There was never much doubt that Entegrity could chew what it bit off: building a 28-unit apartment and office complex from scratch in the heart of Fayetteville, designed with enough efficiency features and solar panels to provide 100% of the building’s power.
Tenants wouldn’t even get an electric bill.
The only question was whether the Little Rock energy services, sustainability and solar development contractor could put up the 28,000-SF Network building, as the project is known, at market rates. Now, a couple of months after the first tenants began moving in, the answer is yes.
“We were actually able to build this project, with all incentives from energy-efficiency incentives and tax credits for solar, within market pricing, and our rent rates are reflecting that,” said Matt Bell, a principal partner in Entegrity who oversaw the two-year project along with Entegrity colleagues Chris Ladner and John Coleman.
“I don’t want to give the exact figure, but yeah, we were competitive,” Bell said last week in a telephone interview.
The Network’s architect was Rob Sharp of Fayetteville, prized for his knowledge of multifamily design and the city’s building codes. Entegrity hired engineers to work off its own efficiency designs.
All 28 one-bedroom apartments are occupied, and residents have the use of 10 electric vehicle charging stations outside. They don’t worry about any utility bills or deposits.
“For convenience, we have a utility convenience fee that covers water, electric, Wi-Fi, and therefore the tenants don’t have any deposits or any utilities,” Bell said. The fee is about $100 a month.
The apartments, with smart-home technology and “sweeping views of the Boston Mountains,” according to the building website, rent for about $1,000 to $1,500 a month, depending on location in the building, Bell said. The three-story building includes about 6,000 SF of office space, which Entegrity uses as its northwest Arkansas headquarters.
“Tenants just sign the lease and that convenience fee covers everything including waste disposal, and that, in turn, pays for the solar system that we’ve built.” That would be a 115-kilowatt array of solar panels on the building’s roof augmented ingeniously by power from panels on each of the building’s south-facing awnings.
“To get to net zero, we really had to get the building designed very efficiently, particularly the envelope, to reduce the energy load of the building,” Bell said, adding that the eventual goal was to “power the entire building with solar just on the rooftop and awnings.” But with solar panels covering the roof, a common place for heating and cooling equipment, Entegrity chose a variant refrigerant volume HVAC system, a hugely efficient method if the spaces it serves are not too large. “That’s one reason all of the apartments are one-bedrooms,” Bell said. “We’re all-electric and have no gas appliances.”
The project won the Business Innovation Award from the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association in October, which praised its efficient design and attention to detail.
The solar array is net-metered and connected to the grid, allowing it to send excess generation to the grid during the day and draw power from it when the sun isn’t shining. The HVAC systems also include advanced ionization air filtration.
“The city of Fayetteville has, you know, very strict guidelines, and Rob Sharp knows those well, and we knew what we needed to do from an energy standpoint,” Bell said. “So we kind of led the design and engineering on the mechanical, lighting and solar systems. They kind of took the lead on the architectural and city zoning issues.”
In accepting the Advanced Energy Association award in Little Rock, Bell said Entegrity had three goals for Network from the outset. “We wanted to make it sustainable, to make it powered by renewable energy 100%, and to do that at market-rate rents. And we were successful in doing that. Five or six years ago, this would have been the bleeding edge of development. Now it’s cutting edge, and it’s possible.”
The first step is assessing the building envelope, “the windows, the amount of glass you have,” Bell said. “Then there’s the insulation package, and we didn’t have to do anything crazy there in Fayetteville. We did exterior foam board, continuous foam with a brick veneer, and we sealed everything completely airtight. Then we used just standard [low-emissivity] insulated windows. When you start with the envelope, sealing things off, you can then start sizing your mechanical systems. With a tight building, you can downsize the amount of equipment you need to buy. That’s the kind of tradeoffs we had to do during development.”
Specialized Real Estate Group of Fayetteville is managing the apartments.
More Zero Ahead?
Bell, who owns part of the building, said he sees a definite market for more net-zero projects, and he expects his site opposite Fayetteville’s public library to serve as a high-profile advertisement.
Young couples and professionals led the first wave of tenants, no surprise considering the units’ size, Bell said.
In 2019, Entegrity spent more than $500,000 renovating the 1959 vintage Darragh Co. building on East Sixth Street in Little Rock, making it the nation’s first net-zero building certified by the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program.
The renovation was aided by designs from WER Architects/Planners of Little Rock, and the building earned certifications from U.S. Green Building Council, the International Living Future Institute and others.
Bell said Entegrity applied the lessons learned from that effort to the Fayetteville project, which includes efficiency tools like dimmable LED lighting.
Taking a look at the Network’s success, Ladner said engineers have “reached a tipping point” by combining better technology and efficiency to give building owners, developers and business “a true triple bottom line: people, profit and planet.”
Entegrity, which was formed as Viridian, partnered with Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway to create Entegrity Energy Partners in 2013. The goal was to turn Viridian’s traditional energy-efficiency consulting into a business that could also “install all the systems,” Bell said. The name of the whole enterprise was changed to Entegrity in 2017.
Ladner said that when he founded the company in 2007, “our clients were paying a premium to meet their sustainability goals. Today we are able to achieve sustainability without the surcharge by using integrated design techniques.”