Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. – Legacy Square, a pioneering affordable housing community built and managed by National CORE in the heart of Santa Ana, is being honored with the prestigious LEED for Homes Platinum certification – the highest honor for sustainable construction.

“We are immensely proud of our development, construction and sustainability teams who not only created a beautiful affordable living community, but achieved the highest possible level of sustainable construction,” National CORE President Michael Ruane said. “Platinum certifications are rare in our industry, making this is a significant feat.”

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is a certification program designed to promote sustainable home building. Platinum and Gold levels are the pinnacle of green building, requiring innovative design strategies and a passion for the environment. Buildings with these ratings are energy efficient, offer access to public transit, reduce water waste, ensure clean indoor air quality, include healthy, regenerable or recyclable materials and focus on sustainability during the building process.

Since the U.S. Green Building Council revised standards in 2017, Platinum certifications have become rare for affordable housing projects.

Legacy Square, which opened in summer 2023, represents National CORE’s first partnership with a church, a creative solution to the lack of land available for critically needed affordable housing. The development replaces two buildings owned by the Santa Ana Methodist Church with 93 apartment homes for individuals and families earning less than 60% of the area median income. Thirty-three homes are reserved for previously unhoused or extremely low-income individuals.

Located on Santa Ana Boulevard adjacent to an Orange County streetcar station, the development delivers 1,750 square feet of ground-level flexible space for community investment. A 3,800-square-foot community center serves as a neighborhood hub for events and activities.

National CORE received a $25.4 million Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) grant from the Strategic Growth Council and the California Department of Housing and Community Development to ensure the development not only serves low-income residents, but also adds a host of amenities for the broader community.

The AHSC award includes $10.4 million for offsite improvements, including Metrolink improvements, new bikeways and sidewalks, safer street crossings, traffic calming measures, street trees, a pocket park and funding to promote the use of public transportation. The effort establishes a bicycle shop and education program, promotes local workforce development programs and provides three years of free transit passes for all Legacy Square residents.

In summer 2023, the city of Santa Ana received SCAG’s Housing Innovation Award for Legacy Square, recognizing excellence and innovation in planning, land use and transportation to improve mobility, livability, prosperity and sustainability across a six-county region.

To qualify for LEED certification, developers must pass rigorous design and building guidelines that go beyond what most states require. All National CORE communities are designed and constructed with energy efficiency in mind, combining robust building envelopes with high-quality insulation, solar power, high-performance HVAC and highly efficient hot-water heating systems. National CORE uses only the highest-quality building materials and finishes to ensure filtered, clean indoor air for all apartment homes and common areas.

The four-story Legacy Square development is an all-electric property, featuring individual heat pump hot water heaters, high-efficiency HVAC systems and advanced lighting controls. The 153kW DC rooftop photovoltaic solar panel system offsets 40% of the total building energy loads. In addition, the development incorporates concrete, tile and windows from the old church buildings into its design.

“National CORE is dedicated to leading the way in sustainable construction,” said Tim Kohut, National CORE’s director of sustainable design. “Our goal is to create the most environmentally sensitive developments while ensuring we meet our goals for serving residents. Often, we are implementing features that have yet to become requirements even in a forward-looking state like California.”

In 2019, National CORE became the first developer to sign on to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2030 Commitment, an initiative that provides architects, engineers, developers, and owners with the resources necessary to design and develop communities that combat the effects of climate change.

National CORE has been named a Power Builder by the U.S. Green Building Council for five consecutive years, an honor that celebrates builders using LEED to improve quality of life for residents, reduce a building’s impact on the environment, and create healthier and more resilient communities.

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