In designing the 28th Street Apartments in South Los Angeles, architects at KoningEizenberg had several underlying missions: to restore an 80-year-old structure, to add a new residential wing, and to modernise the entire complex, making it more sustainable. In sunny LA, adding solar energy was a no-brainer.
But where exactly to add that solar is becoming an increasingly difficult question.Part of this affordable housing project is an historic 1926 YMCA originally designed by Paul Williams, the first African American to be certified as an architect west of the Mississippi. The building is a gem, both aesthetically and culturally, and it was incredibly important to keep Williams’ vision as intact as possible.
The architects were able to add some photovoltaics (PVs) as well as solar water heaters to the narrow roof of the new structure, but, when it came to the historic structure itself, they didn’t want to crowd its roof with anachronistic panels. Further, it was important to keep some space as a roof garden for residents. As they looked for available real estate on the building, they realised the back of the building faced south and, at some times of the year, got far more exposure than the rooftop. The architects decided they would try to install their SunPower monocrystalline photovoltaic panels vertically, along the rear elevation.