AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Colorado Court Affordable Housing

This photo shows Colorado Court's main entry from 5th street, facing southwest.
Photo credit: Marvin Rand


  • Location: Santa Monica, CA
  • Building type(s): Special needs housing, Multi-unit residential
  • New construction
  • 30,200 ft2 (2,800 m2)
  • Project scope: 5-story building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed November 2002
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2/v.2.1--Level: Gold (44 points)

Located at the corner of a main off-ramp of the Santa Monica freeway, Colorado Court's highly visible position makes it a gateway to the city. The 44-unit, five-story building is the first affordable-housing project in the United States to be 100% energy neutral. This project is an excellent model of sustainable development in an urban environment, provides a model for private/public partnerships that benefit the community, and promotes diversity in an urban environment through strategically placed affordable housing.

Environmental Aspects

Innovative sustainable energy technologies developed for Colorado Court include a natural-gas turbine cogeneration system that generates the base electrical load and provides the building's hot water needs. Photovoltaics integrated into the facade and roof supply most of the peak-load energy demand. Unused energy from these solar panels is fed into the grid during daytime hours and retrieved from the grid at night as needed. The "green electricity" produced at the building site releases no pollutants into the environment. Prevailing breezes cool the building, which has no air conditioning.

The building also collects rainwater runoff from the entire city block behind the property and funnels it into a series of underground chambers. The water slowly percolates back into the soil, which filters the pollutants from the water while preventing contaminated water from spilling into Santa Monica Bay.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned by Community Corporation of Santa Monica, Corporation, nonprofit
  • Occupants: Individual(s)
  • Typically occupied by 44 people, 100 hours per person per week; and 20 visitors per week, 2 hours per visitor per week

Colorado Court includes 44 single-resident occupancy units for tenants with very low income. The 44 tenants occupy the space for an average or 100 hours per week, and there are an estimated 20 visitors each week with an average length-of-stay of 2 hours.

Building Programs

Indoor Spaces:

Living quarters (80%), Circulation (11%), Mechanical systems (4%), Public assembly (3%), Other (1%), Lobby/reception, Restrooms

Outdoor Spaces:

Patio/hardscape (40%), Parking (35%), Garden—decorative (20%), Pedestrian/non-motorized vehicle path (5%), Shade structures/outdoor rooms (5%), Drives/roadway (5%)


Integrated team, Green specifications, Commissioning, Performance measurement and verification, Operations and maintenance, Transportation benefits, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Efficient irrigation, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Massing and orientation, Insulation levels, Glazing, Airtightness, Passive solar, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, On-site renewable electricity, Cogeneration, Durability, Benign materials, Recycled materials, Local materials, C&D waste management, Occupant recycling, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Ventilation effectiveness, Moisture control, Thermal comfort, Low-emitting materials

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Last updated: 4/15/2004

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.

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