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Optima + Sustainability Series: EV Parking

The evidence that electric and hybrid vehicles are gaining traction is on the roads everywhere. From personal vehicles to rideshares and public transport, we are, as a nation, beginning to embrace the importance of reducing carbon emissions by replacing the fossil fuels that traditional gasoline-powered engines use with forms of clean energy. 

Encouraged by the funding made available to help states fund public charging infrastructure, and Illinois’ ambitious goal to get one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2023, EVs are becoming increasingly desirable. And those who own and manage residential buildings are faced with the challenge to provide ample access to EV battery charging stations that residents need.

At Optima, we have always been sustainability-focused across our entire integrated business model — from design to building materials to landscaping – and EV parking. We began providing EV parking spaces in 2016 and 2017 at 7160 Optima Kierland and Optima Signature with 8 EV parking spaces, which represented only a small portion of the overall spaces in the garage.

Now in April 2023, Optima Verdana in Wilmette will open with 24% of the total spaces dedicated to EVs. In all of our communities — in both Illinois and Arizona — we have continued to increase EV capacity every year based upon resident demand, with the capacity to reach a full 100% at many projects. In recognition for our commitment to EV parking, Optima Sonoran Village won the Salt River Project Champions of Sustainability Award in the Building Communities for Electric Vehicles category.

Car garage
EV Parking Garage

In a recent Bisnow article that explores how future-facing multifamily developers are preparing for the future of electric vehicles, David Hovey Jr., AIA, Optima president and chief operating officer, observes, “Just from a sustainability perspective, obviously, demand is getting higher from both people wanting to be more sustainable … and cities wanting to be more sustainable, as well as just overall demand.”

Sustainability remains one of our most precious values at Optima. And we’re proud to be part of a growing community of property owners and managers that seeks to support sustainable practices on behalf of our residents.

2023 Design Trends: Designing The World of Tomorrow

The ways in which we live, move, and work are changing fast, and we, at Optima®, believe that up-and-coming architectural trends continue to address many of the challenges faced in modern life. Some solutions focus on more space, more storage, less clutter, and more flexibility. Others address affordable rent, resistance to climate change, and sustainability. These trends, along with a  myriad of others, inspire us and those who are at the forefront of designing the world of tomorrow. Here are some of the trends on the horizon in 2023.

Biophilic Urbanism

Biophilia, a term coined by Erich Fromm in 1964, is the human interaction and appreciation for nature. In 2023, this trend is continually on the rise as we seek to develop buildings that are ecologically friendly in their use of resources. Biophilic design can revolutionize the way we manage stress, increase productivity within offices and educational spaces, and improve mental health, through the use of nature inside and outside of buildings.

While biophilic design is very much at the forefront of architectural trends, it has been central to our work at Optima for decades. Our passionate connection between the built environment and nature continues to be as fluid as it is concrete, reflected in our signature innovation of vertical landscaping. The widespread adoption of this essential design principle, we are excited to welcome others into the process of bringing people and nature closer together.

Sonoran Village®
Optima Sonoran Village®, Vertical Landscaping

Modular Construction

Modular construction has been at the forefront of Optima’s DCHGLOBAL Building System since its conception in 2009 . We began our experimentation with modular construction with Relic Rock, reflecting our commitment to building homes flexibly — in horizontal and vertical directions — sustainably and efficiently anywhere, anytime. 

As part of the broader architectural community seeking modular solutions around the globe, we’re excited by the opportunity to celebrate sustainability and versatility as core values at Optima, while ensuring enduring aesthetics and affordability.

Sonoran Desert, AZ
Relic Rock, Sonoran Desert, AZ

Smart Materials

Through the integration of smart devices in our homes, cars, phones, and wrists comes Smart Materials. Recent developments provide that these materials could eventually respond to changes in pressure, temperature, moisture, and UV radiation, giving architects unfathomable flexibility. Along with an expanded toolkit for designing and building.

