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UC Irvine shows off new Plaza Verde, its ‘greenest’ student housing

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Guests go on a tour of UC Irvine’s new Plaza Verde student residence hall during a grand-opening event Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The grass is now greener on the other side of Arroyo Drive, and so are the buildings, even if not on the outside.

UC Irvine’s newest student residence hall — named Plaza Verde (or Green Square in English) for its focus as a “green” community — was officially unveiled at a ceremony Wednesday afternoon, about a month after its first residents moved in.

With 1,441 beds — all occupied — and five stories of breathing room, the new facility includes all-electric outdoor grills, fitness centers, a multipurpose room, recreational lounges, a kitchen and cafe, 18 study rooms and a 15,000-square-foot community center. It also has 760 spaces for bicycles and a 523-space parking garage.

Construction was completed in August.

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Three video game consoles are in the community center at the Plaza Verde student residence hall at UC Irvine.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Enrique Lavernia, university provost and executive vice chancellor, said the facility was constructed with sustainability in mind and called it the “greenest housing facility in the entire University of California system.”

“It’s powered by solar panels on the parking structure and it has amazing sustainable attributes such as native drought-tolerant landscaping that uses recycled water,” Lavernia said. “Water-conserving water fixtures [keep] water usage down by 50%, and an all-electric system [makes] appliances a lot more energy-efficient.”

The project has received Platinum certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and developers described it as a key milestone in addressing green and affordable living for residents.

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“All in all, [Plaza Verde is] an amazing facility, sustainable and consistent with our vision in not just providing a great education but also a great community for our students,” Lavernia said.

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Enrique Lavernia, UC Irvine provost and executive vice chancellor, speaks during a grand-opening ceremony Wednesday for UC Irvine’s Plaza Verde student housing.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The project was done in partnership with American Campus Communities, a student housing developer based in Texas.

“The thing we’re most proud of here us that we believe this is the most sustainable large-scale student housing community in the nation,” said Jason Wills, senior vice president of development at American Campus Communities.

“This is 1,400 beds of comfortable and inviting student housing that people want to live in and ... there’s a handful of things that make this community sustainable at the market objective,” Wills added. “We wanted the comfort and social dynamics to meet sustainable living, and it was a challenge.”

The final cost for the project is not in yet, according to university spokeswoman Sheri Ledbetter, who said Plaza Verde was funded through private bonds.

Ledbetter said building the facility was motivated primarily by demand for affordable student housing.

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Plaza Verde’s 15,000-square-foot community center is pictured Wednesday at UC Irvine.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
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In April, a report commissioned by the Associated Students of UC Irvine — presented at a town hall meeting at the university — said that 8% of 2,017 UCI students surveyed had experienced housing insecurity at some point in college and that 30% reported overcrowded housing.

The data was collected through a 36-question survey that asked where students lived, the number of times they had moved and whether they had reached out to campus staff for help.

The Associated Students said in April that the need for the report emerged when student leaders appealed to campus administrators and Irvine City Council members for affordable housing but lacked campus-specific data to support requests for city resources.

Apartments in Irvine rent for an average of $2,012 to $3,232 a month, depending on the floor plan, according to apartments.com.

Randy Yan, the current president of the Associated Students of UC Irvine, said increasing affordable student housing was a priority for the organization and that the opening of Plaza Verde is a “big leap forward.”

“The wide range of amenities that Plaza Verde has in store for its students are truly amazing,” Yan said.

Ledbetter said the completion of Plaza Verde, along with the recent expansion of Middle Earth Towers, provides housing for an estimated 46% of the university’s current student body.

“This supports the campus’s 2007 UCI Long Range Development Plan in making progress toward the goal to provide on-campus housing for 60% of student enrollment,” Ledbetter said.

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