AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Gish Family Apartments

This photo provides a good overview of the project.
Photo credit: Bernard Andre


  • Location: San Jose, CA
  • Building type(s): Special needs housing, Multi-unit residential, Retail
  • New construction
  • 75,200 ft2 (6,990 m2)
  • Project scope: 4-story building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed June 2007
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2/v.2.1--Level: Gold (40 points)
    Rating: Build it Green GreenPoint Rated --Level: 145 points
    Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED for Homes Pilot--Level: Gold (74.5 points)

Gish Apartments in downtown San Jose is a 35-unit transit-oriented family apartment complex that provides quality affordable housing for households earning 35%–50% of the area median income. The complex includes efficiency, two-bedroom, three-bedroom apartments. Over a third of the apartments (13 of them) are set aside for residents with developmental disabilities. The complex is a model for the State of California's Multifamily Housing Program for mainstreaming special needs populations.

The mixed-use plan includes a convenience store and a beauty salon on the ground floor. Residents have access to a computer center and are provided with services tailored to support low-income families, such as financial literacy training, computer training, and after-school programs. Housing Choices Coalition provides coordination of services for residents who have developmental disabilities, and facilitates communication among these residents, their case managers, and the property management team.

Gish Apartments is a groundbreaking development both for its architectural design and in its use of renewable energy technologies and other green building features. Gish is the only affordable housing development in the U.S. to receive both LEED for Homes and LEED for New Construction Gold certification.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2009. It was submitted by OJK Architecture and Planning in San Jose, California. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

First Community Housing prefers to locate housing in transit-oriented locations with access to community resources and services, providing a healthy living environment for residents and using resources efficiently. The development of Gish Apartments was consistent with these goals. By choosing a site adjacent to light rail and reserving 35% of units for tenants with developmental disabilities, the owner earned a major parking reduction from the City. As a result, the project has a high housing density of 81 units per acre. The mixed-use design, which includes a ground floor convenience store, allows residents to purchase basic groceries on site. Other environmental aspects of the project include reuse of an urban brownfield site, a roof-top photovoltaic array, high performance insulation in 2x6 exterior walls, double-glazed windows, and high-efficiency heating and hot water systems. The initial costs associated with energy-saving features and durable materials are being offset by lower operational costs.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned by First Community Housing, Corporation, nonprofit
  • Occupants: Individual(s)
  • Typically occupied by 105 people, 100 hours per person per week; and 15 visitors per week, 2 hours per visitor per week
  • Expected Building Service Life: 75 years

Building Programs

Indoor Spaces:

Living quarters (50%), Structured parking (37%), Circulation (5%), Retail general (5%), Public assembly (2%), Office (1%)

Outdoor Spaces:

Garden—decorative (10%), Patio/hardscape (10%), Playground (7%)


Integrated team, Green specifications, Commissioning, Operations and maintenance, Transportation benefits, Brownfield redevelopment, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Efficient irrigation, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Insulation levels, HVAC, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, On-site renewable electricity, Durability, Benign materials, Recycled materials, C&D waste management, Occupant recycling, Daylighting, Noise control, Low-emitting materials

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Go to next topic: Process

Last updated: 4/13/2009

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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