Japantown's Sixth and Jackson facility both hit Gold under VCA's stewardship of LEED certification.

Hard to miss in the heart of historic Japantown, San Jose, are two LEED Gold mixed-use facilities known as Sixth and Jackson. Found at 680 and 688 N. 6th St., the six-story buildings offer more than 500 units for residents looking to nest in a vibrant community with access to nearly 20,000 square feet of retail in their building and more within walking distance.

Developer Shea Properties and Ankrom Moisan architects partnered with VCA Green to design a partially solar-powered project that was mindful of resource use, occupant health, and a diverse array of amenities both in and around the development.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

Rating system: LEED v4 BD+C Multifamily Midrise
Certification level, point total, certification date: GOLD (62 points) certified Sept. 1, 2023
Gross floor area: South – 359,676 sq. ft. and North – 415,059 sq. ft.
Construction type: Mixed use
Rental cost: Market Rate
Credit highlights:

Location & Transportation: Received full points for community resources and compact development
Sustainable Sites: Developed the site with a low-impact mentality to conserve resources
Water Efficiency: Reduced total indoor/outdoor water by 45%
Energy & Atmosphere: Maximized solar to offset amenity electricity usage
Materials & Resources: Included a high percentage of recycled content in insulation
Indoor Environmental Quality: Included no smoking policy in their lease language to prioritize tenant health
Innovative Features: Installed electric vehicle chargers though their code didn’t require any

WHY THIS RATING SYSTEM

As part of their Green Building Ordinance, the City of San Jose highly encourages prospective high-rise residential developers to pursue LEED certification. Building to California’s Title 24 standards already helped the two buildings hit that mark. Shea Properties’ decision to add solar to the project pushed them over the line to LEED Gold, so the project team was inspired to pursue LEED certification.

CREDIT BREAKDOWN

Sixth and Jackson outdoor common areaIntegrative Process
A solid, communicative group of trades is crucial for building projects in general, but it is especially important when adding LEED certification to the mix. The decision to pursue certification was made relatively late in the game, but the general contractor on the project, Swenson Builders, and VCA Green worked diligently to keep the buildings on track.

Swenson’s team proactively reached out to all trades for construction meetings to confirm credits were complete, had a large hand in the construction waste management plan, and was swiftly available during the certification review period as well.

James Brown, the Swenson project manager for Sixth and Jackson, said the key to achieving LEED points was their strong partnership with the owners, designers, and VCA Green. Brown said ownership’s unwavering dedication to the certification was clear from the beginning, which empowered them to communicate about those goals throughout the process.

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed and push things off when you’re building in a pandemic and you have a million tasks and a hundred subs to deal with, but we never treated LEED that way,” he said. “Like any other project, we want to meet the requirements and be compliant. We understood the end goal for certification from the beginning and treated it with the same importance.”

Location and Transportation
LEED scorecards place emphasis on whether a project is within walking distance to surrounding uses, like groceries, banks, fitness centers, and other typical stops that tenants would require. Proximity to these uses reduces dependency on vehicular transportation and the related fossil fuels. Both Sixth and Jackson buildings maxed out the community resources category, tacking an extra point on for exemplary performance. The project also received top marks in compact development, which aims to promote walkable communities and conserve land.

Sustainable Sites
Ownership developed Sixth and Jackson with sustainability as a consideration for site upkeep and operations. All plants are non-invasive, and a nontoxic pest control plan implemented passive design features to mitigate potential pest issues. Additionally, one can spot low-impact development techniques like permeable pavement, which allows rainwater to re-enter the ground and support the natural water cycle instead of burdening the sewage system.

Water Efficiency
Though California code already requires projects to utilize low-flow plumbing fixtures and ENERGY STAR appliances, the Japantown buildings not only met code but exceeded water efficiency expectations. The kitchen faucets and shower heads operate at 1.5 gallons per minute, while bathroom faucets run at 1 gallon per minute. Combined with the low irrigation use, the project boasts a nearly 45% reduction in indoor and outdoor water use compared to the LEED baseline.

Sixth and Jackson interior community spaceEnergy and Atmosphere
The design team incorporated a photovoltaic system to offset about 10% of the north building’s annual electricity use and 13% of the south building’s projected use, averaging 12% for the overall site. Combined with HERS testing and commissioning – to ensure the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and solar systems were operating correctly – and insulating all hot water piping, the project received 17 points for energy performance.

Materials and Resources
A majority of the paints, adhesives, sealants, carpet and furniture used in both buildings contain either no or very faint traces of volatile organic compounds. The residential units are conservatively sized, decreasing the number of materials needed to construct each suite and reducing operational costs. Plus, a high percentage of building insulation contains recycled content.

Indoor Environmental Quality
To promote healthy air for tenants, the project does not feature any indoor gas fireplaces. As a further commitment to occupant wellness, ownership included their no-smoking policy – which was originally needed for state and LEED requirements – in their lease language.

CONCLUSION

The Sixth and Jackson project is exemplary for any California building owner debating whether to pursue a green certification. Although LEED was not officially added to the project until construction had hit the framing stages, many of the requirements could already be documented due to the progressive nature of California’s green building and energy codes.

Even though the project had to redesign some ventilation in the nonresidential spaces to meet LEED standards (common in California LEED projects), the general contracting team’s enthusiastic and communicative mentality and VCA’s tenacity in documentation brought the project over the finish line at Gold. Contact a VCA principal today for success on your next green building certification.

Moe Fakih, Principal
mfakih@vca-green.com

Robyn Vettraino, Principal
rvettraino@vca-green.com

Burke Boydell, Sixth and Jackson Project Manager
Dani Grace, Contributing Writer