Learning from Via Verde: NY Team takes a trip

Learning from Via Verde: NY Team takes a trip

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Jan 27, 2014
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Reported by Jessica Terdeman, Program Assistant Intern for the Hurricane Sandy Reconstruction Program Members of the Hurricane Sandy Reconstruction team got a peak into the innovative housing of Via Verde on a recent tour. Via Verde is a sustainable and affordable housing community in the Bronx that opened in 2012. It's a mixed-use complex with 151 rental apartments affordable for low-income families and 71 co-ops arranged for middle-income families. The building wraps the 1.5 acre site creating a triangle courtyard in the center. The building gradually rises to 20 stories around the courtyard.

Looking up at the tower from the apple orchard. Photo credit: Jessica Terdeman

Via Verde’s Assistant Manager, Cesar walked us through the main lobby to the courtyard surrounded by apartment balconies. Walking up alongside the outdoor amphitheater towards the rooftop we passed a pine grove followed by an apple orchard. One more flight up, a community garden with planters for edibles spans the roof of the south section. Adjacent to the community garden is a resident composting area and roof rainwater collection for watering plants. The enclosed stairways are spacious with fun colors and abundant natural light to encourage the residents to take the stairs rather than the elevator, but the best way to climb through the building is through the roof gardens and outdoor terraces. The circulation allows you to feel as though the building is connecting the ground with the sky. It provides the inhabitants the opportunity to exercise and be healthy; to feel light yet connected to the earth. The green and innovative features were integrated in a way that was comfortable, accessible and beautiful. The yards have become a place to grow your own food, take exercise classes and relax. The gardens are maintained by a garden club which takes a percentage of the yield and offer the rest to other residents. The garden provides ingredients for summer cooking classes and nutrition education. Lastly, we reached the community room at the top of the tower. We were able to look back out over the many grounds we had experienced as well as the green roofs that are serviced by building staff. At the top we see the cascading solar panels that march down the adjacent building’s rooftop and the skyline of Manhattan in the distance. In this way, you are able to connect back to the ground, the community and the city.

Looking down from the tower of Via Verde. Photo credit: Jessica Terdeman

It is easy to see how Via Verde’s systems approach to sustainable design could be a model for resilient design within coastal communities. We have learned that there isn’t one standard solution to make a building or community resilient, but the systems approach of assessing your local resources and abilities tends to lead to relevant solutions. At Via Verde, most of what was demolished to make way for the complex was recycled. The design incorporated recycled and locally sourced materials and introduces many energy-saving power systems like the rooftop gardens which dissipate heat and absorb rainwater. A resilient community must consider new building techniques and methodologies, orientation, materials, services, and accessibility. When communities work together, planning in a holistic manner the results are often resilient, which in large part means building the relationships to support your physical environment. With a bit of collaborative innovation, more coastal communities can be as vibrant and sustainable as Via Verde.

Learn more about Via Verde or Rose Companies, here.

Related Program

Program || Hurricane Sandy Reconstruction

In the closing days of October, 2012, Hurricane Sandy carved a path through the Caribbean before moving up the Atlantic and turning into New Jersey, striking many coastal towns. Architecture for Humanity’s reconstruction plan will focus on communities with the greatest need for design and construction services.