The 1.8-million-sq-ft North First Campus office development in San Jose was recently pre-certified for LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), making it the first such plan in Silicon Valley to be LEED-ND Pre-Certified and one of only seven certifications in California.  

Covering 43 acres near San Jose International Airport, the master-planned Class-A office campus is being developed by Los Angeles-based Lowe Enterprises and an affiliate of Stamford, CT-based Five Mile Capital Partners.

Other members of the project team include the San Francisco offices of Gensler, SWA landscape architects and Sherwood Environmental Design Engineering. Redwood City, CA-based BKF Engineers is the civil engineer and San Francisco-based Hathaway Dinwiddie is serving as general contractor. 

The LEED-ND rating system promotes neighborhood designs that reduce vehicle miles traveled, communities where jobs and services are accessible by foot or public transit, and projects that facilitate more efficient use of energy and water.

Rick Newman, CEO of Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group, said in a press release that the approach for the project was to embrace green building principles for every aspect of the development. He said the Campus is designed to create collaborative indoor and outdoor work spaces to take advantage of California’s temperate climate. 

"We have been very deliberate in the layout and planning of the outdoor spaces to ensure that they function well for recreation and socializing and as informal gathering spots for making connections and sharing ideas,” he said.

The USGBC pre-certifies projects that are entitled but not yet built and recognizes the project's holistic approach to sustainability issues that incorporate principles of smart growth, walkable urbanism and green building design at the neighborhood scale. When North First Campus completes in 2015, all of its nine buildings will be at least LEED Silver certified and the project will receive the final LEED-ND certification. The structures will range in size from 150,000 to 350,000 sq-ft with 30,000 to 42,000 sq-ft floor plates. 

North First Campus is in an area of San Jose that is planned for higher density development and is located directly across from the VTA Component Light-Rail Station. These are key elements for LEED-ND as the station provides public transportation linkages to the other parts of the area and region and encourages pedestrian friendly neighborhoods.

The complex, which is entitled for up to 2.8 million sq-ft, allowing for an additional 1 million sq-ft of expansion, is inspired by neighborhood streets such as Fillmore and Union in San Francisco, and will be an active environment similar to any downtown area, lined with shops, cafes

and convenient curbside parking, say project officials. Its plan focuses on an integrated, walkable environment that weaves outdoor open spaces into a network of pedestrian and bicycle paths. Campus Way, the project’s main street, is envisioned as a tree-lined thoroughfare fronted with creative workspaces and related business amenities as well as storefront shops and cafes.

Various Pocket parks provide furnished outdoor meeting rooms, work spaces and spots for relaxation. The Urban Plaza at the development entrance is a public space that will be programmed with a series of events including a local Farmers Market, live entertainment and food truck gatherings. The large, grassy Campus Commons in the center of the property includes a basketball court, tennis court, fitness facility and lap pool.

Landscape at North First Campus will feature drought tolerant and native plants. A native habitat along the periphery restores native plants and wildlife to the site, provides a natural way to treat storm water, and offers bike trails and walking paths.

“Unlike a traditional campus, with buildings clustered around parking lots, North First Campus demonstrates a new suburban density on light rail that supports the new work model,” said Lewis Knight, Firmwide Director of Planning and Urban Design at Gensler, in the news release.