THE LINDEN COURT DEVELOPMENT is another example of high-design affordable housing that appears to be taking hold in this country. This one, designed and built in collaboration with existing residents, shows what can happen with a little ingenuity and planning.

Linden Court, which is located on an acre-and-a-half site, is a Hope VI replacement for a dilapidated affordable housing structure. The program called for a new project to accommodate 70,000 square feet of living space, including a three-story apartment building, 16 three-story townhomes, and public facilities such as community, office, laundry, and computer rooms. Architect David Baker's challenge was giving the developer the needed square footage while making the density feel as spacious as possible.

Baker organized the buildings around a main courtyard that provides public gathering spaces for residents. Townhomes are located on one side and apartments on the other, with street-side entrances that connect to the main public space. All units access smaller courtyards that bring in light and air, but Baker also designed gates and fences using Polygal poly-carbonate panels and sawtooth steel mesh to help create additional light penetration. These materials also provide visual depth. “It's a nice fence because the site is dense, and we wanted to open it up as much as possible,” he says.

Unlike affordable housing of a different era, the project has well-detailed exteriors. “We wanted to create nice exteriors because if the community looks good, the people will feel good about where they live,” Baker says. He also wanted the shells to be durable, so painted fiber-cement siding and vinyl windows should hold up to the elements well into the future.

CATEGORY: Apartments (rental); ENTRANT/ ARCHITECT/INTERIOR DESIGNER: David Baker + Partners, Architects, San Francisco; BUILDER: Roberts-Obayashi Corp., Danville, Calif.; DEVELOPER: BRIDGE Housing Corp., San Francisco; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Pattillo + Garrett Associates, San Francisco; INTERIOR DESIGNER: Design Mesh, Orinda, Calif.

BUILDER TIP Money Saver Operating costs such as utility bills are often the most expensive portion of a housing project, architect David Baker says. Over the life of the project, that could add up to a lot of money for Linden Court's owners. BRIDGE Housing Corp. will not have that problem, however. A solar electric system runs indoor and outdoor lights in the public areas. “This is a good way to save money because operating costs are key,” Baker says.

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