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Sustainable Living: Rebuilding the Community Fabric

Melissa Estrada, LEED Green Associate IAR650—Capstone Project Project Portfolio Professors William Biss & Robert Shelton April 17, 2014 Chatham University

“...In essence, The LEGO brick can be viewed as one of the most Fundamental building blocks of our future.” ~M. Estrada


Table of Contents 4

...A Letter from the OPDC






...Prefab Proposal


...OPDC’s 2025 Master Plan


...Micro-Unit Creation


...Site Research, Photos & Sketches


...Key Spaces

...Floor Plans


...LEED Info


About the Project: A Letter from the OPDC

The Oakland 2025 Master Plan: A vision for sustainable living and

mobility engaged hundreds of community members, institutions, partners and public agencies to create a shared vision for the future. Oakland 2025 prioritizes improvements to the Centre/N Craig commercial district. This area suffers from neglect yet is poised for investment given its convenient access to public transit and adjacent high density residential neighborhoods. OPDC is currently working with business and property owners to identify priorities, provide connections to business assistance resources, and catalyze new investment in North Oakland. For example, we have completed a gateway public space enhancement, advocated for police enforcement to combat drug activity, advocated for good quality urban design of the CVS store currently under contruction, and are raising funds to launch a sign renovation matching grant program. OPDC is enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with the Capstone Design Studio students. This is great timing given the priority in Oakland 2025 and OPDC’s organizing of business and property owners. The models produced by the design studio will allow OPDC to share compelling visuals with the area’s stakeholders that will help them envision the potential of the district. We’ll use this, along with property data we have compiled (and can share with your studio), to engage community stakeholders, developers, and public sector partners for area improvements. The Centre/N Craig area has great potential but currently lacks momentum. This design project can provide some of the creative impetus needed to activate the district.”


Manifesto: Building sustainable Communities One Block at a Time The author (to be here on out referred to as “the designer”) of the previous research conducted has drafted this comprehensive manifesto in order to bridge the gap between the thesis document and the final capstone design. In order to do this, additional research first needed to be conducted for the given geographical area using a similar set of standards and framework established in the thesis document.

Additional Research For the 2014 capstone design project, the North Oakland neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was chosen as the current geographical area of interest. Data and statistics collected for the previous research conducted in the New York City region must now be modified in order to better service this area, and to determine the most accurate design solution for the neighborhood. Studies have already been conducted for this area by the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) in the realms of housing, transportation, business and development, open space and art, and community building. These five themes were developed in order to structure the master plan and organize the community process. Of these five themes, the designer paid special attention to housing, business and development, and community building, since these three were most in line with the previous research conducted. In addition, the OPDC also collaborated with community members and took their ideas into consideration. From those ideas, these ten (10) most important recommendations were established:  Increase the number of people who both live and work in Oakland.  Increase the average age of Oakland residents to support a diverse, sustainable neighborhood.  Establish model multi-modal ‘complete streets’ linked to enhanced transit systems.  Foster unique, diverse neighborhoods and businesses.  Create a sustainable mix of residential living options (new, rehab, infill) for a variety of users.  Build up social networks and community social capital.  Increase access to parks, open space and trails.  Promote a strong Oakland residential “brand” to attract new residents.

Create strong leadership capacity to implement components of the 2025 plan.  Develop an effective and proactive design and development review process. With these recommendations in mind, the OPDC is suggesting that North Oakland has a unique opportunity to provide state-of-the-art, mixed-use, high -density development while “enhancing the streetscape and providing necessary services for the dense residential population and make the most of the area’s multimodal connectivity.” In regards to the aforementioned themes to be highlighted for this project, the OPDC takes them a step further, describing specifically what their expected goals are for each theme. The designer made sure to take careful consideration to these goals throughout the schematic and design phases of this capstone project. Their housing goal states: “provide innovative, sustainable housing choices for diverse new residents who are attracted to Oakland’s vitality and amenities, many of whom choose to live where they work...Do this through rehab, conservation and innovative new housing choices and financing incentives.” The OPDC’s Business and Development goal is as follows: “Foster local, unique, diverse, mixed-use businesses and development in targeted core areas that grow from Oakland’s innovation economy and support the neighborhood health.” And lastly, the OPDC’s goals for Community Building are described as: “Reinforce neighborhood identity and increase social capital through community consensus, social networks, stewardship, gathering places, increased connectivity, and communication/access to information.” Thesis Topic Application to Pittsburgh Through brief literature review and one-on-one interviews with directors of several community development corporations (CDCs), the current state of

