IRVINE, CA—American Campus Communities joined the University of California, Irvine recently to officially mark the opening of Plaza Verde, a fresh and modern student community that offers an eco-friendly, living and learning environment conducive to achieving academic, professional, and personal success.
The new 1,441-bed, 5-story residential tower located at 15000 Arroyo Drive is a key milestone in large-scale, affordable green living as the all-electric community is designed to target UCI’s very first Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) operation as well as LEED Platinum certification. The building’s opening comes on the heels of UCI being ranked No. 1 in the nation by Sierra Magazine in its annual “Cool Schools” ranking of sustainability leaders among colleges and universities.
“Since 2004, UCI and American Campus Communities have partnered to create a supportive and sustainable living-meets-learning environment for UCI students,” said Dr. Enrique Lavernia, UCI provost and executive vice chancellor. “Our work at UCI has set a model for public-private partnerships as other universities have seen what we have done to transform UCI from a commuter campus to a campus where students can enjoy the benefits of the residential university experience.”
The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED™ for Homes Design & Construction Multifamily Rating System was the initial framework for the project along with the University of California’s Carbon Neutrality policy to seek a ZNE operation. A planned 1.4-Megawatt photovoltaic array on two adjacent parking structures, when constructed, will allow the UCI Phase 4 Building A project to achieve net zero energy and be eligible for LEED Platinum certification.
“In addition to being a healthy and dynamic student community, Plaza Verde is the greenest large-scale student community that has been developed,” said Bill Bayless, American Campus Communities CEO. “We have gone to extensive lengths to ensure sustainability and student-focused design are at the forefront, from initially designing and testing systems for an efficient and comfortable community, then arranging a sizable offset for energy that will actually be achieved.”
With floor plans designed with students in mind, Plaza Verde’s units start at just $789 per person. Students moving in this fall are enjoying fully furnished apartments, state-of-the-art fitness centers, multi-purpose rooms and outdoor pavilions. The Academic Success Center, group and private study lounges help students prepare for success.
ACC’s partnership with UCI began in 2004 with the delivery of its first student housing development on campus. Since then, ACC has developed and manages more than 6,000 beds in five communities. This is the seventh project within the University of California system for ACC.
“We are very proud of our ongoing partnership with American Campus Communities to create this award-winning sustainable and healthy living environment offered at affordable prices,” said Willie Banks, vice chancellor for student affairs at UCI. “This first-of-its-kind project at UCI is the start of our plans for continuous sustainable innovations moving forward.”
Plaza Verde includes an all-electric system that eliminates the need for natural gas and uses new proven technology, such as heat pump water heaters and an electric outdoor grill system, among other efficient appliances. In addition to offsetting the annual energy usage of Building A with onsite renewable energy, it provides a host of alternative transportation options including bike storage to accommodate more than 760 bikes. The location provides access to several public transit lines and close walking proximity to community services and basic human needs. Native, drought tolerant landscaping combined with recycled water helps to reduce the demand on potable water by 100 percent. Water conserving plumbing fixtures installed in the building also contribute to significant water reduction in potable water usage.
Adding to the eco-friendly elements, are building materials that limit the negative impact associated with raw material extraction and transportation. For example, all of the wood at Building A is either non-tropical, reclaimed, or sustainably harvested in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
“It’s amazing that this community was built for students, like me, who are passionate about sustainability but also in need of affordability,” said Randy Yan, a third-year biological sciences major and president of the Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine (ASUCI). “From the inviting entrance with the grand staircase to the quality amenities like the academic success center, Plaza Verde provides a beautiful, comfortable sustainable living space while providing the necessary academic resources. It’s a win-win.”
The following design strategies were implemented to optimize human health: superior ventilation performance, carbon monoxide monitoring, a no-smoking policy, walk-off mats at all entrances from the outdoors and shoe storage inside the building units. Overall, the project totals 568,930 square feet with a dedicated 523-space structured parking garage, and 15,000 square feet for a community center. Amenities include a multipurpose room, kitchen, cafe/lounge, bike room, fitness/yoga studio, offices and 18 study rooms.
As the nation’s largest developer of student resident communities, ACC is deeply committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Plaza Verde was financed by a non-profit foundation using project-based, tax-exempt bonds. ACC will provide the full scope of management services for the community, including operations, maintenance and residence life.