risk to continue to fund such inexpensive, but repeatedly vulnerable housing, the government is setting itself up for higher costs in the long run — including losses in infrastructure and lives. Still, the government and landlords are cutting corners on recovery efforts and forcing low-income residents to return home despite glaring health risks. “Arbor Court is not a close question,” Michael M. Daniel, a civil rights lawyer working on the case, told The New York Times. “How in the world it hasn’t flunked the ‘decent, safe and sanitary’ test — it’s beyond belief.” Discontinuing decades of discrimination and danger The connection between low-income housing and unsafe conditions is not new. Land in vulnerable areas is cheaper, and therefore readily available for government and low-income projects , just as low-income and minority residents have historically been segregated to undesirable housing near toxic sites. A major shift in planning, policy and budget priorities will be necessary to begin to reverse decades of discriminatory policies, but HUD could start by discontinuing contracts with buildings in vulnerable and damaged areas. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years In Houston, the Arbor Court landlord is currently constructing a new complex located 25 miles away but in a safer zone — at least in terms of flooding . Although the landlord plans to accept the same housing vouchers at that complex, residents argue that this option is still unacceptable. The new complex is located in a high-crime neighborhood, and the residents and their lawyers argue this is further perpetuating segregation. Arbor Court residents are calling for subsidized housing vouchers that could be accepted anywhere, giving the families the ability to choose where they want to live. However, the reality is that without specific state legislation, most landlords can legally refuse these vouchers and discriminate against those who have them. Safer housing solutions Some states, such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, passed legislation prohibiting landlords from refusing Section 8 housing vouchers, which is an important step in housing reform and justice. Other housing experts propose “climate vouchers,” which could give affected families the option to relocate somewhere safer, rather than being required to return to their unsafe homes in order to keep their benefit. Another possible solution would be to use disaster mitigation grant funding toward long-term relocation of housing projects and other infrastructure. Last year, HUD received $16 billion for disaster mitigation, which could be used toward building in safer zones or retrofitting buildings to be more resilient to expected storms. Once residents are relocated, flood zones should be re-converted into wetlands and open spaces, where green infrastructure like underground levees provide critical defenses that protect inland buildings from flooding. Properly designed open spaces can not only protect urban infrastructure, but also provide recreational spaces, beautify neighborhoods and raise property values. This long-term, equitable planning could ultimately save the government millions in recovery dollars after disasters hit. Via The New York Times Images via Revolution Messaging and SC National Guard

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Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harms way

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