2020 Green Home of the Year Award Winner: One for All

It’s the same shade of green living, no matter where you reside in this upscale, multi-lifestyle complex.

If one green home is good, multiple green structures must be great. That’s the crux of the housing at 430 Forest Avenue—a.k.a. “The Palo Alto Apartments”—a series of net zero residences in the heart of downtown Palo Alto, Calif.

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From the Judges: “This gorgeous project shows that efficiency can be beautiful. The high design of this project didn’t get in the way of lofty LEED Platinum goals."


Project Stats
Name: Palo Alto Apartments, Palo Alto, Calif.
Builder: Sageleaf Forest LLC 
Architect/Designer: David Solnick, Architect
Developer: Prabhas Kejriwal, Sageleaf Forest, LLC
Photographer: David Solnick, Architect

All 13 dwellings—a penthouse, two townhouses and 10 apartments—were designed to provide a positive impact on residence health while promoting renewable, clean energy, according to project developers.

The 430 Forest Avenue project was designed and constructed by Shell Building Systems, architect David Solnick and developer Prabhas Kejriwal of Sageleaf Forest, LLC.

The client, meanwhile, wanted zero-energy and sustainable design elements to gain LEED Platinum certification (which it ultimately did). This commitment is also exampled by the project team employing CA Green Building Code Tier 2 Compliance, according to Palo Alto Apartments builders.

“Environmental and energy modeling was critical given the building’s design with massive floor to ceiling windows in many units,” notes James Hodgson, general manager of Premier Building Systems, the provider of structural insulated panels (SIPs) used in the project.

The end result was a very green series of apartments, indoors and out.

Green on the Inside

Multi-story building and extreme sustainability throughout every component required extensive planning and systems design. In addition, programmable smart home and a wide array of sustainable elements are central to the project’s luxurious living, comfort and day-to-day conservation.

The Palo Alto Apartments’ green status starts with its six-inch SIPs, which Shell Building Systems President Greg Koepf says are “the foundation for the project’s efficiency and structural integrity.”

From there, there is a micro-zoning high efficiency HVAC system with heat pump, all-LED high-efficiency lighting when needed—the natural day variety is emphasized as much as possible—high-efficiency glazed windows, and video monitoring in common areas throughout the all-electric home.

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Greener on the Outside

Meanwhile, the structure’s Modern California exterior character, and transitions of scale and materials are compatible with the area’s diverse design and historical nature.

A subterranean garage enabled design of a low-profile building mass that mitigates loss of natural light on adjacent neighbors’ properties. It also frees up space to create building undulation for architectural interest and give room for design that embraces ample natural light, developers note. Also, each unit has its own Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charger if—and when—it is needed.

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A long-lasting PVC white reflective roof includes a photovoltaic system that produces 100 percent of the structure’s projected energy use.

Permeable Calstone pavers allow movement of storm water through the surface, reducing runoff and filtering contaminants before it enters groundwater.

And, greywater plays a large role in the building’s green status. Recycled content is used for landscaping; toilets will soon be plumbed for its use during flushes.

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Key Components

Appliances: Heat pump water heaters and clothes dryers
Building Envelope: Shell Building Systems
Electrical: All-electric appliances; a Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charger for every unit to fully power electric cars
Exterior Finishes: Wood grain, high-definition, digital inkjet-printed recycled aluminum siding; Stuc-O-Flex elastomeric acrylic finish
Home Controls: Samsung SmartThings controller; occupant-controlled lighting in all common areas
and inside units
HVAC/Ducts: Micro-zoning, high-efficiency HVAC system with heat pump (locked out when windows open)
Insulation: Structural insulated panels (SIPs) by Premier Building Systems
Landscaping: Recycled greywater used for landscaping
Lighting: All-LED high-efficiency lighting; occupant-controlled lighting in all common areas and inside units
Pavers: Permeable Calstone pavers
Plumbing/Plumbing Fixtures: Plumbed for toilet flushing using greywater (addition in the future)
Renewable Energy Systems (solar, wind, etc.): Photovoltaic system produces 100 percent of projected energy
Roof: Long-lasting PVC, white reflective roof
Telecommunications: Video monitoring in common areas
Water Filtration: Permeable Calstone pavers allow movement of stormwater through the surface
Water Heating: Heat pump water heaters and clothes dryers
Windows, Skylights, Patio Doors: High-efficiency glazed windows
Stuc-O-Flex Water Way Rainscreen Drainage Mats to facilitate drainage/air flow induction cooking
Cellular PVC trim (recyclable)

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