In one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, a new multifamily community has sprung up to provide 66 affordable rental apartments in Silicon Valley. Named Edwina Benner Plaza after the first female mayor of California, the affordable housing project designed by Caifornia-based architecture firm David Baker Architects also boasts net-zero emissions for operations thanks to the use of all-renewable community utilities and rooftop solar panels.

white and red apartment complex

Located in the city of Sunnyvale next to Highway 237, Edwina Benner Plaza occupies an underutilized site where a single-story commercial building once stood. The 110,612-square-foot affordable housing project was strategically oriented and arranged to shield the residential areas and common spaces away from traffic noise and pollution. The massing strategy also helps to encourage an active and healthy community life by placing the shared areas — such as activity rooms, laundry, service programs and an after-school center — around a central outdoor play space. 

Related: The Union Flats is a LEED Platinum-certified housing community

outdoor walkway with orange and yellow walls
room with white tables and green chairs

To further promote an environment for healthy living, Edwina Benner Plaza offers diverse supportive services such as an after-school program, adult education and mediation support. The 66 affordable rental units, which comprise one-, two- and three-bedroom units, are made available to families earning up to 60% of the area median income as well as to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Onsite case management reserves 13 apartment units for formerly homeless individuals and 10 units for those at risk of homelessness.

apartment kitchen with dining table and wood cabinets
kids playing on playground equipment outside of an apartment complex

Solar panels cover the building’s roof and power the common loads of the residents. Each residential wing is also served by a custom, high-efficiency central heat pump. “An all-electric building, Edwina Benner Plaza is among the first affordable housing projects in the nation to have zero operating emissions,” the architects added. The project has earned a Platinum certification under the GreenPoint rating system.

+ David Baker Architects

Photography by Bruce Damonte via David Baker Architects

aerial view of solar panels on a roof