Pittsburgh’s low-income housing crisis can be applied to the research conducted in the thesis document. It was reported that approximately fifty-six percent of families in Pittsburgh are considered to be low-income, and of those twelve percent fall below the poverty line. This typically tends to affect minorities, specifically of African-American decent, as well as persons between the ages of 18-24 years of age who are living on their own or in transition between academia and the “real world.” As of the mid 1900’s, eight-thousand residents of the Hill District (a neighboring community) were displaced due to their low-income status and failed payments on rent and/or mortgages. This occurred due to governmental response to this blighted area, by building up newer, more costly housing units. The current residents could not afford this rental hike at the time and ultimately were forced to relocate. This method of community revitalization still holds true today, not just in Pittsburgh, but in many major cities across the U.S. An alternate proposal for revitalizing a community would be to utilize the resources that the current residents can potentially provide by: 1) giving them a sense of place and belonging, 2) building them up economically and, 3) tying them back to the community. This method of reside, grow, and give back not only fosters good character for the city by showing appreciation for families native to the area, but also acts as a model for other cities to realize the untapped potential it holds and to follow suit. This method can also reduce population decreases, crime rates, and build stronger more sustainable communities from within.

Site Research and Selection The designer was also instructed to conduct site research and analysis in order to make a building selection and provide supporting rationale. We do this through Structured Observations, which consist of Systematic Observations and both Place and Person Centered Behavioral Mapping. We also conducted Unstructured Observations, which consist of Causal, Participant and Trace Observations. Visual and Content Analysis was conducted as well, using various media including but not limited to: photography, video, sketching, diagramming, and notation. Appendix A is a list of criteria developed by the designer in order to determine which of the six (6) buildings would be chosen for this project. The designer was stationed at three (3) sites for a 1hour period each, applying the predetermined criteria to each of the buildings. Based on the data collected from these on-site observations in conjunction with the previous thesis research and the OPDC’s master plan, the building located at 4635 Centre Avenue was selected. The level of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, amount and frequency of public transportation available, and the amount of commercial businesses that exists were all key aspects in this decision. In addition, the large square footage of this building would allow for a wide variety of functions to take place throughout, making for an ideal place to implement all of the design goals that were desired. Oakland’s New Identity and Design Intent The summation of the thesis document and the goals set forth by the OPDC in their 2025 Master Plan is ultimately what sets the foundation for the new identity of North Oakland. The design goal for 4635 Centre Avenue is to provide the residents of this mixed-use building with small, affordable apartment units that are sustainable, modern and fresh. We can accomplish this by implementing a flexible and modular open floor plan, one that allows for spaces to support various daily functions, while still affording privacy to all who reside there. The sustainable features (such as

energy efficient lighting and appliances, low-flow plumbing and the use of recycled materials) will allow for the monthly costs for the tenants to be lowered while being considerate to the new environment they inhabit. By providing these residents an opportunity to remain in the Pittsburgh CBD after possible displacement, the hope is that that they will remain tied and dedicated to the community, be reminded that they have a place in this economy as well, and encouraged to give back to the community that has assisted them. These residents also need the support of the community to assist them to get back on their feet, to increase their income by obtaining higherpaying employment, and ultimately to thrive and support their local economy. We can accomplish this through design by providing spaces for education, career counselling and community building. A library and coffee shop at the ground level of the building will be a great opportunity for residents to obtain the literature they need and provide a place to study while staying close to home. This space can be open to the public as well to facilitate connections of like-minded individuals. A career services office can be run by volunteer organization members throughout the community (OPDC, BACA, NUL, and temp agencies just to name a few) in order to assist the residents with making the necessary connections that they need in order to find employment that will increase their current income. Also provide a classroom where resident workshops and job training can take place. This can possibly be a computer lab to improve skills with software and programming, or a hands-on training facility for those wanting to get into fashion design, the culinary arts, etc. Several businesses currently occupy leasable spaces on the lower level of the building. It would be of great benefit to the residents of this building’s residents (as well as to the neighborhood) to retain these businesses that are still operational, in addition to supplementing them with new businesses in the vacant areas of the building. This, in accordance with the OPDC’s

Business and Development goals, will aid in increasing the diversity of the neighborhood, provide new jobs for the convenience of living where you work, and help boost the local economy. Using the “ten basic services” checklist provided by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) will assist in determining which types of businesses need to be added to the building in order for it to constitute as being part of a sustainable site. Also, for the entrepreneurial spirits in the building, co-work offices should also be provided (possibly leasable spaces) so the tenants have the opportunity to run their own business right from home. This can be especially beneficial to those who find it difficult to travel otherwise, or who lack the funds to rent out commercial office spaces off-site. Lastly, while keeping in mind the goal of building a more sustainable community, spaces needed to be provided that allow for the opportunity to mix and mingle throughout the building, both interior and exterior. A community gathering space, a place for work/play collaboration, and vegetated green space all creatively and collectively provide reason for users to cross paths using architectural delineation. There are no parks or green spaces in the area, so providing either a green roof or indoor play area for kids would encourage residential interaction. A fitness center, common entry points, and outdoor patios and balcony spaces all aid in this effort as well. The exterior gathering spaces are especially crucial in that they will help to advertise to the rest of the community what it looks like to have a strong sense of connectivity, and will hopefully foster a domino effect throughout the neighborhood, thereby ultimately building up the community fabric.


