AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Step Up on 5th

This photo shows the main entrance of the building as well as the ground-floor art gallery run by the nonprofit that owns the building.
Photo credit: John Linden


  • Location: Santa Monica, California
  • Building type(s): Special needs housing, Retail, Multi-unit residential, Commercial office
  • New construction
  • 31,600 ft2 (2,940 m2)
  • Urban setting
  • Completed April 2009

This mixed-use project provides 46 studio apartments of permanent affordable housing and supportive services for the homeless and mentally disabled population in the heart of downtown Santa Monica. The density of the project is 258 dwelling units/acre, which exceeds the average density of Manhattan by more than 10%.

The mixed-use plan includes ground-level commercial space. Residents have access to a computer center and are provided with services tailored to support low-income families, such as computer training and after-school programs.

The building is located in a transit-oriented location with access to community resources and services, providing a healthy living environment for residents and using resources efficiently.

The owner brought the general contractor and all major sub-contractors into the project team at the start to facilitate a smoother building process.

Environmental Aspects

This building distinguishes itself from most conventionally developed projects in that it incorporates energy-efficient measures that exceed standard practice, optimize building performance, and ensure reduced energy use during all phases of construction and occupancy.

The planning and design emerged from close consideration and employment of passive design strategies. These strategies include:

  • locating and orienting the building to control solar cooling loads
  • shaping and orienting the building for exposure to prevailing winds
  • shaping the building to induce buoyancy for natural ventilation
  • designing windows to maximize daylighting
  • shading south-facing windows and minimizing west-facing glazing
  • designing windows to maximize natural ventilation
  • utilizing low-flow fixtures and stormwater management
  • shaping and planning the interior to enhance daylight and natural airflow distribution

Based on California Title 24-2005 published by USGBC on November 19, 2007, this building is nearly 50% more efficient than a conventionally designed structure of the same type.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned by Step Up, Corporation, nonprofit
  • Occupants: Individual(s)
  • Typically occupied by 46 people, 110 hours per person per week; and 65 visitors per week, 5 hours per visitor per week


Green framework, Simulation, Green specifications, Contracting, Performance measurement and verification, Operations and maintenance, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Efficient irrigation, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Massing and orientation, Insulation levels, Glazing, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, Durability, C&D waste management, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Low-emitting materials

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Last updated: 4/14/2011

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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