Our respect for materiality and space is important for the 360-degree approach to sustainability, and the inclusion of these new and unexplored materials gets us excited about their potential for the environment at large. Part of our role at Optima has been ensuring the environment remains protected with the inclusion of smart materials such as bird glass or green concrete within many of our buildings.

Bird glass
Bird Safe Glass

Community-Centered Design

It is a universal truth that the built environment functions better if those who use it are involved in the process of creation. Designing buildings with community in mind makes for rich and diverse environments where people can be themselves, while also giving them a sense of ownership in the places where they live, play, and work.  As we enter 2023, we are seeing greater collaboration between architects, developers and their communities across the globe — much the way Optima has partnered with the cities, villages and neighborhoods where we have put down roots for more than 40 years.

 

Growing Your Own Herbs at Optima Verdana®

The stellar Rooftop Sky Deck and communal courtyard at Optima Verdana® abound with gorgeous greenspace and reflective hardscape surfaces to reduce heat. Our residents can delight in the outdoors year-round for both recreation and relaxation. And for those with green thumbs, dedicated planters atop the Sky Deck will be home to a seasonal herb garden.


Check your kitchen cabinets, your cupboards, your drawers! If you spend any time cooking, you probably have dried thyme, basil, and even a bit of parsley or oregano. These earthly delights known as herbs are easily accessible from most grocery stores, but imagine what it would be like if you grew them yourself?

In spite of their simplicity, herb gardens are magical places and offer many gifts — from cooking, to medicine, to unique fragrances. Growing your own herbs also serves as an exercise in gratification, and so much more:

Great for All Skill Levels

First, herb gardens are great for beginner gardeners because they require minimal effort and are easier to grow than vegetables. They don’t require large plots of land, and grow well in pots, planters and other containers. Herbs don’t need much fertilizing, which is a huge plus for beginners, and they can handle a wide range of temperatures that’s ideal for Chicago’s seasons. 

Herbs
Basil, parsely, thyme, and rosemary

Redefining the Word “Fresh”

When your recipes call for fresh herbs, what could be more delightful — and satisfying — than heading to your herb garden with a pair of kitchen shears and picking or cutting what you need? And because you can harvest your herbs while you’re cooking, they will always be fresh and fragrant.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Knowing that you have easy access to what you’re growing, you may find yourself with an appetite for expanding your repertoire with dishes that specifically call for fresh herbs. This is a real treat, since the flavors are so much more robust and the option to have full leaves, stems and flowers in your preparations is a real bonus. 

The herb garden also offers the opportunity to experiment with new flavor combinations. Take advantage of your herbs and try out a new recipe or two. Try growing herbs that are uncharted territory for you, this will likely lead to taking new risks in your cooking. Which in turn will enrich your life with new and flavorful experiences.

As you head into the fall and winter months, you can harvest your herbs and dry them indoors. This will tide you over until spring arrives and it’s time to plant again.

Creating A Healthy, Budding Community

The herb garden at Optima Verdana® is part of the powerful community experience of connecting with others around a shared purpose. All it takes is one seed to sow a relationship and build a budding new friendship with a neighbor. This convenience of access offers residents physical exercise, fresh air and the meditative qualities of connecting to the earth. 

If you’re looking for ideas for dishes that will put your fresh herbs in the spotlight at your next dinner or event, The Food Network offers quite a few!

Conceptualizing the Future of Furniture

During the spring semester of 2022, the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted Course 4.041 — Advanced Product Design. The focus of the course was to “develop concepts of sustainability for a more ecologically-responsible and digitally-enabled future.” According to the course syllabus, students would be asked to “reinterpret and conceive of new typologies, redefining what ‘furniture’ means from the ground-up.” Today, we’re spotlighting just a handful of their future facing designs. 

