Green building is healing for formerly homeless residents

Spotlight on sustainability at King 1101 Apartments

King 1101 Team Depot

Caption: Landscaping day at King 1101 with Home Depot/Team Depot volunteers

In a neighborhood highly impacted by climate change, King 1101 Apartments in Exposition Park makes the case for the benefits that green building brings to all socioeconomic levels. With 25 apartments for military veterans and large families that were formerly homeless, King 1101 stands out on the street with its thoughtful modern design, sloping rooftop gardens, and inviting ground-floor store fronts. Sustainable, green and award-winning architecture has been mischaracterized as a luxury for the elite, too expensive and impractical for typical development. But developer Clifford Beers Housing has found that green design contributes to wellbeing and recovery for residents while reducing operating expenses and energy use over the long run. As he toured the newly completed apartments, local City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson said, “This will become a permanent symbol for hope and the best of what we can be in the City of Angels.”

King 1101 Apartments is pursuing a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design Gold (LEED) certification by achieving high performance in water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and air quality. The apartments’ green features include high-efficient heating and cooling, appliances and fixtures, along with solar water heating, electric vehicle charging and bike parking. The unique green roof is reminiscent of a traditional sod roof with waving native grasses, giving a delightful feel of the countryside. Other landscaping strategies include drought-tolerant planting, high-efficiency irrigation, community edible gardens, and reduction of local heat island effects through thoughtful tree placement. The urban infill site has outstanding transit access that decreases car use, and the architecture maximizes the apartments count while adding open and green space to the neighborhood.

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects imagined an L-shaped layout that allows every apartment to receive sunlight and cross ventilation, reducing the need for heating, cooling, and artificial lighting and giving rise to an elevated green patio for retreat and play off the busy thoroughfare. Principal Lorcan O’Herlihy asks in a Los Angeles Times profile, “How do you bring down light? How do you bring down air? How do you make a building truly sustainable?” Adding about King 1101, “people are inspired to be there.”

The architecture intentionally encourages health and social connection instead of isolation. Walker Wells of Global Green USA writes that green building practices promote health by improving ventilation and avoiding toxic materials, lowering utility costs, and improving durability. Funds that residents don’t spent on health care or utilities can be redirected toward higher priority items such as education.

“Our goal is to support people to leave the cycle of homelessness forever, and a clean, safe and healthy space is an important part of that,” says Cristian Ahumada, Executive Director of Clifford Beers Housing. Beyond simply providing housing, Ahumada focuses on the larger picture of neighborhood revitalization and comprehensive community development, saying, “Southern California desperately needs to improve energy and water conservation. Quality affordable housing should contribute to economic and social equity and bring environmental benefits to residents, neighborhoods and cities.”

“Achieving LEED certification is more than implementing sustainable practices. It represents a commitment to making the world a better place,” agrees Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council which awards the certification. “Clifford Beers is a leader, given the extraordinary importance of climate protection and the central role of the building industry in that effort.”

King 1101 Apartments is a 26-apartment community for low-income families and military veterans. The apartments have 24/7 on-site property management and on-site supportive social services. The development also features street-front commercial spaces for local social enterprises.

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