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New Neighbor

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Aug 5, 2014 10:41:00 AM

 THIS UNUSUAL NINE-UNIT multifamily project in San Francisco’s Mission District covers three adjacent lots, with three units on each lot, divided by a partially shared courtyard. The narrow lots conceal a surprisingly ample amount of floor space (between 1,200 square feet and 1,600 square feet per unit), and a mix of private and shared parking garages. The developer selected the site in part because of its many transit options—including walking—so automobiles play a supporting role in the
design.

“The neighborhood has a lot of Victorian buildings and small streets with a pedestrian feel,” notes architect Glen Rescalvo. “The way we sold this design was that because the units are divided, facing onto opposite streets, it would keep the same feel of a neighborhood and put more eyes on the alleyways. Also, we put it on a flat site, so people could walk easily and forget about their cars.”

The narrow lots and rounded roofs reflect more unwanted heat and imitate the rhythms of nearby Victorian homes. Inside, the units have a contemporary feel. Their uncluttered look, water-saving fixtures, and energy-conscious lighting and appliances appeal to young, hip buyers.

The units were assembled primarily from pre-fabricated panels, partly to save labor, partly to reduce the amount of noise during construction. The resulting structure, packed with blown-in fiberglass insulation, has R-26 walls, R-38 floors, and an R-56 roof. The project is targeting LEED Platinum certification, but developer Andrew Greene says some details remain before that process is complete.

Along with 95% efficient wall-mounted gas boilers, solar hot water panels on the roof supply more than 85% of water heating demand for each unit. Because of the courtyard design, every unit has both daylight and access to outdoor space. Local plants and artificial grass keep irrigation to a minimum, and frosted glass screens provide privacy for individual decks.

“Once the project was done, we brought some local planners down here to tour the project,” Rescalvo says. “We had told them we could build a contemporary, energy smart home in an existing neighborhood and make it work. And that’s what we did, with careful attention to the rhythm of other buildings and by listening to the neighbors.

“We had another thing going for us on this site,” he adds. “It’s in a microclimate and gets more sun. Five blocks away, the fog comes in and just sits there. Location really matters, especially in San Francisco.”
  • Thanks to light colors and a barrel curve, the roof reflects more of the sun’s energy, reducing the HVAC load. Rooftop panels supply most of each unit’s hot water requirements and stucco, Hardiplank, and IPE lumber create a highly durable, varied exterior.

    All walkways and open areas not covered by the building structure are either water permeable or drain into infiltration areas such as raised plant beds. These strategies reduce the amount of runoff going to city sewers.

  • The striking central courtyard cleverly combines shared space and private deck areas with the help of subtle screens of frosted glass.

  • The modern kitchen features low-VOC finishes, water-saving fixtures, and Energy Star appliances.

  • Every unit has its own outdoor space overlooking the internal courtyard. Cross breezes reduce demand for mechanical cooling.

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Topics: 1500 square feet or less, solar hot water, zero-VOC, water saving, multi-family

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