Image: University Park Condominium Exterior Elemental Green

By Jesse Bratter
Content Director | Elemental Green

Past Meets Future Thanks To A 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 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, 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 will become Elemental Green’s first branded sustainable renovation and virtual showhouse, affectionately dubbed #EcoRenovate. Helmed by Elemental Green Founder and CEO Sheridan Foster, #EcoRenovate will take 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, throughout the project, Sheridan and the Elemental Green team will share every step, as we tackle sustainable upgrades and eco-friendly renovations in this historically significant landmark. With guidance from architect Richard Kasemsarn and partnerships with many exceptional brands and products, we’ll breathe new life into this modernist icon.

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,” Sheridan says. “We’re proud to have some of these leading sustainability brands joining Elemental Green as sponsors on the #EcoRenovate journey,” including Fireclay Tile, Recolor paints, The Shade Store, French Cabinetry, Dekton by Cosentino, 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.

#EcoRenovate Before Windows
Fireclay, Plyboo and Dekton samples
Fireclay Wave Tiles, bathroom tile installation
#EcoRenovate Kitchen Before Shot

Images: Living Room Before showcasing the existing windows; French Cabinetry, Dekton by Cosentino, and Fireclay Tile samples; small, closed-in Kitchen Before 

A Taste Of The #EcoRenovate Vision 

Our first renovation space begins 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 will demolish 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 extend the social space of the adjoining living room.

French Cabinetry will fabricate custom-designed cabinets and a moveable island on casters using Amber Edge Plyboo, a sustainable and eco-friendly architectural bamboo product. And Fireclay Tile will furnish eye-catching handmade tiles for the kitchen flooring and backsplash. (The latter will comprise 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 will also provide wall tiles for the guest bath and master bath, which are both being retrofitted and designed around Lake Michigan-inspired color stories.

It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

The #EcoRenovate penthouse comes with sweeping, inspiring views of Hyde Park and Lake Michigan. And, the neighborhood of Hyde Park is not without its own esteem. Not too far away, environmental and design enthusiasts can explore 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. Also close by stands the Ellis Passivhaus, a reconstruction project that 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 know our sustainable renovation is in good hands.

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! We’ll be sharing before and after photography, video walkthroughs, Q+As with Sheridan Foster and Richard Kasemsarn, product unboxings, and the stories behind each material choice and the brands that produce them. Get ready to step inside and bring this 1960s apartment into a sustainable future!

Ohio Street Beach, Chicago

Get more insight into #EcoRenovate from Elemental Green Founder Sheridan Foster in our sit-down Q&A.

If you have any products or services that you would like to showcase as part of future #EcoRenovate endeavors or would like to explore additional partnerships with Elemental Green, contact Paula Gould at