To make the course even more interesting, MIT teamed up with Emeco, an iconic American furniture company to provide students with access to Emeco’s manufacturing technology as they conceptualized sustainable furniture. The students’ design solutions have been dubbed The Next 150-year Chair, based on Emeco’s 1006 Navy chair developed in 1944, which, according to the manufacturer, has a “150-year lifespan.”

Associate Professor Skylar Tibbits explained that “Today, a 150-year chair means making something that lasts a long time, which is a great thing to do. But the question is whether that will be the same for the next 150 years – should the goal still be to make things that last forever? That’s one approach, but maybe there’s something that could be infinitely recyclable instead or something that’s modular and reconfigurable.”

La Junta designed by María Risueño Dominguez

Over the spring term, five students explored their unique approaches to answering the question. Their results featured a number of complete furniture pieces and components that were exhibited at Emeco House, the company’s converted 1940s sewing shop, in Venice, CA in late November. 

María Risueño Dominguez developed a furniture component based on longevity. Her research on furniture consumption and interviews with people involved in the furniture industry resulted in a concept called La Junta – a cast-aluminum joint with multiple different inserts shaped to fit a variety of components.

Rewoven Chair designed by Faith Jones

Amelia Lee developed a product designed to last through different stages of childhood. It is made from a single sheet of recycled HDPE. Modeled on a rocking chair, the piece can be turned on its side to function as a table.

Zain Karsan set out to improve metal 3D printing technology for the frames of his chairs, focusing on a technique for dispensing molten material at high-speed to explore new ways to think about form and joining parts.

Faith Jones designed the ReWoven Chair, with an aluminum frame and a recycled (and replaceable) cotton sling, as an exploration into how to maintain comfort and sustainability.

Jo Pierre’s interest in maintaining comfort within dense physical settings resulted in a chair called Enhanced Privacy — a plastic partition designed for domestic spaces that includes a hanging sheet of plastic that can be filled with water to block sound and diffuse light.

As both a design process and a collaboration between academia and industry, The Next 150-year Chair Project established a refreshing model for how we might conceptualize the future of furniture while pushing the boundaries of sustainable design and novel materials.

How Denmark is Leading the Movement in Sustainable Architecture

As champions of leading-edge, thoughtfully-designed spaces built to inspire communities, we enjoy sharing the visionary work of others who continue to impact the world’s landscape. One of the world’s leading cities aiming to set a powerful example of how architecture can help enrich the lives of those around it is Copenhagen, Denmark. Let’s take a look at how the Scandinavian country is leading the movement in sustainable architecture.

The Danish capital is embracing the title it received just a year ago as the world’s most sustainable city by championing various sustainable practices. Soon to host the UIA World Congress of Architects, Copenhagen’s latest builds feature a mixture of unprecedented eco-conscious and climate-resilient designs. 

One of the city’s most famous sustainable builds is the CopenHill power plant, said to be the “cleanest-waste-to-energy power plant in the world” and the winner of the European Commission’s Green Building Award in 2012. The unique build is combined with a recreational facility, allowing visitors to ski and sled down its artificial slope throughout the year. 

COBE, Karen Blixens Plads, 2019, Copenhagen, Denmark, Courtesy of Rasmus Hjortshøj

Many of the city’s other leading designs stem from its appreciation for cycling. Since 2005, Copenhagen has spent more than $16 million on cycling infrastructure, including the Karen Blixens Plads, a public plaza that holds parking for more than 2,000 bikes, and Lille Langebro, a cycling bridge that easily opens to admit boats. 

Copenhagen’s love and appreciation for sustainable design is something the country has held for decades, stemming from pioneering architects like Jan Gehl, who promoted humanist architecture in the 1970s. Today, the city relies on local architects and designers to build on its rich history of eco-friendly design. 

At Optima, we continue to explore the best possible ways to create harmony between the built and natural environments to allow our residents to enjoy a healthier, more sustainable environment. From our signature vertical landscaping systems and ample green spaces to the inclusion of induction cooktops, we look to embrace sustainable design in every aspect of our residents’ lives.

