Small. Green. Stylish. There’s no better way to describe Bruce Herrington’s first multifamily project at his recently-created development firm, Birmingham, Ala.-based Greenvine Properties. The 2,150-square-foot, two-unit Phelan Flats, which opened February 2010 in the Phelan Park neighborhood of Birmingham, is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification, making it the first LEED for Homes multifamily project in Alabama. To ensure the site’s walkability, Herrington found a small downtown lot close to a major hospital, stores, restaurants, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Herrington, whose firm Birmingham-based Herrington Architects designed the building, envisioned the flats—each with two master suites—appealing to students or recent grads who care about affordable, sustainable living. Because he kept construction costs to $89 a square foot, Herrington was able to lease the stacked units in the $1,100 to $1,200 range. The cost per month for two in a unit is about the same as if the roommates lived in a four-bedroom, two-bath apartment on campus, Herrington says.
Built to resemble a cottage to fit its historic district locale, Phelan Flats offers a number of sustainable features, including locally sourced energy-smart cement siding, high-quality windows for natural light and durability, a covered porch to minimize Western sunlight, non-VOC paints, and Energy Star appliances and light fixtures.
Additionally, Gregory Hansen, president of Hansen Landscape Architecture in Birmingham, designed landscaping to eliminate the need for an irrigation system: native, drought-resistant materials such as black-eyed Susans, large mature shrubs, and Bermuda sod. Hansen also constructed off-street gravel rather than concrete parking; rock edging to channel storm water and prevent erosion; a rain garden to collect water; and large shade trees to block the sun.