Image: University Park Condominium Exterior ⓒElemental Green
By Jesse Bratter
Past Meets Future Thanks To Elemental Green’s Sustainable Apartment Renovation In Chicago’s Hyde Park
In 1961, esteemed architects I.M. Pei and Araldo Cossutta designed two mid-rise apartment buildings in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago as a major part of the ambitious and controversial Hyde Park Redevelopment Project. Supported by a concrete curtain wall and dotted with arched, floor-to-ceiling windows, the commanding 10-story towers surround a central courtyard with pool, fountain and rectangular gardens, pulling influence from the architectural stylings of Le Corbusier. Today, those buildings, which make up University Park Condominium, stand as an iconic example of the architects’ work. And the modernist aesthetic still resonates.
Boasting sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, an impressive pedigree, and a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, this building stood out as a perfect candidate to spotlight an eco-upgrade. A penthouse unit became Elemental Green’s first branded sustainable renovation and virtual showhouse, affectionately dubbed #EcoRenovate. Helmed by Elemental Green Founder and CEO Sheridan Foster, #EcoRenovate takes readers through the process of renovating the kitchen, bathrooms, flooring and striking windows to be more energy efficient and mindful of the environment.
It’s a fitting undertaking, since Elemental Green’s mission is to make green home building and sustainable renovation the status quo—to show readers why it’s important and how to get there. In this vein, Sheridan and the Elemental Green team are sharing every step of the sustainable upgrades and eco-friendly renovations tackled in this historically significant landmark. With guidance from architect Richard Kasemsarn and partnerships with many exceptional brands and products, we’ve breathed new life into this modernist icon.
The view from #EcoRenovate ⓒElemental Green
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
The #EcoRenovate penthouse boasts sweeping, inspiring views of Hyde Park, the Chicago Skyline, and Lake Michigan. And, the neighborhood of Hyde Park is not without its own esteem. Right next door, environmental and design enthusiasts can explore the beautiful gothic campus of the University of Chicago with modern additions from Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Netsch, Ricardo Netsch, Studio Gang, Helmut Jahn, César Pelli, and others. The campus also contains the Frederick C. Robie house by Frank Lloyd Wright, who famously used materials that ground his buildings to the earth and architectural details that celebrate natural light. Studio Gang’s Solstice in the Park can be seen from the bedrooms as it overlooks the future home of the Obama Library by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects and the only surviving building from the the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition which now houses the Museum of Science and Industry.
Also close by stands the Ellis Passivhaus, Illinois’ First Passivhaus Institut Certified Building. which maximizes energy and sustainability measures, including reducing CO2 emissions from 212,908 pounds per year to 10,350 pounds per year. Of note, Kasemsarn also served as the architect of record for the Passivhaus, so we knew our sustainable renovation was in good hands.
I.M. Pei and Araldo Cossutta’s modernist architecture extended to Hyde Park, Chicago in 1961 with the design of the now-historic University Park Condominium. Elemental Green enlisted local architect Richard Kasemsarn to help give one of the penthouse units a green makeover while staying true to its modernist beginnings.
Are you planning to renovate your home? The product choices you make can have a huge impact on your health and the planet. Elemental Green’s Founder and CEO Sheridan Foster gives us some such examples as she walks us through our first branded renovation in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
Selecting sustainable materials is every bit as important as green design. So look at the entire lifecycle of a product, and make decisions based on what’s most important to you.
University Park Condo Buildings and shopping center under Construction. View looking west along 55th Street at South Lake Park Avenue in 1961. University of Chicago Special Collections [apf2-03954], Courtesy Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library
Hyde Park, Chicago
To sustainably renovate a penthouse unit while remaining true to its 1960s modernist roots
Year of Completion
A TASTE OF THE #ECORENOVATE VISION
Our first renovation space began with the kitchen. The penthouse came with a kitchen closed off to the main living space, making it feel small and dark. During #EcoRenovate, we demolished two of the walls to open up the space and brighten it, allowing natural light to flood in from the living room’s expansive bay of windows and extending the social space of the adjoining living room.
French Cabinetry fabricated custom-designed cabinets and a moveable island on casters using Amber Edge Plyboo, a sustainable and eco-friendly architectural bamboo product. And Fireclay Tile furnished eye-catching handmade tiles for the kitchen flooring and backsplash. (The latter comprises Fireclay’s Maze tiles, whose patterns evoke vintage records—a nod to Chicago’s pioneering place in music history. But more on that later.)