With new forms of sustainable design created across the world daily, we can’t wait to continue exploring the ways innovative architecture can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable home for all.

Architectural Treasures of Phoenix & Scottsdale

From Taliesin West to Arcosanti, Arizona is filled with some of the country’s most stunning architecture. However, many people don’t realize that there are plenty of local architecture gems that often go unrecognized, even closer to the Scottsdale area. Forever inspired by the architecture surrounding us, we’ve been out and about to spotlight a few of the many architectural treasures found around Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights

Built from 1929 to 1931, Tovrea Castle is one of Phoenix’s most recognizable landmarks. The castle is named after the structure’s architect, Alessio Carraro, and former owner, Della Tovrea. Thanks to its unique Italianate Architectural Style, the building is known locally as the “Wedding Cake Castle”. Its construction includes a four-tier fashion, with each level utilizing materials such as granite block, pine wood and stucco. 

Intricate details, including parapets on each tier’s roof, Art Deco lighting and over 5,000 cacti, add to the castle’s extravagant character. Originally planned as a centerpiece for a destination hotel, the castle instead became a private residence after its completion and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Thankfully today, even if you don’t tour the castle yourself, the stunning building is easily viewable to any passer-by thanks to its grand design.

Gammage Memorial Auditorium

Gammage Memorial Auditorium

Acting as Arizona State University’s performing arts center for nearly 60 years, Gammage Memorial Auditorium stands as one of Arizona’s most dramatic architectural works and one of the largest exhibitors of performing arts for universities around the world. Considered one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last commissions, the structure stands 80 feet high and measures 300 by 250 feet. Wright based his design on a Baghdadi opera house that he had previously conceptualized for the city but never built. 

Twin arch buttress walkways jut from the north and east sides of the auditorium while fifty rose-colored, “marblecrete” columns encompass the exterior, supporting the circular roof. Besides the round roof, the theme of circles are found nearly everywhere throughout the interlocking circular arcs of the building. Its shapes, colors, textures and materials all pay tribute to the surrounding Arizona landscape, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. 

Rosson House Museum

Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square

More than 125 years old, Phoenix’s Rosson House shares a story of Arizona’s territorial past. Designed by San Francisco architect A.P. Petit, the 1895 home mainly displays a Queen Anne Victorian style. However, unique French and Chinese architectural elements are found throughout the home. Because of the home’s style, Petit utilized fired brick and wood for the home, shifting from the standard building material of the time and location, adobe brick. 

Standout design elements of the house include the Victorian Era gold-infused ruby glass windows, a Chinese-inspired half-moon arch on its veranda and a French-inspired octagonal turret at its peak. After being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the historic house, now owned by the City of Phoenix, is a museum and remains a popular destination for architecture lovers today. 

There’s no better way to celebrate the robust and compelling architecture of Phoenix and Scottsdale than by getting out and discovering the treasures yourself. Stay tuned as we continue to explore more of our community’s remarkable art and architecture!

How Arcosanti is Still Evolving Today

Although 50 years old, Paolo Soleri’s visionary planned city, Arcosanti, is still thriving today. For the last five decades, the magnificent community exhibited the best of Soleri’s philosophy, fusing architecture and ecology and providing a home for many educational resources. However, currently the famed property is entering a new era, pushing the boundaries of Soleri’s philosophy further than ever. 

Liz Martin-Malikian, CEO of Arcosanti under the Cosanti Foundation states that while the community’s first half-century focused on Soleri’s vision, the next half-century will focus on the collective. Not only does the community aim to unearth more behind arcology, but they also plan to collaborate and partner with various groups, including local Indigenous populations. 

Shiro, a shelter by TSOA student, Micehle Yeels

Many of Arcosanti’s resources are provided to students of The School of Architecture, a crucial feature of the community. One of the key programs constantly bringing new life to the planned city is The Shelter Program. The capstone design project encourages students to design and build single-occupancy structures for future students throughout the community. 

