Lakeside Senior Apartments

This LEED Platinum project was once a parking lot

A LEED Platinum project in Oakland combines an array of elements, from solar orientation and a PV array to a well-being studio and outdoor connections.

exterior view of the Lakeside senior apartments

While the Lakeside Senior Apartments in Oakland, Calif., is notable for its LEED Platinum certification, just as notable is the sense of community it creates for both residents and neighbors.

Built on an urban infill site of a former parking lot, the five-story Lakeside project includes 92 affordable units for low-income, special needs, and formerly homeless seniors. Its located within walking distance of the Lake Merritt waterfront, shopping, restaurants, and parks.

While some developers may be hesitant to embrace sustainability for fear of breaking the budget, nonprofit housing developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), who developed and manages Lakeside Senior, had LEED certification in their sights from the get-go. The certification goal was supported by David Baker Architects, which has a long history of successful certified projects under a range of sustainable-building programs.

“It’s about being strategic about where to go above and beyond to maximize the benefit,” said Daniel Simons, FAIA, principal of David Baker Architects. “It’s about thinking through what makes sense.”

Sustainable features

The sustainability elements for the project, which won an AIA COTE Top Ten Award in 2019, began with solar orientation that minimized southwest-facing glazing, with sunshades and bays added where needed, and increased insulation and airtightness. Other features include:

  • CFL and LED lighting; Energy Star-rated appliances
  • A 34.92-kW solar array and solar domestic hot water
  • High-efficiency irrigation and drought-tolerant plantings
  • Daylight- and motion-controlled corridors and common areas
  • 100% of concrete/asphalt waste and 80% total waste

In addition, the project offers social and well-being elements, such as a lush courtyard warmed by the afternoon sun;  ample access to the outdoors via balconies, ground-level stoops and decks; and a rooftop community suite that preserves access to the lake and city views for most users.

view of the Lakeside apartments and a garden
Credit: Bruce Damonte

As expected, the design team had to juggle decisions to maintain budget but was still able to achieve LEED Platinum.

For example, the owners of Lakeside wanted central forced air for each unit, but the cost was prohibitive. Instead, the design team opted for electric resistance heat. The tremendous cost savings allowed DBA to add a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to each unit’s bathroom, a unique option for affordable housing; it was a cost-efficient way to create an efficient system, Simons said.

Beyond sustainability, what Simons is most proud of are the community aspects, “and the ability to work within the neighborhood; we work hard with the neighborhoods to create something they’re proud of, that the residents will be excited about.”

It began with the building’s design and massing: “We broke the building mass into two volumes that step down toward the lake to create a transition between the neighborhood’s existing high-rises and low-scale residences,” Simons said. “These residential blocks frame the central courtyard and are connected at upper levels with glassy bridges. Inside, the building has shared lounges and nooks that provide places for seniors to socialize outside of their homes. Outside, the building activates the street edge with three lobbies as well as stoop units that connect directly to the sidewalk.”

Lakeside has thoughtful outdoor spaces that directly connect with indoor areas and community programming. For example, the rooftop community suite features a community garden where residents can grow vegetables, adjacent to a kitchen and community room where health education classes are held and a flexible wellness studio. A flexible community room adjoining the ground-floor courtyard hosts activities for both residents and the neighborhood.

“That’s what makes the community successful long term, which I think ultimately is the most important thing in terms of a global sense of sustainability,” Simons said, adding that if this project creates a community that thrives and people love to live in it, they will take better care of it, and the investment will last longer.

While the owners of SAHA aimed for sustainability from the project’s outset, the benefits are such they should be embraced across similar projects. “I think there’s a fear of sustainability because nonprofit developers are rightly concerned about cost,” Simons noted, “but as long as you can reframe that so they know it’s not going to break the bank, they’re committed to making the world a better place, so it’s not that big of a leap to add sustainability to that mission.”

For a deeper dive into Lakeside Senior Apartments, watch Daniel Simons’ A’21 presentation here.