Oakland 2025 Master Plan & Stats Support

& Homewnership



Ave Morewood


leSt Nevil

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sw or th Av e

Districts, Amenities & Services

Ave field

Belle Bo un

da ryS t

Develop Key Corridors for New Stu- dent

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ve hA e Av es rb Fo


t sS te


JunctionHollo wTrail

amBridg e Birmingh

aFu rn

ley Dr

Dawso nSt

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Boulevard of the Allies



Bo uq


Support Strategic New Housing Development

En& Homewnership

Employer Assisted Housing Benchmarks Code Enforcement and Community Stewardship

3.2 Housing Goals Provide innovative, sustainable housing choices for diverse new residents who are attracted to Oakland’s vitality and amenities, many of whom choose to live where they work. Do this through rehab, conservation and innovative new housing choices and financing incentives.

3.4 Business & Development Goal Foster local, unique, diverse mixed-use businesses and development in targeted core areas that grow from Oakland’s innovation economy and support the neighborhood health.

3.6 Community Building Goal Reinforce neighborhood identity and increase social capital through community consensus, social networks, stewardship, gathering places, increased connectivity, and communication/access to information.


Site Research:

4635 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Out of six (6) potential buildings, the mixed-use building along the Centre Avenue corridor between Melwood Avenue and Neville Street was chosen based on this site a n a ly s i s conducted


e Av od

o lw Me

ve A e r t n Ce

Inside 4635 Centre Ave...



Sketches produced and photographs taken from inside and around the building

4635 Centre Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 LW ME D OO TRE


Level 1

Level 2

=Library/Coffee Shop

=Co-Work Spaces





=Training room



=Main Residential



Loading Dock


16 = Units = Horizontal Circulation = Vertical Circulation

Building mass on the site Facing Centre Avenue (SE)

= Commercial/Retail

Level 3

Level 4

=440sqft (15)

=640sqft (8) =Commons


=440sqft (15) Vegetated Roof Garden


A place where lower-incomed residents can live where they work, learn, grow, and potentially thrive economically in a safe, green, kid-friendly environment!

Proposal for Prefabrication Method Used in New Construction


Living, Bath, and Kitchen architectural components in the form of LEGO blocks all fitting together snapping to floor boards

Sample kitchen component and method of all prefabricated pieces fitting together.

Using the concept of LEGOS for Micro-Unit Development

The proportions of LEGO pieces were used to determine the shape and size of the residential units.


Final Layout

One Unit; Multiple configurations!

Reside: UNITS—Flexible & Modular

Design Goals:

One unit; multiple configurations

Combine a large building mass with small unit sizes to house as many residents as possible

Create flexible unit configurations to house residents comfortably within a small square footage

Modular furniture pieces used to transform the space and cater to various uses.

Modern is Tech® color palette chosen to foster clean-lined, career-driven, modern thinking. Location: Levels 3 & 4

Modern is Tech Color Palette to be used throughout the residential portions of the building

Red Gumball 233-7

Atrium White 523-1

Cavalry 549-7

Yosemite Trailhead ATC-12

Silver Sword 507-3

Sun Shower 114-5

PPG® Sun Shower

Folding Stool

Dragonfly 348-7



Swing® Murphy Bed


Solid Surface by Durat®

Gilda® Wall Sconce Irregular Grid By Designtex

Lollipop® Bunk Beds

Lonwood Dakota Island White

Endless Indigo Formica®

Crossroads By Designtex

New White—Gloss Formica®

Grow: Job Training & Educational Services

Design Goals: 

Provide a library and coffee shop to encourage community building and learning environment

Career Services Office to facilitate the residents in obtaining higher paying employment

Classes, workshops, and one-on-one career counseling also provided

Location: Level 1, Back Building


Modern is Tech Color Palette to be used throughout the residential portions of the building

Red Gumball 233-7

Atrium White 523-1

Cavalry 549-7

Yosemite Trailhead ATC-12

Silver Sword 507-3


Sun Shower 114-5


Dragonfly 348-7


3-Form Varia: Hollywood Gold




Carpet tile: The shuffle-it collection from interface flor速

Give Back: Exterior Views

Design Goals: 

Outdoor grass patio for community connectivity and green space

Self-sustaining community, where residents give back to the community that once helped them

New uniform storefronts for neighborhood revitalization

Balconies with transparent PV glass for encouraged connection to other tenants & community

Vegetated roof and skylight for sustainable building properties Location: Interior & exterior spaces


This building would achieve LEED速 Gold!

The Intent is that other buildings throughout the neighborhood follow suit and continue to build an entire sustainable community

Capstone_Project Portfolio  

For Capstone 2014, Chatham University