First Community Housing’s LEED NC GOLD certified Casa Feliz Studios is located in San Jose, California. FCH replaced an aging single-room occupancy (SRO) development with shared bathrooms with 60 affordable SRO units with private bathrooms and increased on-site parking. The 4-story, 25,000 square foot building includes 5,375 square feet of living roof space designed to maximize storm water retention. During the preliminary design of Casa Feliz, FCH was confronted with a requirement to replace and upgrade the existing storm sewer to a 100-year flood capacity at a cost of approximately $300,000. FCH worked with Rana Creek Living Architecture to engineer the living roofs, which are capable of retaining up to 80% of stormwater. FCH was then able to replace the sewer with a 10-year event pipe.
The property also uses drought-tolerant native plants, appropriate for San Jose's climate, to insure that no water will be needed for irrigation once the plants are established. In addition, organically grown plants and a pesticide-free growing medium protect the quality of any water that percolates into the site or drains into the public stormwater system. The two largest sections of the living roof, one of which is shaded beneath a 16-kilowatt photovoltaic array, are planted with a mixture of annual and perennial grasses and wildflower species that are designed to attract insects, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
Other development highlights include:
- On-site supportive services provider serving special-needs residents
- On-site manager and maintenance person
- Exceeding energy-efficiency requirements by 12%
- Energy-efficient windows and extensive use of green building materials
- Laundry facility
- Community room
- Lounge and computer lab with internet access
- Eco Passes for all residents for free public transportation
- Adjacent to bus line
Casa Feliz is a showcase of excellence for its design, creative funding strategies, asset and property management, green features, energy efficiency, the encouragement of mass transit, resident services, and amenities. This project demonstrates how a developer can incorporate green features into its projects and do so within the context of constrained funding and regulatory limitations in a way that will help lead to market acceptance of green building as the standard for affordable housing. Additionally, as San Jose’s first new development with a living roof, Casa Feliz provides an important model. Lessons learned from Casa Feliz will be incorporated into future projects and can be used as a guideline for others who wish to build green affordable housing.