Step Up on 5th is a bright new spot in downtown Santa Monica. The new building provides a home, support services and rehabilitation for the homeless and mentally disabled population. The new structure provides 46 studio apartments of permanent affordable housing. The project also includes ground level commercial/retail space and subterranean parking. The density of the project is 258 dwelling units/acre, which exceeds the average density of Manhattan, NY (2000 USA Census Bureau Data) by more than 10%.
A striking yet light-hearted exterior makes the new building a welcome landmark in downtown Santa Monica. Custom water jet-anodized aluminum panels on the main façade creates a dramatic screen that sparkles in the sun and glows at night, while also acting as sun protection and privacy screens. The material reappears as a strategic arrangement of screens on east and south-facing walls, lending a subtle rhythm to the exterior circulation walkways and stairs. South-facing walls filter direct sunlight with asymmetrical horizontal openings that lend unexpected visual depth while creating a sense of security for the emotionally sensitive occupants. Enhancing the structure’s geometric texture, the irregular array of openings variably extrudes from the building’s surface.
The small-scale elements on the façade enhance the existing streetscape and promote a lively pedestrian environment. By visually breaking up the façade into smaller articulated elements, the building appears to move with the passing cars and people.
At the second level above the retail space two private courtyards provide residents with a secure and welcoming surrounding while connecting directly to 5th street and downtown Santa Monica via a secured stairway integrated into the building storefront at street level. Community rooms are located on every other floor of the project overlooking the private courtyards protected from the street. These community rooms along with the private courtyards serve as the principal social spaces for the tenants of the building.
Step Up on 5th 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 of Step Up on 5th 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 day lighting; shading south facing windows and minimizing west-facing glazing; designing windows to maximize natural ventilation; utilizing low flow fixtures and storm water management; shaping and planning the interior to enhance daylight and natural air flow distribution. These passive strategies alone make this building 50% more efficient than a conventionally designed structure.
The building is loaded with energy-saving and environmentally benign or "sustainable" devices. Materials conservation and recycling were employed during construction by requiring waste to be hauled to a transfer station for recycling. The overall project achieved a 71% recycling rate. Specifying carpet, insulation and concrete with a recycled content, and utilizing all-natural linoleum flooring also emphasized resource conservation. The project uses compact fluorescent lighting throughout the building and double-pane windows that have a low-E coating. Each apartment is equipped with water-saving low flow toilets and a high-efficiency hydronic system for heat. While California has the most stringent energy efficient requirements in the United States, Step Up incorporates numerous sustainable features that exceeded state mandated Title 24 energy measures by 26%. Although not submitted at this time, the project has followed the LEED certification process and would receive 39 points making it equivalent to LEED “Gold”.