The first community across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco is Emeryville, a former industrial hub that has undergone a renaissance over the last two decades. Languishing factory buildings and brownfields are being transformed into offices, condos, retail, and parks. Resources for Community Development, a nonprofit affordable housing provider, saw this transit hub as an ideal spot for rental units for those earning 30 to 50 percent of Area Medium Income, or $27,600 to $46,000. “There’s a tremendous shortage of affordable housing in the area,” says Dan Sawislak, RCD’s executive director.

The freeway-adjacent site required an innovative design to make the new building fit in with its market-rate and bungalow neighbors. Kava Massih Architects developed the concept of three separate structures with 69 studio-to-three-bedroom units—two two-story ones to match the bungalows’ size, and one five-story structure, which wouldn’t overshadow the smaller buildings. The judges liked how the little homes look like one. They also commented that low cost needn’t eliminate architectural verve, and can incorporate it sparingly in highly visible spots. On the larger building, there are jolts of color, accents of Corten steel, large bays, sunshades, and artwork; on the smaller buildings prefinished corrugated metal siding was used. Indoor and outdoor community spaces foster socializing and offer a place to hold workshops. The $28 million building achieved a GreenPoint rating that will reduce residents’ utility bills and promote healthy living.

Getting It Done

Because of the freeway, the facade was built with an “acoustic clip,” two layers of extra wallboard to deaden noise, and windows are soundproof aluminum frames with insulated glazing. “The effect is like watching a television with the sound on mute; you can see the action but you can’t hear it,” says architect Kava Massih.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.