LEED Platinum 2011
It soon became clear that the project could be an educational resource, both for residents and for the community at large.
Congratulations to Specialized Real Estate Group and modus studio, Eco Modern Flats as the recipient of the 2012 LEED for Homes award for Outstanding Multifamily Project
ECO Modern Flats is a gut rehab of a 96-unit market rate apartment complex and was built between 1968 and 1972. Each of the four buildings consists of three floors of eight one-bedroom apartments. The community sits on a sloping site in central Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The developers’ goals were to deliver a product not currently available in the local market—modern, urban, green multi-family rentals—and to save operations costs through energy and water-saving updates. It soon became clear that the project could be an educational resource, both for residents and the community at large. In addition to the rehab itself, a blog and other informational resources were developed, and hundreds of people toured a model unit highlighting 32 sustainable strategies employed in the project.
The architect saw an opportunity to re-imagine healthy interior space, creating open and light-filled studios. Spatially efficient, sustainable strategies are expressed playfully; each tenant chooses a modern no-VOC paint color for her kitchen, and a central multipurpose wall provides built-in storage that contains a rotating TV module to be viewed from the kitchen, living, and bedroom spaces—or to disappear behind a bookshelf. The landscape design creates new spaces for outdoor living in a symbiotic relationship with the buildings, tenants, and nature. Serpentine retaining walls addressed erosion on the sloping site and carve out patio areas for ground level units. Steel and cedar armatures create public and private rooftop terraces and balconies. The former laundry facility was transformed into a leasing office, restrooms, and pool cabana surrounded by prairie plantings.
ECO Modern Flats is sustainable living made attainable. This project is especially significant in the context of northwest Arkansas, where it is an outlier in comparison with other multi-family properties. The project not only transformed the formerly dilapidated property, but it also changed the way that people in our region think about multi-family property. “ECO Modern Flats raised the bar for what people expect of a multi-family development in Northwest Arkansas,” said Linda K. Smith , the Executive Director of the US Green Building Council—Arkansas Chapter. “It has energy and water conservation, but also unique architecture and interior design. It is an outstanding project.”
The most visible addition is the stormwater management system. Two cisterns created from steel culverts were erected to collect rainwater from rooftops; this water is used in landscape irrigation and to water the community garden. At the community’s west entry, a bioswale is the centerpiece of a rain garden courtyard, which diverts, slows, and filters stormwater runoff from parking areas. In addition to these strategies, the renovation reduced the impermeable footprint of the complex by removing pavement in the inner courtyard and replacing it with native plantings.
Less noticeable improvements to the building envelope have produced large returns in energy efficiency and tenant comfort. Closed-cell insulation in the walls and polyiso membrane on the roofs, coupled with a thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) roof and new low-e windows have increased the R value to R-24. Low-VOC paints and finishes and a concrete floor partner with the updated building envelope to improve and protect indoor air quality. A green screen of flowering vines shades the south faces of the buildings, providing another layer of comfort in the summer sun.
Perhaps the most significant sustainable elements of this project are the site and location: A dilapidated, under-occupied apartment complex in the city center. The original buildings provided tremendous opportunity for reuse—the structures themselves, as well as plumbing fixtures and the pool, were refurbished rather than destroyed, saving countless resources. By virtue of location, residents may choose to walk or bike to the nearby university, entertainment and arts districts, farmers market, and shopping.
The project is a success by many measures. The community is fully leased with a waiting list. ECO has become a community educational resource and is a regular stop for students, conference attendees, stormwater educators, and others interested in sustainable building. It is also point of civic pride, garnering awards and recognition on local and state levels. ECO’s recycling program has spurred interest in multi-family recycling, and the City of Fayetteville has recently launched a multi-family pilot program informed by the success of recycling at ECO. LEED strategies coupled with modern design have transformed a dilapidated infill site into a thriving community.