Chestnut Court is a vibrant new mixed-use complex that contributes to the dramatic revitalization of West Oakland. Replacing a deteriorated public housing project, Chestnut Court skillfully inhabits its one square block site by responding to the neighborhood’s varied urban context. The three-story mixed-use Grand Avenue building provides townhouses above community service, child care, and retail spaces. The façade addresses the busy street and neighboring loft and industrial buildings by using corrugated metal siding, exposed concrete piers, and large scale windows. On the side streets, the project’s buildings are designed at a smaller scale to relate closely to existing small private homes. A new mid-block private street provides access to tuck-under parking and acts as a quiet, pedestrian connector to the common outdoor spaces, including a generous recreational courtyard with seating, a playground, and basketball court. There is a strong sense of community through the site design and communal spaces. The complex provides supportive services for residents including a computer learning center, job training and placement, financial planning, after-school tutoring, and senior care. Residents of Chestnut Court have easy access to public transportation through its location at two major bus thoroughfares.
Each dwelling unit in the complex is designed to be as individually identifiable as possible, most with front doors opening onto the street and each with private outdoor space. Unit interiors have efficient floor plans, and ample natural lighting and ventilation. Porches and entries to the townhouses mirror the surrounding neighborhood context and encourage neighborhood interaction. The design provides residents with a sense of ownership, which serves as a strong deterrent to crime. Since the completion of Chestnut Court, surrounding homes have been improved and sold, evidence of the continued neighborhood renewal.
The design process for Chestnut Court incorporated extensive community involvement including a bus tour of existing complexes completed by the developer with the same and other architects, several meetings with both the surrounding neighbors and potential tenants, and meetings with the city of Oakland. In addition, there were design meetings with the developer’s maintenance and management staff. Issues of sustainability and energy efficiency were addressed during the entire design process.
Chestnut Court is an Energy Star project incorporating well-sealed ductwork, double glazed low-E windows, and 2x6 exterior walls with R-19 insulation. All of these measures contribute to the project exceeding California’s Title 24 energy requirements by over 15%. Energy-efficient appliances were installed throughout, including Energy Star refrigerators/freezers, dishwashers, and office computers, monitors, and printers. Three fourths of lighting fixtures feature fluorescent bulbs and all emergency exit signs are LED-type. The central hot water heating system is 94% thermally efficient. All units are double aspect, allowing for cross ventilation and daylighting. Most of the townhouses also have operable skylights for additional daylighting and stack ventilation. Because of the Bay Area’s mild climate and the use of natural ventilation, the need for mechanical cooling was eliminated. A 31.5-kW photovoltaic system generates 65% of the electricity for the common spaces. The solar system reduces the development’s electrical bills and will serve the property for at least thirty years, providing a clean, long-term source of energy.
Appliances selected to minimize water use include front-loading washing machines in the common laundry area and water efficient dishwashers within the units. The project’s central water heaters have peak demand output, which, combined with efficient return plumbing, expedites delivery of hot water to residents, reducing waste. Drought tolerant and resistant plants were selected to reduce the use of landscape irrigation.
Durable, sustainable materials at Chestnut Court include: high volume fly-ash concrete foundation footings, cementitious siding, recycled content carpet, recycled content rubber playground surfacing, composite flooring, and stained concrete floors in the entry areas. A construction waste reduction and recycling plan was instituted and resulted in a 50% reduction in waste. Construction materials recycled included wood, drywall, excess and scrap carpet pad, metal studs, piping, landscaping materials, and additional metals including rebar. Materials were separated on-site before being transferred to the county’s recycling facilities.
To increase building durability and safeguard indoor air quality, exterior moisture protection was addressed through careful detailing. This included the use of a self-adhesive sheet membrane at all wear points (windows, doors, corners, etc.) in combination with galvanized sheet metal flashings. Humidity in bathrooms is minimized through exhaust fans on humidistat sensors. To limit material off gassing in the units, low-VOC paints and Interface carpeting was used.
Lessons Learned from the Architect - Creating double aspect and double height units provides exceptional natural ventilation and daylighting and improves the overall indoor environmental quality. It is a green strategy that really comes down to good design and remembering how things were done before there was the luxury of mechanical heating and cooling and electric lighting.
Using tuck-under parking is very resource efficient. Rather than using materials to cover cars plus driving lanes, you are covering only the cars. In this project, every unit has covered parking. Without using a tuck-under strategy for 58 of the 72 cars, it would not have been feasible.
Although it’s not a goal exclusive to green, it’s really important to create social places for people to gather. By creating eight-unit clusters that share an entry patio area and pleasant common gathering spaces, we create a strong sense of community, safety, and social sustainability for the residents.
|Green Features||Chestnut Court|
|Access to Public Transportation||Chestnut Court is located on two major bus thoroughfares.|
|Compact Development||The project density is 26 units per acre.|
|Passive Heating and/or Cooling||All units are double aspect, allowing for cross ventilation. Most of the townhouses also have operable skylights for stack ventilation.|
|Daylighting||All units are double aspect, allowing for daylighting. Most of the townhouses also have operable skylights for additional daylighting.|
|Superinsulation||2x6 exterior walls with R-19 insulation.|
|High Performance WIndows||Double glazed low-E windows.|
|Energy Efficiency Heating and Cooling||The central hot water heating system is 94% thermally efficient. All cooling is provided by passive ventilation.|
|Energy Star Appliances/Lighting||Refrigerators/freezers, dishwashers, and office computers, monitors, and printers are Energy Star.|
|Renewable Energy||A 31.5-kW photovoltaic system generates 65% of the electricity for the common spaces.|
|Water Efficient Landscaping||Drought tolerant and resistant plants were selected to reduce the use of landscape irrigation.|
|Water Saving Appliances||Front-loading washing machines in the common laundry area and water efficient dishwashers within the units. Central water heaters have peak demand output combined with efficient return plumbing to expedite delivery of hot water and reduce waste.|
|Recycled Content Materials||Recycled content carpet, recycled content rubber playground surfacing, and a construction waste reduction and recycling plan resulted in 50% less waste.|
|Low VOC Materials||To limit material off gassing in the units, low VOC paints and Interface carpeting was used.|