GreenWORKS Courtyard Housing

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Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe’s Westside Guadalupe Historic District

This project was selected by the City of Santa Fe to be a model green, affordable, infill housing project. The city- owned site is located in Santa Fe’s Westside Guadalupe Historic District and this courtyard housing design integrates six infill-housing units on a 1/4-acre lot in a manner that reinforces a strong sense of community within the project as well as within the surrounding neighborhood. It accomplishes this first by providing a network of four courtyards that the various units engage directly and secondly with the integration of a community building at the center of the project that provides a space for informal community gatherings, shared dinners, and a place to celebrate special events. This strong sense of community, along with green building aspects of the design from site planning to interior finish, makes this a model project for Santa Fe’s new green building code and for the integration of high-quality affordable housing in Santa Fe’s neighborhoods.

The framework of courtyards is defined by the topography and the solar orientation of the site in order to provide passive heating, maximize natural light, minimize passive heat gain, and capture north winds that will passively cool the units. The courtyards play various roles: points of entry, social and communal space, places for respite and tranquility, spaces to expand the units and promote indoor-outdoor living, and places to incorporate native planting and organic gardens. Units are compact but directly engage the outdoor community spaces at every opportunity. The courtyards act as outdoor rooms for each unit, greatly extending the provided living area.

The centrally located community building further engages the courtyards and provides an additional shared kitchen, library, restrooms, and event space for all residents. These amenities add to the value of each unit and facilitate the sense of community by bringing residents together.

An assessment of the site’s natural resources was the first step in deciding which sustainable strategies would prove to have a large impact on the buildings’ efficiency. These findings drove most of the design decisions for the project. To take advantage of the summer northern winds, each unit is designed to be only one room deep, with windows on each wall in order to use cross ventilation as the primary passive cooling system.

The layout of these rooms maximizes daylight, reducing the need for electric lighting. The summer and winter sun-angles determine the length of the exterior sunshades in order to allow winter sun-angles to passively heat the interior through solar massing; they are also the perfect length to block the high summer sun-angles from entering the interior.

The site receives on average only 14” of annual rainfall; therefore a grey water system would not likely pay for itself on the site. However, we did make a conscious decision to collect the water from non-pervious surfaces for irrigating the community produce garden. This garden reinforces the importance of a sustainable community and that of local food production.

Photovoltaic panels are used for on-site energy production with 44, 180-watt panels providing approximately 25% of the annual energy needs. The living roof, installed with four native plant species, provides habitat for ground dwelling pollinators and further insulation with its mass of soil and vegetation. In addition, the living roof contributes to passive cooling with its evaporative cooling properties in the summer.

Decisions were made to use reclaimed timber, wood, bricks, and stone to further promote the green features of the project. Pigmented stucco will lower maintenance requirements and the use of potentially environmentally and health harmful paints. All interior finishes are chosen for no/low-VOC off-gassing. Bamboo flooring was another sustainable materials’ choice. The green systems chosen for this project are not simply tact-on materials or features, but were actually the basis for what drives the entire layout, design, and construction of the project as a whole.

Response to Charter Principles

This Plan is submitted in the category related to the second scale of the Charter: The Block, the Street and the Building. The project area is the Westside Guadalupe Historic District just a short distance away from the State Capitol and Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Charter Principle Six and Twenty

At the neighborhood scale, we looked at surrounding buildings for information on height, style, and building type leading to our decision for courtyard housing. The Westside Guadalupe Historic District consists of primarily one- story adobe buildings, arranged to form courtyards. The project takes advantage of the site topography to create multi-level courtyards and units to transition from Alto Street down to Lower Alto.

Charter Principle Twenty One

Along Alto Street a courtyard provides a private frontage that is shared by two units and the upper level of the community room. The courtyard, units, and community room provide eyes on the street and create an inviting environment along the street.

Charter Principle Twenty Two

The project takes advantage of topography, along with existing access conditions from two streets, to allow all parking to be accessed from Lower Alto. All the parking is tucked underneath the units and hidden from the main street. Alto Street is the main address for the neighborhood and Lower Alto Street – an unimproved street – provides access to parking.

Charter Principle Twenty Four and Twenty Six

The uses of the local architectural vernacular, the arrangement of the units and courtyard, and the inclusion of native landscaping and living roof, create a project based on the time and place of the site. The adobe style used in the project is of the area and takes advantage of the climate. One-room wide units allow for natural ventilation and four different courtyards are arranged to provide a series of microclimates that allow residents to experience changes in the weather and time of day.

Lessons learned: It is possible to provide well-designed, green, affordable housing: Providing high-quality smaller units it a key to affordability: The proposed program provides six different units. A mix of these unit types can be combined on other sites to create unique and different courtyards based on the desired unit mix and specific site conditions such as topography and orientation. Based on the principles on which these units were created, the unit mix of this site may be modified for different needs or market demands. Many of the green building aspects are tied to the local vernacular, but others are more technologically and site-specific driven: All of these aspects directly reflect Santa Fe’s Green Building Code and reinforce sustainability through good design, beginning with the placement of individual buildings on the specific lot and in relation to the existing context. Efficient site design reduces environmental impacts and improves energy performance by locating and designing units to take advantage of east-west orientation for passive heating and cooling, capture northern winds and minimizing western exposure. Buildings are shallow, often only one room deep, to allow for good cross ventilation through each unit. The use of ICF construction and appropriately integrated living roofs and solar panels create an efficient building system. The character of our design embodies the sculptural massiveness and simple but beautiful forms of the Spanish and pueblo vernaculars. The fundamental basis of sustainable design is a deep understanding of the site and allowing that to drive design decisions: The courtyard-housing units are each unique and are designed according to specific seasonal sun angles, prevailing winds, existing site grade, and other climatic data specific to the Santa Fe area. These units serve as models for how issues of site specificity in the Santa Fe area might be tackled.

Transect Zone(s): T4 general.
Status: Proposed
Project or Plan's Scale: Neighborhood
Features: Affordable/subsidized housing.
Land area (in acres): 1
Total built area (in sq. ft.):
Total project cost (in local currency): 2.12903e+06
Retail area (in sq. ft.):
Office area (in sq. ft.):
Industrial area (in sq. ft.):
Number of hotel units:
Number of residential units (include live/work): 6
Parks & green space (in acres):
Residential types: Low-rise flats, Townhouse/rowhouse/maisonette.
Project team designers: Opticos Design, Inc.
Project team developers: N/A

Previous site status:

Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: -