While preserving Arcosanti’s historic past, Martin-Malikian is embracing the future by decoding Soleri’s philosophy of arcology – starting by reframing the community’s vision around its cultural landscape. Along with debuting a Cosanti Indigenous Residency, a new Indigenous co-design program provides a new opportunity to combine sustainability with passive and culturally diverse designs. 

Biopod 1, a shelter by TSOA student, Soloman Edelmen

Arcosanti has always existed as a hub for innovation and inspiration. And today, with a spotlight on collective, the planned city is preparing to embrace its regional heritage more than ever before. To explore more about Arcosanti, and stay up to date on their events and programming, head to their website here.

Vertical Landscaping Around the World

Our passionate connection to nature is an essential piece of our identity at Optima and has been since our founding. This foundation has led to signature design elements in our properties, like our vertical landscaping system. From the vibrant greenery that extends beyond Optima Kierland Center, Optima Camelview Village and Optima Sonoran Village in Arizona to the introduction of vertical landscaping to the Midwest’s four seasons at Optima Verdana in Chicago, the lush green element is a cornerstone of our Optima communities. Given our innovation in this arena, it’s interesting to take a look at how vertical landscaping is used throughout the rest of the world:

The Via Verde project, Mexico City

Via Verde, Mexico City 

In 2016, Mexico City began planning an ambitious project to bring vibrant greenery into the city to reduce pollution and welcome additional natural allure to the area. The city came up with Via Verde, an initiative to cover more than 1,000 highway pillars with lush vertical landscaping. Because traffic in the city is some of the most congested in the world, the pillars not only serve as beneficial to the environment but also as works of natural art for residents.  

The vertical landscaping at One Central Park, Sydney

One Central Park, Sydney

Completed in 2012, One Central Park was built as part of Sydney’s Central Park renewal project. The building is a dual high-rise with a height of more than 380 feet, but it is famously known for its vertical landscaping designed by its architects, Foster and Partners, Ateliers Jean Nouvel and PTW Architects. The vertical landscaping system was a collaboration between French botanist Patrick Blanc, the modern innovator of the green wall, and the architects. One Central Park is home to 350 different species, including both exotic and native verdure, and totaling over 85,000 plants that cascade more than meters down its facade.

The Rainforest Chandelier in EmQuartier, Bangkok

Rainforest Chandelier, EmQuartier, Bangkok

Designed by the American architecture firm Leeser Architecture, EmQuartier is a 2,700,000 square foot mall located in Bangkok, Thailand. The innovative design that makes up the grand retail hub features restaurants, offices, event halls, and at its heart, an open-air atrium. In the atrium’s core, an unprecedented 337-foot chandelier hangs with exotic plants spilling from its sides. Patrick Blac – who also inspired One Central Park’s vertical landscaping – not only designed the ellipse-shaped Rainforest Chandelier for EmQuartier but also included two garden areas and a fully landscaped bridge connecting the mall to other surrounding buildings. 

We couldn’t be more proud to have brought vertical landscaping to the Scottsdale and Chicago communities like many other projects have done across the globe, enriching communities and fostering a connection to nature found little elsewhere.

Green Space Spotlight: Optima Lakeview

Open green space can be a difficult convenience to find in many Chicago neighborhoods and properties. However, that isn’t an issue with Optima residences and buildings; we strive to welcome the lush and lively Chicago greenery inside our doors. Our newest development, Optima Lakeview compliments the neighborhood surrounding it with outdoor terrace landscapes, a vibrant sky deck, and nature bridging indoor atrium. 

Optima Lakeview offers communal spaces outdoors that otherwise would be hard to find in the bustling neighborhood for many. Landscaped terraces, full of ornate and healthy foliage provide lush welcoming spaces for many to enjoy the modern architecture that surrounds them over a warm fire pit and private grill for year-round grilling. 

