Prioritizing student wellness

Uncommon Flagstaff

Flagstaff, Arizona

This mixed-use residential complex incorporates sustainable design strategies that take into account its unique location—a city with the highest temperature differential and the most temperature changes in a day anywhere in the US.

Uncommon Flagstaff, is a 375,400 sf-mixed-use student housing project, with 180 units (585 beds) near Northern Arizona University (NAU). Located immediately adjacent to the campus, connection to the local community was of paramount importance. The complex features outdoor covered plazas with seating areas, outdoor elevated terraces along the main street façade, covered below-ground parking, and a transit stop on-site. Three retail venues and a coffee bar draw in both residents and members of the local community, deepening social connections

Because of the unique climate system, special high-performance building design strategies were considered, such as using materials that have low thermal expansion and using fasteners that accommodate these daily changes.

The interior design took cultural inspiration from “hygge”, the Norwegian word for comfort and coziness. Communal interiors evoke a warm, relaxed, and inviting atmosphere, featuring natural wood, locally inspired topographic wall coverings, and organic textiles that effortlessly connect students to the community. Study spaces are enveloped by large expanses of glazing that embrace the spectacular panoramic mountain views, while also saturating the areas with natural light. Greenery is incorporated throughout the amenities, adding biophilic touches and enhancing user wellness. Materiality was selected based on recycled content, composition transparency, production impacts, and low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
Sustainable design strategies include a well-insulated envelope—especially the roof; low water-use plumbing fixtures, native vegetation, and low-water landscape, day lighting and natural ventilation for all units, and LED lighting. There is a very low wattage per square foot in this complex for electrical (80% less watt/sf than code) and using wood construction ensures low carbon use. Shepley Bulfinch is using a special wood product called “Thermory” for exposed exterior wood that steam treats the material through a natural process, protecting it for 20 years.