San Diego Business Journal

A $150 million housing project at the University of California San Diego takes the unusual step of mixing grad students with cancer patients at the Jacobs Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health and their families.

“There are some really great interaction opportunities to sort of teach people what patients and their families go through,” said Juli Smith, project manager of the Nuevo West housing project at the La Jolla campus.

“This was really a beautiful opportunity to allow them access to the fitness center that the students have, the game rooms, the laundry. Instead of being isolated, they could feel like they’re part of a bigger community,” Smith said.

Brendan Connolly, a partner with Mithun integrated design team of Seattle, said everything in Nuevo West was designed to foster interaction between the graduate students and the families and patients.

“All the amenity spaces are meant to be shared so there could be kind of a supportive interchange, everything from science research to med students to humanities and entertainment,” Connolly said. “It’s really kind of a mixing chamber.”

UC San Diego Health has The Bannister Family Home in Hillcrest which provides temporary housing for the families of people undergoing long-term or critical care at the nearby UC Medical Center.

The difference is that Nuevo West blends patients and students where Bannister Family Home does not.

At Bannister, “They can’t really interact with other people,” Smith said.

With Hensel Phelps as the general contractor, the Nuevo West housing project was completed in January but tenants just started moving in in March.

The project has been unaffected by the coronavirus.

Unlike undergraduate students who live on campus during only part of the year, “These are our graduate students. This is their housing. They’re not coming from somewhere else to live nine months of the year. This is where they live year-round,” Smith said.

Nuevo West is actually two residential buildings – Viento and Brisa - and a separate marketplace on a six-acre site.

“It’s a very small site,” Smith said. “That actually is what pushed us into the 12-story Viento high-rise.”

At 239,082 square feet, the 12-story Viento has two studio apartments, 61 two-bedroom apartments, 82 four-bedroom apartments and four six bedroom apartments.

The 199, 065 square-foot Brisa varies from five to eight stories, depending on the side of the building, Smith said.

Brisa has two studio apartments, 53 two-bedroom apartments, 50 four-bedroom apartments and three six-bedroom apartments.

The La Jolla Family House wing of the Brisa building has two day rooms, 25 double rooms, and 15 two-bedroom apartments.

“It’s really like a Ronald McDonald House. It’s meant for families that have someone at the hospital and they can’t afford a place to live. They can’t afford a regular hotel because they’re going to be here for a month or two,” Smith said.

The marketplace is a single-story, 2,700 square-foot building that will have a mix of food, grocery and general supplies, “but it’s also kind of a social space,” Connolly said.

The buildings are designed to meet LEED Gold certification standards and are cooled naturally.

“We only have minor air conditioning in certain smaller spaces that require it,” Smith said. “We get amazing breezes off the ocean most of the year.”

The building names reflect that airy design, Connolly said. Viento is Spanish for wind and Brisa means breeze.

Every floor also carries a wind-related name.

“I didn’t know there were that many names for the wind until I did this project,” Connolly said.

To help create natural ventilation, each bedroom has two windows to allow air to circulate.

“That was an important design feature to have two windows,” Smith said.

A key element in Viento is a solar chimney that draws air up through the chimney vertically, pulling heated air out of the building.

“The entire shape of the (Viento) building is a series of serrated fins that are angled at the prevailing breeze,” Connolly said. “The geometry of the building is meant to catch the wind and all of the multiple openings into each of the residential spaces allow for natural cooling.”

Brisa has a similar design

“It has the same fins. There’s a strong indoor-outdoor relationship,” Connolly said. “All of the spaces, where we have the opportunity, we connect them to the outside.”

That includes an outdoor amphitheater, an outdoor garden between the buildings, and outdoor courtyards.

Nuevo West is part of a university housing construction project that includes the

$218 million Nuevo East scheduled to be ready to occupy in July with 1,374 beds and the mixed-use Mesa Nuevo, which was completed in 2016 with 1,300 beds.

The construction projects were designed to meet a long-standing housing shortage at UC San Diego, but they also are meant to provide an alternative to the high-priced rental housing market in the surrounding community.

“We have been short on housing for a long time. We have a waiting list for student housing, particularly graduate student housing,” Smith said. “This is driven a little bit by the fact that at times we can’t recruit graduate students and researchers because the cost of living is so high.”