A Look Inside ECO Modern Flats
At ECO Modern Flats, green isn’t just the lush color of the landscape – it’s a way of life for the tenants who occupy the state’s first LEED-Certified Platinum apartment complex on South Hill Avenue, just minutes away from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
The lifestyle afforded tenants in the 96 one-bedroom units and the complex’s overall design earned its developers, Specialized Real Estate Group, the prestigious title of 2012 LEED for Homes Outstanding Multifamily Project from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) – the highest honor presented to residential properties and the only property to receive this award in Arkansas. Green Builder Magazine also presented ECO Modern Flats with the Green Home of the Year Award for Best Community Project.
From the Ground Up
Manicured patches of grass, drought-tolerant native plants and bushes dot the landscape, while a community garden keeps tenants’ kitchens stocked with a medley of fresh veggies.
“The garden has saved me money this past year in groceries,” said Kimberly Pierson, community leader at ECO. “It’s great because it offers such a variety and it really does promote healthy living.”
Two towering rainwater cisterns capture rainwater used to hydrate garden areas during dry spells and conserve the overall water flow.
Another water feature – a large swimming pool that lies in the center of the complex – helps make those sweltering summers breeze by, and draws tenants together for firepit fellowship in cooler months.
In addition to succulents and sitting areas, the roofs feature solar panels, which provide 75 percent of ECO Modern Flat’s hot water.
Something else special about the roofs? They’re reflective.
“Instead of having a black roof that absorbs heat, we have a white roof that reflects it,” said Jeremy Hudson, Specialized Real Estate Group CEO.
This reflective roof keeps the complex cooler during the hot summer.
In fact, a representative of the electric utility said that average summer electric bills for one-bedroom apartments in the Fayetteville area run typically between $80 and $100. At ECO, tenants pay less than $40.
Beauty on the Inside
Walking into one of the units is like stepping into a sustainable world where green runs through the walls, floors, ceilings and even the windows.
The highly stylized spaces within each unit – the kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom – flow seamlessly from one to the other. Every square inch of the interior is designed specifically – and sustainably – for beauty and function. Take, for instance, the integrated bookcase and media station that joins the living room to the bedroom. With a simple spin of the built-in, the TV can magically be seen in the connecting room.
Another showstopper is the sleek kitchen that opens to the living area. Modern touches like concrete counters, stainless steel appliances and a simple island that stores kitchen necessities while seating up to three people keep things stylish.
For tenant Angela Wisely, who happens to be a consultant and U.S. Green Building Council Arkansas Chapter Conference Chair, the kitchen is a symbol of functionality.
“The entire kitchen space is beautifully and thoughtfully designed with a lot of creative storage for what is a relatively small space,” she said.
Healthy and Happy
“A lot of people associate LEED with green building, energy efficiency, using recycled materials and renewable materials,” Hudson said, “but another aspect of LEED is also the health of the building and the occupant of that building and the indoor air quality. It’s something that we focused on through the [building] process.”
Bold colors like rich lime greens and bright oranges shine through at every turn, especially the back wall of the kitchen, which consists of concrete blocks. It’s there where you’ll find different colors among each unit.
Hudson said the staff allows tenants to pick from one of four colors — something that adds a little personality. “[When building], we provided a blank canvas so they can personalize it,” Hudson said.
Before ECO Modern Flats was the earth-friendly project it is today, it was an existing complex from the late ‘60s.
With the framework still intact, Specialized Real Estate Group purchased the property in May 2010, seeing an opportunity for ultra-modern, ultra-green living in Fayetteville.
“The location was excellent, [with] proximity not only to the University of Arkansas, but to the entertainment district, the Fayetteville square [and] the public library,” Hudson said.
The complex underwent a complete renovation before fully opening in August 2011. Not only were mechanical and electrical systems updated with ductless heating and air conditioning, Hudson said, but also large operable windows were installed and insulation was added for optimal energy efficiency.
Hudson’s proud of the results: Utility usage is half of what it was for the original complex.
“Before we bought it, [the building] was running at 70 percent occupancy and now it’s running almost at 100 percent,” he said. “So, you’ve got 30 percent more people using the facility but yet it’s at half of the energy [usage].”
That staggering difference is more impressive knowing that the new project added a lot more appliances and devices to the complex — washers, dryers, microwaves and dishwashers, all Energy Star-certified, of course.
“Now, [our tenants] have all of these things,” Hudson said, “but the energy savings is [greater] because of the all the measures we took [during renovations].”
Savings at ECO Modern Flats
- Reduced water consumption by 45%
- Reduced electrical energy annually by 23%
- In warm weather months, the savings is as great as 50%