In its heyday, Cherokee Studios on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles was home to some of the music industry’s most legendary artists, including Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Aerosmith, and John Lennon. The recording studio went under a few years ago and the building was demolished, but its cultural legacy has been preserved in The Lofts at Cherokee Studios, a mixed-use condominium whose edgy styling combines with forward-looking sustainable products and design.
From its metal façade to its rock star-inspired décor, Cherokee Lofts evokes a lifestyle perfect for its urban, West Hollywood location. But even with a celebrity-studded locale, the developer, Culver City, Calif.-based REthink Development, was committed to keeping the units market rate, even with the array of sustainability attributes and its expected LEED-Platinum certification. The 12 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, ranging from 1,200 square feet to 2,300 square feet, will be listed at price comparable to similar new condos in the area.
Part of the cost savings came from the developer’s integrated design approach, explains REthink founder and principal Greg Reitz, in which team collaboration brought about efficiency ideas and dual-purpose components while ensuring design and mechanical elements were planned in advance.
For example, the building’s striking metal enclosure was originally proposed as an architectural element but quickly evolved into a sustainability component, as well: The aluminum façade helps block ambient noise while perforations in the metal let in light and air without sacrificing privacy. Residents can open bi-fold sections outside their sliding doors for full views, light, and ventilation.
Also serving a dual role is the building’s green roof, which accommodates city requirements for green space while shading the roof to promote greater energy efficiency.
The developer found additional efficiencies in a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system, which in wintertime will draw warm air from the ground-floor retail space (likely to be in cooling mode year-round) and utilize it for supplemental heating in residential units.
The VRF is one key component to the building’s energy performance, which is about 45% to 47% better than California’s energy code, Reitz says. Other contributors include an 18-kW solar array to offset the VRF’s compressors, Energy Star-rated appliances, CFL and LED fixtures, and low-E windows.
REthink broke new ground, literally and figuratively, in the incorporation of Cherokee’s stormwater mitigation strategy. The developer wanted to use every inch of space on the property, but felt it was important to capture the rainwater rather than contributing to runoff. The solution was a stormwater filtration system installed under the public sidewalk, capturing 100% of the water that falls on the site and directing it back to the aquifer. The decision also converted 4 feet of the 10-foot-wide sidewalk into green space.
It took two years to get the feature approved by the L.A. City Council, a challenge that will pave the way for other developers to do the same.
Inside, The Lofts at Cherokee Studios pays homage to the site’s history, with three of the four model units decorated to be reminiscent of a Cherokee recording artist—one for David Bowie, one for Alice Cooper, and one for 30 Seconds to Mars. The developer also was able to salvage German black walnut paneling from Studio 1—Frank Sinatra’s string room—for use on the lobby ceiling.
For REthink Development, The Lofts at Cherokee Studios is a demonstration of the industry’s ability to go green without pricing out buyers. “Our company was founded on the concept that we would only do green development, and we felt green development could be done cost effectively and profitably,” Reitz says.
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Katy Tomasulo is Deputy Editor for EcoHome.