Plaza Verde, a student housing community on the University of California Irvine (UCI) campus, was called “the greenest housing facility in the entire University of California system” by UCI Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, Enrique Lavernia. Plaza Verde represents the first half of the fourth phase of UCI’s East Campus student housing village, in a public-private partnership between the university and American Campus Communities (ACC), a publicly traded real estate investment trust and the largest student housing developer in the country based in Austin, Texas. Plaza Verde replaces an existing surface parking lot with 1,441 beds of new student housing in a high-performance, energy-efficient building and provides a vibrant live/learn and mixed-use experience for the students with a multipurpose meeting room within the heart of its community center.
“We think it’s safe to say it’s the greenest student facility in the country,” said Jason Wills, chief marketing officer of ACC. Wills adds, “Sustainability can be comfortable, homey and affordable. It does not have to feel different or compromised. Plaza Verde is a perfect example of that.”
The design starts with as efficient a building layout as possible and layers in a myriad of sustainability strategies to reduce the overall energy demand. The building is all-electric with upgraded insulation values, heat pump water heater systems, energy efficient appliances, and high-performance windows. ACC tested the heat pumps and the electric outdoor grills before implementing them throughout Plaza Verde.
In addition to the energy performance goals of the building, alternative transportation is strongly encouraged for the resident community. Connected to the Plaza Verde parking garage is the Bike Hub that houses 760 bicycles adjacent to a new transit plaza for the UCI’s electric bus service. Residents can also easily walk to existing city and regional public transportation as well as several nearby existing retail centers and grocery stores. Plaza Verde’s proximity to transit and convenient bicycle storage, along with its walkability and bikeability, makes not driving on a daily basis an easier and better choice for Plaza Verde residents.
In the spirit of collegiate architecture and to provide more intuitive wayfinding for such a large building, Plaza Verde’s courtyards interconnect via pedestrian portals. Each courtyard has a different look, feel and program, with some being more active and others more passive, but residents and guests can easily traverse from one courtyard to another through the portals. Outdoor rooms with translucent roofs provide shade from the Southern California sun for outdoor cooking, dining and studying.
The heart of the development is its vibrant, three-story community center that connects the public plaza at the main intersection of the building with the largest courtyard space via an irresistible stairway with integrated stadium seating and abundant charging docks. The lowest level of the community center, adjacent to the public plaza, features classroom space, mailroom, and a flexible pop-up retail venue. The second level of the community center focuses on resident fitness and recreation functions and connects to the community management and leasing offices. The third and upper level of the community center provides study spaces in multiple formats, shapes and sizes. There are private study rooms ranging from very small to large in addition to a common lounge space with a mix of open seating, cubicles and booths. The spaces connect physically and visually through its three-story atrium space articulated with tactile materials and dynamic light.
With a community of this size, a diversity of unit types is also desired. The building contains a mix of traditional student housing units with bedroom/bathroom parity along with several unit types that provide sharing options, including shared bathrooms and/or shared sleeping spaces. The diversity of unit types appeals to different roommate configurations and spans across a wider breadth of rental rates within the same community.
ACC’s full design team – architect, general contractor, landscape architect, interior designer, civil engineer, structural/mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineers and more – has largely remained intact through all phases of the UCI East Campus student housing village, starting with Vista del Campo from the early 2000s. Together the team has completed over 6,000 beds of student housing at UCI with the next community, adjacent to Plaza Verde and sharing its parking garage, in the design process now.
Owner | Developer: American Campus Communities
Interior Designer: CRA Architecture
Landscape Architect: IMA Design
Civil: Hunsaker & Associates
Structural: Dale Christian Structural Engineers
Mechanical | Plumbing: TAD Consulting
Electrical: Candela Corporation
Photographer: Creative Noodle
Undergraduate Student Housing
Density: 156.6 beds/ac
Unit Plan Sizes: 575 – 1,398 sq. ft.
Number of Beds: 1,441
Number of Units: 412 du
Site Area: 9.2 ac
Number of Stories: 6
Parking: 523 spaces (0.4 sp./bed)
Certification: LEED Gold