The design objective for the 7th and H building was to create a signature residential building that would last 100 years and be as energy efficient as possible. The building needed to be substantial enough to provide a sense of place on an urban corner surrounded by grey institutional buildings: a noisy jail, the Federal Courthouse, an old parking structure and a loud electrical substation next door.
The team developed a “Z shaped” plan for the upper floors that holds all bedrooms at a distance from the substation, while creating two substantial outdoor terraces at the second floor. To encourage socialization among the special needs residents, the “Z” corridors terminate at double height spaces that provide a shared living room and fabulous view of the downtown.
Clad in locally made full brick, the building has 680 solar panels to generate hot water and half the common load electricity. By orienting the building and operable casement windows towards the summer prevailing winds, the corridors and units are naturally ventilated and temperature stabilized with the thermal mass of the concrete structural frame. The building uses 49% less energy than California code.
Acoustically the site posed a challenge, across the street, the 16 stories of outdoor exercise spaces of the jail loom and boom over the site, immediately to the west the City’s largest electrical substation loudly drones on 7/24, two light rail lines intersect in front of the building. However, to take advantage of Sacramento’s important natural resource of the cooling Delta Breeze in the summer months, residents needed to be able to open their windows at night. The team worked with an acoustical engineer to create a waterfall fountain on the west terrace that transforms the space with rushing water sounds more akin to Yosemite.
For half of the residents and formerly homeless, socialization is critical to develop a sense of community and belonging. The building needed to encourage as much casual social interaction opportunities as possible. For example, the common areas of the second floor open from one side of site, through the building, to the other. To accomplish this, a large terrace on the west is visible from the east terrace through a morning lounge and classroom with a glass wall that can be folded back to create a space for wall 150 residents to meet, or have a party together. The second floor is the intersection of indoors and out, nature and light, water and people.