Green Building Tour: Plaza Apartments

April 4, 2007

One of the outstanding housing projects recognized last year by the AIA Housing Knowledge Community for its "Show You're Green" awards was the Plaza Apartments in San Francisco CA.The building is a nine-story structure with 106 very small (approximately 300 square feet) apartments for very low income and formerly homeless residents.

The ground floor includes space for a credit union and other retail uses and a theater space for a nonprofit theater who had been in the small building on the site before the construction of this building. Space for social workers and medical facilities is also included as part of the development.The building not only incorporates a number of green features, but it is also situated in an urban context with ready access to bus and subway transit (1/10th of a mile (about 160 meters) to the nearest bus stop and half a mile (about .8 km) to the subway entrance). This "transit-oriented development" is a green feature recognized by LEED, among other sources, and also makes particular sense for a community with little access to personal vehicles.

Extensive natural lighting and ventialtion are used for the building. The building incorporates overhangs and high performance windows to temper sunlight from overheating the units while allowing winter sun to help to warm them. Corridors end with windows, rather than dead ends, allowing more ventilation and views to the outside.The exterior wall panels are a veneer of a fast growing wood that are impregnated with a resin in order to retain their lustrous appearance (and to minimize the need for constant painting or other maintenance). There are solar photovoltaic panels on the roof which supply more than 10% of the building's energy needs. Rainwater is also collected and irrigates the courtyard.

The Plaza Apartments were designed for LEED Silver certification.

Building Information: Location: San Francisco CAArchitect: Paulett Taggart Architects (with Leddy, Maytum, Stacy Architects)Links: CoolTownStudios San Francisco Chronicle

Finland Color Plywood (photos)AIA Housing "Show You're Green"