The world has been changing and so have our energy consumption levels. Global warming and climate play a huge part in our lives, but people choose to ignore their repercussions and move on with their day. Deforestation, improper waste management, fossil fuel usage, and industrial pollution further increase the effects of global warming. 

At one point, one fails to look for any way to live life a better way, a sustainable way. Sustainability has become quite a complex yet appropriate solution to reduce the impact of our carbon footprint on the earth by making our lifestyle eco-friendly and sustainable. People often get influenced to make more buildings of working activities and recreational activities greener and sustainable rather than making our actual home and living cleaner and feasible for themselves and the environment.

Housings which are green and sustainable are quite rare for the architectural world, but any attempt is accepted and appreciated. But often they have loopholes and aren’t completely net-zero hence fail to reach the expectations.

Although there are many possibilities of failure and debacles, one such project has emerged which has fulfilled all expectations of the residents and the necessities to make housing sustainable. Paisano Green Community Green Housing in El Paso, Texas designed by Workshop8 is the first affordable community housing in the USA to have achieved a net-zero, fossil fuel-free, and LEED Platinum status. 

The Paisano Housing, which is a 73 units project on a 4.2-acre site, is one such creation that has set bars high up to be achieved by other visionaries and designers.

Paisano Green Community Senior Housing by Workshop8: First NetZero, Fossil Fuel Free, LEED Platinum senior housing - Sheet1
Ramirez, Jesse, Workshop8 (2011), Site neighboring context.

The Design Methodology

The main objective of the Paisano Green Community Housing design formulation was to create a healthy living lifestyle with sustainable additions to improve their lives and encourage unbiased relationships between the elderly residents. The idea was to provide these ideas and factors in an enclosure that is energy-efficient, high-performance buildings and grounds. 

All of this has been achieved by providing several climatically influenced homes, protected and internal environments for the people, and a canopy wall with photovoltaic panels to generate solar energy. Due to site context with truck inspection facility to the west, Paisano Avenue to the north, and truck parking lot to the south, the zoning of the site ensured an enclosed, beautiful and internal space for the community.

Hence, the built program was aligned with the site boundaries after studying multiple courtyard homes and climatically efficient buildings. 

Paisano Green Community Senior Housing by Workshop8: First NetZero, Fossil Fuel Free, LEED Platinum senior housing - Sheet2
Workshop8 (2012), Site zoning and building blocks.

The project’s area and building program include a community building towards the north end and 4 three-story apartment buildings with a connective canopy wall and linear double-story buildings aligned with the eastern edge of the site with 18 SROs. 

The Tapestry Garden created due to such closely spaced residential areas, symbolizes the connectivity of the lives of the residents and promotes social interaction to induce activities. All pedestrian and vehicular access have been restricted and moderated with code-activated gates. 

Paisano Green Community Senior Housing by Workshop8: First NetZero, Fossil Fuel Free, LEED Platinum senior housing - Sheet3
Ramirez, Jesse, Workshop8 (2011), The Tapestry Garden

The Material Palette

What essentially matters in a sustainable architectural project is the materials that are used to build the structure. They reflect the design philosophy as well as the image that needs to be created in the world. The materials in the canopy wall are a steel-structured wall with colored perforated metal panels that connect all four flats buildings via walkways, stairs, and one elevator. It additionally consists of laundry rooms, trash rooms, and installation space for PV panels. 

Along with several nuances in the project to generate as much renewable energy as possible, the units have also been given equal importance in structural integrity and space quality. Large openings and tall ceilings fill the light with space and Marmoleum floorings have been used instead of linoleum floorings or carpets. 

Paisano Green Community Senior Housing by Workshop8: First NetZero, Fossil Fuel Free, LEED Platinum senior housing - Sheet4
Workshop8 (2011), Canopy wall with perforated metal panels
Paisano Green Community Senior Housing by Workshop8: First NetZero, Fossil Fuel Free, LEED Platinum senior housing - Sheet5
Ramirez, Jesse, Workshop8 (2011), Steel structured canopy for the community center.

The community center in the north end possesses a large roof terrace providing views of Paisano Avenue, El Paso Zoo, and the Franklin Mountains. It can be accessed by the site’s elevators in the SROs and is protected by a huge open canopy roof structure covered with perforated metal panels. A room on the outside underneath the canopy is enclosed with colourful acrylic panels and steel frames to anchor the terrace.

Sustainability Factors

With highly appraised simplistic yet proper design approaches, the Paisano Green Community Housing has several certifications for the sustainability factors that have been considered and included in the project to make it a successful net-zero building in Texas. Many such elements have been considered in the project. 

One of the main objectives was to harness the wind and the sun in the city of El Paso. Hence proper wide windows and shaded areas have been created for user’s accessibility and solar panels along with proper LED lights have been used to conserve and generate energy on their own. Paints, finishes, and landscaping of the complex have also been taken care of in full spirit. 

Such projects set standards and also make architects more inspired to create projects that will be a push towards sustainability for the sake of the survival of our earth. 

Paisano Green Community Senior Housing by Workshop8: First NetZero, Fossil Fuel Free, LEED Platinum senior housing - Sheet6
Workshop8 (2011), a Unit section with a proper graphical representation of climate effects.
Author

Ashwini is an architecture student who is trying to pursue her love for writing. She is an avid reader and also has an interest in graphic designing. She believes that the power of the pen can bring out the soul of a building to the mortal world.

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