The highlight of Optima Lakeview, however, is its 3,600 square foot indoor atrium. Acting as the heart of Optima Lakeview, the atrium allows for integrated access to both units and amenities. The expansive space, designed by Optima CEO David Hovey Sr., welcomes visitors from the lobby with abundant floor-to-ceiling greenery utilizing Optima’s signature vertical landscaping. Abundant natural light floods the space as glass ceilings open the room to the sky deck and rooftop pool above. For residents, the landscaped center of the atrium that is home to an abundance of vegetation invites the guise of living in an oasis.

Optima Lakeview three-bedroom model residence

Like the green spaces in our other developments, Optima Lakeview’s supply of lush greenery allows our residents to enjoy a wealth of benefits. Green areas in urban environments help absorb excess heat and pollution and provide residents with ample space to stretch and engage around vegetation, improving cardiovascular health and relieve stress. And while urban living is often individualistic, grand communal spaces like Optima Lakeview’s atrium and sky deck promote community and social cohesion.  

At Optima, we are dedicated to bringing the outdoors into our communities. The picturesque private terraces, one-of-a-kind indoor atrium and other lush amenities at Optima Lakeview welcome that outdoor experience and allow us to fashion a sanctuary of our own. 

Chicago & Scottsdale Farmers Markets

Chicago and Scottsdale, home to lively Optima Communities, have much in common, including some of the best farmers markets to be found anywhere in the country. As summer approaches, each city comes more alive with a broad array of markets and fairs. Today, we’re spotlighting some of the favorites in each city:

Chicago’s Farmers Markets

Chicago’s French Market is one of the city’s nontraditional options, taking a cue from its European namesake and occurring indoors. Found in the same building as the Ogilvie Metra Train Station, and only a short walk from Optima Signature, the market is host to more than 30 local vendors – a mix of entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses – that supply neighborhood favorites and cultural luxuries. You can visit the French Market daily, except Sundays, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Tucked beneath the Western Brown Line Stop is Chicago’s Lincoln Square Market. Although it has limited hours, Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m., it’s a must-stop for residents. Local farmers, food purveyors and artisans fill the space each week, bringing everything from fresh produce to homemade hot sauce. And, if you go, make sure not to miss the local food trucks found in the area during the market!

For Optima Lakeview residents, Low-line Market on Southport is closest. The carefully curated market takes place every Tuesday from June to October and has a variety of favorite vendors that include The Hive Supply, Elsie Mae’s Pies and Lyons Fruit Farm. The market is part of Lakeview’s larger Low-line project, which helps to connect the neighborhood through a half-mile walkway and garden underneath the CTA ‘L’ tracks. 

Roadrunner Park Farmers Market, Scottsdale

Scottsdale’s Farmers Markets

One of the largest farmers markets in the area, the Uptown Farmers Market features nearly 100 vendors at the North Phoenix Baptist Church every Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m. Those who visit will find everything from local produce and plants to cocktails and cookies. The market, which is only a 20 minute trip from Optima Sonoran Village, frequently has a variety of food trucks to grab a quick snack from while shopping!

Found in Roadrunner Park just East of State Route 51, Roadrunner Park Farmers Market is open all year from 7 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Although the market is smaller, it carries a mix of amazing products that include hand-crafted items, fresh fruits and vegetables and baked goods. And, since it’s in the park, you can spend the rest of your day at the children’s playground, fishing pond, swimming pool or soccer field!

For those looking to travel outside of the city, Carefree Farmers Market, found directly 15 miles north of Kierland Commons and Optima Kierland, makes the perfect choice. The market takes place every Friday throughout the summer from 8 to 11 a.m. and is known for its assortment of local treasures. Vendors change weekly, but favorite goods include artisan jellies, locally-made salsas and freshly baked bread.

This summer, make some plans to support local businesses and vendors by venturing out and exploring what your nearest farmers market has to offer!

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