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Step Up on Fifth in Santa Monica, California by Brooks + Scarpa (formerly Pugh + Scarpa)
March 11th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Brooks + Scarpa (formerly Pugh + Scarpa)
Step Up on 5th is a bright new spot in downtown Santa Monica. The new building provides a home, support services and rehabilitation for the homeless and mentally disabled population. The new structure provides 46 studio apartments of permanent affordable housing. The project also includes ground level commercial/retail space and subterranean parking. The density of the project is 258 dwelling units/acre, which exceeds the average density of Manhattan, NY (2000 USA Census Bureau Data) by more than 10%.
A striking yet light-hearted exterior makes the new building a welcome landmark in downtown Santa Monica. Custom water jet-anodized aluminum panels on the main façade creates a dramatic screen that sparkles in the sun and glows at night, while also acting as sun protection and privacy screens. The material reappears as a strategic arrangement of screens on east and south-facing walls, lending a subtle rhythm to the exterior circulation walkways and stairs. South-facing walls filter direct sunlight with asymmetrical horizontal openings that lend unexpected visual depth while creating a sense of security for the emotionally sensitive occupants. Enhancing the structure’s geometric texture, the irregular array of openings variably extrudes from the building’s surface.
The small-scale elements on the façade enhance the existing streetscape and promote a lively pedestrian environment. By visually breaking up the façade into smaller articulated elements, the building appears to move with the passing cars and people.
At the second level above the retail space two private courtyards provide residents with a secure and welcoming surrounding while connecting directly to 5th street and downtown Santa Monica via a secured stairway integrated into the building storefront at street level. Community rooms are located on every other floor of the project overlooking the private courtyards protected from the street. These community rooms along with the private courtyards serve as the principal social spaces for the tenants of the building.
Step Up on 5th distinguishes itself from most conventionally developed projects in that it incorporates energy efficient measures that exceed standard practice, optimize building performance, and ensure reduced energy use during all phases of construction and occupancy. The planning and design of Step Up on 5th emerged from close consideration and employment of passive design strategies. These strategies include: locating and orienting the building to control solar cooling loads; shaping and orienting the building for exposure to prevailing winds; shaping the building to induce buoyancy for natural ventilation; designing windows to maximize day lighting; shading south facing windows and minimizing west-facing glazing; designing windows to maximize natural ventilation; utilizing low flow fixtures and storm water management; shaping and planning the interior to enhance daylight and natural air flow distribution. These passive strategies alone make this building 50% more efficient than a conventionally designed structure.
The building is loaded with energy-saving and environmentally benign or “sustainable” devices. Materials conservation and recycling were employed during construction by requiring waste to be hauled to a transfer station for recycling. The overall project achieved a 71% recycling rate. Specifying carpet, insulation and concrete with a recycled content, and utilizing all-natural linoleum flooring also emphasized resource conservation. The project uses compact fluorescent lighting throughout the building and double-pane windows that have a low-E coating. Each apartment is equipped with water-saving low flow toilets and a high-efficiency hydronic system for heat. While California has the most stringent energy efficient requirements in the United States, Step Up incorporates numerous sustainable features that exceeded state mandated Title 24 energy measures by 26%. Although not submitted at this time, the project has followed the LEED certification process and would receive 39 points making it equivalent to LEED “Gold”.
Urban infill, permanent supportive housing for previously homeless, mentally disabled individuals. Designed to be a ‘house’ for the 46 people who live here, the front of the project has a large front door leading to a lobby under a cantilevered perforated screen canopy. The screen system provides a measure of privacy from the busy street for the tenants through perforated aluminum panels and open walkways, courtyards and common community rooms that allow social interaction in a protected, exterior space within the project. A mixed-use project, the ground floor contains a computer lab and a lobby for the units floors 2-5. All of the studio apartments have murphy beds to allow for spatial flexibility.
The front facade is designed with a series of water jet cut aluminum screens that filter early morning light into the front units. The building is oriented to capture prevailing breezes and to filter sunlight through a large southeast facing, 4-story perforated galvanized screen to the two interior courtyards. Most of the studio apartments have windows on opposite perimeter walls to allow natural cross ventilation. A common boiler heats the domestic hot water and space heating is provided by a common boiler and small hydronic radiators in each unit. Only the ground floor computer lab and the two manager’s units have cooling. Low flow fixtures are used throughout. R21 insulation was used in walls and R30 in roof. Low VOC paints and finishes, recycled carpet and natural linoleum were also used. 71% of combined C & D materials were recycled. The project includes a trash chute for recycled materials.
A storm water catch basin and filter system (hidden in the front planter) capture and treat all of the rainwater that falls on the site.
Owner & Occupancy
– Owned by Step Up on Second, a nonprofit corporation.
During the design phases, the team had a goal of meeting LEED silver and this process was started, however, when the contractor became involved, completing this task became cost-prohibitive. The specifications were written with the original goal in mind and the City of Santa Monica has very stringent green requirements which were met by the project, even though it was never submitted for the LEED rating. Education of the construction team would be beneficial for future projects to keep costs in-line.
Due to small unit size and efficient unit envelope, the electrical design load was reduced. Building envelope consists of: R 21 batt insulation in the walls and R 30 in the roof, along with double-glazed windows with a lowE coating. Shading is provided for the building and both courtyard spaces through the perforated screens. Cooling is only provided in the ground floor computer lab, the two offices and the two manager’s units. All other units are designed with windows on opposite walls to induce natural cross-ventilation. All units and community rooms are heated through a common boiler and radiator system (small fan blows air over the hot water pipes between the wall studs). Domestic hot water is also heated through a common boiler. All light fixtures are compact fluorescent in the units and exterior walkways and exterior lights are on timers. Fluorescent tubes were also used in the ground floor lobby and computer lab. Individual units have small kitchenettes with an energy star refrigerator and only the two community rooms have gas-fired ranges (to promote social interaction among tenants).