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American Institute of Architects - Housing and Community Design Awards

The Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in conjunction with the Residential Knowledge Community of The American Institute of Architects (AIA), recognizes excellence in affordable housing, community-based design, participatory design, and accessibility. These awards demonstrate that design matters and provide examples of important benchmarks in the housing industry. Awards are offered in four categories: Community–Informed Design Award, Creating Community Connection Award, Excellence in Affordable Housing Design Award, and Housing Accessibility— Alan J. Rothman Award.

American Institute of Architects - Housing and Community Design Awards


Creating Community Connection Award
This award recognizes projects that incorporate housing within other community amenities for the purpose of either revitalization or planned growth.

Co-op Plaza Redevelopment: Brattleboro, Vermont.

Co-op Plaza, a public-private partnership, is contributing to the revitalization of a key section of downtown Brattleboro. When the Brattleboro Food Co-op needed a major expansion the Co-op membership decided to forgo the easy and cheaper option to move to an outlying location and committed to staying downtown. As part of their mission, the members partnered with a local nonprofit to provide much needed affordable housing downtown. The first two floors of the new four-story building house the co-op grocery store and administrative offices, a bakery, and commercial space for local vendors. The extended roof on the first floor incorporates an accessible green roof. The upper two floors are designed for 24 affordable apartments. The new parking areas, pedestrian walkways, outside seating, and café and market areas provide a sense of community and place for chance meetings.

The building is a model of energy efficiency, using both conventional and innovative systems, such as heating the entire building with reclaimed waste heat from the store refrigeration system. The collaborative design process was a critical factor in making the project a model for responsible building practice and smart growth. The site, previously contaminated by a dry cleaning facility, was cleaned up. The building was moved away from the nearby brook to protect the water from pollution and the building from flooding. Storm water runoff is treated and filtered by a green roof, permeable surfaces in the parking lot, and a 20-foot buffer strip in the new public park created along the Whetstone Brook.

Energy efficiency was achieved through active, passive, and innovative systems. Recycled heat generated by the Co-op’s refrigerators heats the store and the apartments and provides hot water. The design includes natural light throughout and the use of louvers in the second-floor offices. Lighting is adjusted automatically with timers. Construction materials include locally harvested and milled flooring and slate siding manufactured in Vermont. The apartments have continuous fresh air ventilation with heat recovery and the Co-op uses a solar photovoltaic system to generate electricity. These features have cut per-square-foot energy costs by approximately 50 percent, which helps keep the apartments affordable and saves 21 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

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Excellence in Affordable Housing Design
This award recognizes architecture that demonstrates overall excellence in terms of design in response to both the needs and constraints of affordable housing.

Step Up on 5th, Santa Monica, California.

Step Up on 5th (Step Up) 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, with its 46 studio apartments of permanent affordable housing and ground level commercial/retail space and subterranean parking. Step Up incorporates energy efficient measures that exceed standard practice, optimize building performance, and reduce energy use during construction and occupancy phases. 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 the use of all natural linoleum flooring added to resource conservation. Compact fluorescent lighting and double pane windows with low-E coating were used throughout the building. 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 occupants.