On occasion, I partake in some gentle ribbing of Portland, a magical city in the Pacific Northwest where the roofs of big box stores are designed to attract bees and their parking lots have been used, at least on one occassion, to hold memorial services for fallen pollinators.

The bees of Portland, however, have nothing on the butterflies of another compost crazy progressive West Coast burg that’s also an easy target for a bit of good-natured mocking: San Francisco (a great place to display your junk in public, live in an overpriced shoebox, and munch on edible flowers at a professional baseball game if there ever was one).

As reported by Salon, 38 Dolores, an under-construction luxury rental complex in the city’s Mission district, will come equipped with a rather unusual amenity that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere: a butterfly habitat that serves as “a living representation of the sustainable lifecycle at the core of 38 Dolores’ philosophy.”


Said butterfly habitat will be home to a host of (non-rent-paying) endangered residents including the San Bruno Elfin, the Bay Checkerspot, and the Mission Blue acccording to the 38 Dolores website.

Aiming for both LEED Gold and SITES certification, the 81-unit complex (the monthly rent for a one-bedroom will set you back between $2,950 and $4,595, by the way) certainly has no qualms about marketing its green leanings. 

The property’s main amenity IS “eco-living” and instead of bombarding prospective tenants with photos of a well-equipped gym, a swimming pool, or a group of smartly dressed young people congregating around a sleek lounge area that might as well be the lobby of a W Hotel, the 38 Delores website is filled with imagery of root vegetables, succulents, and, yes, butterflies. One of the complex’s main communal hangout spots is an herb garden, there’s ample on-site bike storage, and the commercial tenant on the ground floor will be, I kid you not, a 30,000-square-foot Whole Foods.

Featuring solar thermal, rainwater harvesting, an expansive green roof, passive design strategies, and nontoxic/recycled material throughout, the building itself was designed by BAR Architects with landscaping by April Philips Design Group. William McDonough + Partners is also credited as being part of the design team.

I’m sure 38 Dolores, when completed, will be a beautiful and efficient building and will be enjoyed by those who can afford to live in it (certainly not long-time residents of the Mission).  It’s hard to disagree with anything that McDonough + Partners is involved in. However, I can’t shake the feeling that 38 Dolores is trying just a bit too hard. And the presence of a butterfly habitat … well, that sends it over the top.  

Via [Salon], [Grist]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Butterfly habitats: San Francisco's newest rental amenity?
Residents at a luxury rental complex in San Francisco's Mission will enjoy Moen fixtures, granite countertops and a rooftop butterfly habitat.