The California-based artisanal tile brand also provided wall tiles for the guest bath and master bath, which were both retrofitted and designed around Lake Michigan-inspired color stories. Plyboo bamboo reappeared throughout, this time underfoot as flooring connecting the living and dining areas to the primary bedroom. Sustainable furnishings from Sabai (the sofa) and Avocado Green Mattress (the nontoxic bed) provide a healthy place for worry-free rest and relaxation.
Non-toxic paint, a non-toxic mattress, and a mix of mindful furniture and reused pieces set the tone for this sustainable bedroom.
Mindful materials, eco-friendly manufacturing processes, and responsible business practices ruled our selections for #EcoRenovate as a sustainable living room took shape.
Fireclay Tile’s handmade tile serves as the design inspiration inside a 1960s kitchen whose sustainable renovation pays homage to its modernist roots.
Handmade tiles and nontoxic paint marry to give the main and guest bathrooms inside a 1960s penthouse a green makeover, pulling color cues from the surrounding Chicago scenery.
Photo of Recolor paint cans ⓒElemental Green
Sustainable Renovations Can Happen Everywhere
“There are incredible brands out there who are embracing and driving sustainability—in the materials they’re using, the products they’re manufacturing, in their own environmentally and socially responsible supply chains and business practices. You no longer have to sacrifice style and budget to create a healthy home,” Foster says. “We’re proud to have some of these leading sustainability brands joining Elemental Green on the #EcoRenovate journey,” including Fireclay Tile, Recolor paints, Dekton by Cosentino, Avocado Green Mattress, Sabai, Earth Weave, Plyboo, The Shade Store, French Cabinetry, and Signa System window retrofitters.
Whether you live in a condo, house or townhome in an urban, suburban or rural setting, we hope you’ll be able to discover new products and glean inspiration and sustainable renovation ideas from #EcoRenovate.
JOIN US ON THIS SUSTAINABLE JOURNEY
Follow along with #EcoRenovate on Elemental Green and our social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter) and watch the eco-friendly renovation come to life through video walkthroughs and product unboxings! Browse this page to check out the before and after photography, Q+As with Sheridan Foster and Richard Kasemsarn, and the stories behind each material choice and the brands that produce them. Step inside as we bring this 1960s apartment into a sustainable future!
Built on a foundation of innovative technology and forward-thinking manufacturing, surface giant Cosentino has been considering the planet since its inception.
Jam Iksoulene founded French Cabinetry to bring European philosophies of quality, craftsmanship and sustainability to the United States. And then he brought Plyboo bamboo cabinets to #EcoRenovate.
From sustainably sourced materials to mindful manufacturing practices to nontoxic materials and end-of-life cycles, we’re laying out what you should look for when buying sustainable furniture, and a few brands to choose from that adhere to these elements.
Every year, millions of gallons of paint end up going to waste, with much of it ending up in our waterways and landfills. Recolor collects unused paint and remanufactures it as a healthy paint option for any eco-renovation, including our own #EcoRenovate.
Fireclay is unique from anyone else in that they hand-make every tile to order using recycled materials and sustainable manufacturing practices. They come in tons of shapes and colors using a natural VOC-free pigmenting process.
After 20 years of research and development, a groundbreaking approach to clean air has arrived. Molekule breaks down harmful microscopic pollutants like allergens, mold, bacteria, viruses, and even airborne chemicals.
Avocado Green Mattress is on a mission is to be the most respected source for green mattresses and pillows at affordable prices — while maintaining environmentally conscious, ethical, and sustainable business practices — to help safeguard your health and protect our planet.
Teragren bamboo products reduce dependence on dwindling timber resources. They’re sustainably sourced, promote green building, and are LEED compatible.
Why Bamboo From a forestry standpoint, bamboo can be grown with no added fertilizers, pesticides or irrigation and can sequester up to 70% more carbon per year than a hardwood forest. Moso bamboo has an optimal five-year growth cycle and is selectively harvested by...
For furniture, wall paneling, and cabinetry, Plyboo bamboo plywood, veneer, and dimensional lumber are as versatile as they are functional. Smith & Fong's long-term commitment to the Earth embraces bamboo as a global environmental solution. Sustainable forestry,...