Luna Vista: engineering solutions for a more inclusive community

Posted on: July 19, 2022

Source: Building Design + Construction BY APA and THE ENGINEERED WOOD ASSOCIATION 

Affordable housing complex uses engineered wood to keep construction costs low, tackle a public predicament and give rise to a stronger, more inclusive community.

The Luna Vista complex expands affordable housing options for the residents of Mountain View.
The Luna Vista complex expands affordable housing options for the residents of Mountain View.


A housing crunch was mounting in the City of Mountain View, California. Faced with four consecutive years of burgeoning homelessness, the city was determined to find a solution. They developed an innovative approach to help address the issue, including funding basic hygiene services, outreach to assess community needs, connecting residents to local services and partnering with local nonprofit organizations to facilitate affordable housing solutions. One local nonprofit stepped in with a creative approach to the problem.

Alta Housing, a community-based nonprofit specializing in affordable housing development, came powered by a mission to create stronger, more diverse communities by providing and maintaining high-quality affordable housing where residents can thrive.

Alta Housing worked closely with the city to formulate a plan to help address the situation and provide high-quality housing for low-income individuals and those with developmental disabilities within the community.

The complex, dubbed Luna Vista, features 71 affordable housing units for single- and two-person low-income households. Fifteen of the units are designated for adults with developmental disabilities.

The design team sought to create a structure that reflected the community, and at the same time, develop a community where the residents could exercise personal independence, make new connections and thrive.

Luna Vista’s design unifies contemporary, modern elements while paying homage to the area’s unique historical architecture.

Lilly Wellington, architect with Van Meter Williams Pollack (VMWP), explained that “one of the main inspirations for the project was the historical car shops and gas stations from the ’50s that were in the area.”

The floor plan incorporates shared balconies, a community room, an open roof deck and a communal lounge on each floor to encourage residents to get to know each other.

“The design we’ve created really fosters a sense of community with the residents, where you actually get to know your neighbor and they’re not just the person next door,” said Wellington.


Prefabricated floor cassettes and laminated veneer lumber were used as a cost-effective solution throughout the structure.
Prefabricated floor cassettes and laminated veneer lumber were used as a cost-effective solution throughout the structure.

Engineering Solutions with Engineered Wood

With a total budget of $30.5 million, it was crucial the production team found creative building solutions to minimize construction costs.

The prefabricated engineered wood elements specified for the project provided the ideal solution. Floor cassettes constructed by Nobles Construction Components Inc. from plywood structural panels, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and I-joists from APA member Boise Cascade were used as the main floor components throughout the structure.

Panelized walls and prefabricated stairs were also incorporated to further accelerate construction times.

“By using the prefabricated components, we were able to cut the framing time in half and keep labor costs low,” said Jeff Shibata, Vice Senior Project Manager at Nibbi Brothers General Contractors. “We were able to set all the floors in just six days by using the floor cassettes, and each floor of the complex we could construct in about two weeks.”

LVL from APA members Murphy Company and Boise Cascade proved to be a cost-effective solution for multiple demanding design challenges. The weight of the rooftop amenities created a substantial load, but the savvy design team found a simple solution.

LVL framing provided the required strength and support while keeping the budget in check. LVL and parallel strand lumber (PSL) were also used for headers and LVL was used in areas where the walls did not align floor to floor.

The floor cassettes not only helped Alta Housing stay within their tight budget, but the prefabricated elements also delivered numerous benefits for the construction team.

Read more in the full case study available as a free download at

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