An Aged Apartment Complex Undergoes a Total Overhaul and Becomes an Educational Piece for Its Community

Solar-thermal technology produces about 80 percent of the hot water for ECO Modern Flats, and the facility’s pool is heated via several large solar panels on the roof. The solar panels ensure the pool stays warm enough to be used for an extra two months per year while being much more comfortable all season. The complex’s overall water usage has seen a 45 percent reduction in part through installing smart products, such as dual-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and faucets, high-efficiency dishwashers and clothes washers, and decreasing water used for irrigation. Before the retrofit, the buildings were only 75 percent full; today, they are 100 percent occupied yet utility costs have decreased 35 percent.

ECO Modern Flats’ rooftop patio provides views of Old Main, the oldest building on the University of Arkansas’ campus; Dickson Street; and the Boston Mountains.

ECO Modern Flats’ rooftop patio provides views of Old Main, the oldest building on the University of Arkansas’ campus; Dickson Street; and the Boston Mountains. PHOTO: Timothy Hursley

Smart Site Development

A green screen of flowering vines shades the south faces of the buildings to protect against the summer sun and maintain comfort levels. Two cisterns made from steel culverts collect rainwater from rooftops, which is used in landscape irrigation and to water the community garden. At the community’s west entry, a bioswale serves as the centerpiece of a rain garden that diverts, slows and filters stormwater runoff from parking areas. The project team also removed pavement in the inner courtyard, replacing it with native plantings. Serpentine retaining walls address erosion concerns on the sloped site.

The downtown Fayetteville location means residents are within walking distance to the library, farmer’s market, University of Arkansas, a local arts center, the Dickson Street entertainment district and a trail system. ECO Modern Flats’ rooftop patio provides views of Old Main, the oldest building on the University of Arkansas’ campus; Dickson Street; and the Boston Mountains.

Success is measured in many ways. ECO Modern Flats’ green accomplishments are validated by its LEED Platinum rating. The community is fully leased and there is a waiting list, confirming the apartments’ popularity. In addition, the community serves as an educational piece for Fayetteville and the surrounding areas; students, stormwater educators and others interested in sustainable construction often visit to learn about the buildings. The complex’s recycling program inspired the city of Fayetteville to launch a multifamily pilot program for recycling. Hudson is applying lessons learned to other projects, he says, including several privately owned apartment buildings intended for University of Arkansas students.

Hudson is honored to have been recognized by the Urban Land Institute, Washington, and USGBC for ECO Modern Flats but says the greatest measure of success comes from the residents. “We are most pleased when we hear from the people who live at ECO,” he says. “The greatest successes are hearing that a resident has reduced her asthma attacks since living here or seeing people up on the roof doing yoga.”

Retrofit Team

Developer and project and property manager: Specialized Real Estate Group, Fayetteville, Ark.
Architect: Modus Studio, Fayetteville
Construction manager: The H7 Group, Fayetteville
General contractor: Town Builders Inc., Fayetteville, (479) 445-6004
Green-building consultant: GB Group Construction, Springdale, Ark.
Energy consultant: Viridian, Little Rock, Ark.
Mechanical and electrical contractor: Kimbel Mechanical Systems Inc., Springdale
Plumbing contractor: Ready Rooter, Springdale

Retrofit Materials

Custom balconies, terraces and railings: Razorback Ironworks
Cabinets: Twin Oaks Custom Cabinets
Solar energy: Stellar Sun
Window treatments: Accent Blinds and Shutters LLC
TPO roofing: GAF
Mini-split units: Samsung

About the Author

Elyse Cooper
Elyse Cooper has been writing about the design and construction industry for seven years, authoring articles for various nationally circulated trade publications.

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