Two model affordable housing developments in California and Vermont are the recipients of the 2015 HUD Secretary’s Housing and Community Design Award, each recognized for excellence in affordable housing design. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) selected Step Up on 5th in Santa Monica, and Co-Op Plaza Redevelopment in Brattleboro, Vermont as national affordable housing models.

“Affordable housing represents a gateway to greater opportunity. These two projects are a powerful reminder that bold vision and innovative design can shape communities of promise,” said HUD Secretary Juli√°n Castro. “I congratulate these winners on their achievements and I’m proud to honor them for their commitment to inclusive development.”

The Santa Monica building received the Excellence in Affordable Housing Design award, recognizing architecture that demonstrates overall excellence in terms of design in response to both the needs and constraints of affordable housing.

Officials described Step Up on 5th (Step Up) as 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, with 46 studio apartments of permanent affordable housing and ground level commercial/retail space and underground parking. Step Up incorporates energy efficient measures that exceed standard practice, optimize building performance, and reduce energy use during construction and occupancy. Planning and design of Step Up employed passive design strategies that make the building 50 percent more efficient than a conventionally designed structure.

In addition, the building is loaded with energy saving and environmentally benign devices. Materials conservation and recycling employed during construction, requiring that waste be hauled to a transfer station for recycling, achieved a 71-percent recycling rate. Carpet, insulation, and concrete with a recycled content and use of all natural linoleum flooring added to resource conservation. Throughout the building compact fluorescent lighting and double pane windows with a low-E coating are used. 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 efficiency requirements in the United States, Step Up incorporates numerous sustainable features that exceed state-mandated Title 24 energy measures by 26 percent. The project has followed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process making it equivalent to LEED Gold.

Custom water jet anodized aluminum panels on the main façade create a dramatic screen that sparkles in the sun and glows at night, while providing sun protection and privacy. The material reappears as a strategic arrangement of screens on east and south facing walls, contributing a subtle pattern to the exterior walkways and stairs. South facing walls filter direct sunlight with symmetrical horizontal openings that create a sense of security for the emotionally sensitive residents.

Co-op Plaza Redevelopment in Brattleboro, Vermont received the Creating Community Connection Award for incorporating housing within other community amenities for the purpose of either revitalization or planned growth.

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