About six months ago I wrote about Onion Flats, an architecture/development operation out of Philly that produces epic urban infill projects.  A couple weeks back I was in the city of the Liberty Bell doing some eco-seminars for their home and garden show.  Through a lead from Greenable, Philly’s premier green product showroom, I was able to connect with Pat McDonald, one of the principals of the Flats operation.  I met with him early one morning and he cordially gave me a tour of their Rag Flats development which he not only helped build, but also lives in.  This project is about 7 years old now and it’s pretty incredible what these guys were doing even before LEED came around… we’re talking green roofs, rainwater reuse, PV installations, etc!  Here’s a couple shots I snagged from my phone:

Anyway, I was paging through the latest issue of GreenSource mag (flippin’ awesome, BTW) and saw a feature on Onion Flat’s latest project, the Thin Flats.  I can assure that you’ve never seen anything quite like the facade on this project before.  Its jagged configuration of glass, metal and wood-composite gives the impression that there are many more than eight units in the building.

In typical fashion, the multifamily structure is jam packed with eco-features (it’s shooting for LEED Platinum certification):

  • Open floorplans flooded with natural light
  • Energy Star appliances and lighting
  • Dual Flush toilets from Caroma
  • FSC Certified white tigerwood flooring from EcoTimber
  • Solar Thermal panels (for hot water heating)
  • Low and no-VOC finishes
  • Two 6,000 gallon rainwater cisterns
  • Low-e coated, double-glazed, and argon-filled windows
  • Intensively planted roof gardens for upper units

I don’t think I can rave enough about what these guys are doing.  They have a unique business operation with complete creative and building control.  Everything is handled in house, from CAD drawings to PV installation, ensuring that the final product is exactly what they envisioned.  And cool dudes to boot!  Pat was a rockstar… not only did he open his doors to a stranger, but he gave me a lift back to the train station in his sweet little electric ride that is completely powered from his rooftop PV panels!  Damn…. I got me a little bit of green envy!


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.