Best Address: The Green Low-Rise Condominiums of Camelview Village

In the hot Arizona climate, Camelview Village showcases how Optima combined new technology, prefabrication and thoughtful design to create exemplary green low-rise condominiums

By By Sara Zailskas, Assistant Managing Editor | December 31, 2008
Green Dreamer
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Look, Ma': No blacktop — The Story Behind the Greenery
Indoor Sanctuary
What Wowed Us


Camelview Village from Optima
At Camelview Village, it's what's on the outside that really counts. Here are just a few of the development's green features:
-Landscaped roofs cool buildings. 
-Cars get parked underground. 
-No blacktop to retain heat. 
-Center promenade creates breezeways, cooling adjacent courtyards. 
-Greenery features 350 plan types that require virtually no maintenance. 
-Design and landscaping lower Camel view Village's temperature 10-12 degrees. 
-A horizontal plane gives the site a human scale compared to a high-rise with as many units. 
-Cantilevered balconies offer shade and privacy. 
-Photovoltaic rooftop solar panels contribute to electricity for buildings' common areas.
Photo Courtesy Optima

The story of Optima's eco-friendly complex begins and ends on the outside. A walk through the development — on its way to becoming 700 units — isn't overwhelming nor busy, as you might imagine it to be. Instead, it's serene and calm. The sound of bubbling water from the scattered fountains and water features fills the air. The six- and seven-story cantilevered buildings don't tower over courtyards but instead envelope them. The reddish-brown exteriors even mimic an Arizona canyon, a reminder of their Scottsdale location. And there are lush green plants everywhere — on the terraces above, on the ground, in the distance. This is Camelview Village, a desert oasis that tips its hat to Mother Nature in both design and function.

Builder, developer and architect David Hovey and his team set out to create “the best building we could possibly think of.” Hovey's philosophy is to rely on unique architecture to solve a site's challenges. For Scottsdale, that meant the project needed to be energy efficient and use as little water and electricity as possible. He used roofing and landscaping with the most low-maintenance and climate-specific plants. He chose building materials because they reflected sunlight, shaded and could be recycled. He designed breezeways to cool the community. He relied on prefabrication and repeatable building components to keep costs down so green perks — and the luxury amenities a Scottsdale community would want — would be economically viable. Plus, it's built to LEED Silver standards.

Kitchen at Camelview Village from Optima
A kitchen in a model at Camelview Village.

The formula is working: Camelview Village is in its third, final phase, and it's 85 percent sold. Says Hovey: “We wanted to show people how they could live in the future, not the past.”

Welcome to Camelview Village.




Click to view larger image.

Green Dreamer David Hovey designed Camelview Village to be both eco-friendly and homeowner friendly. More perks to note (click on image at left for guide to features):

A) Skybridges connect units and feature green roofs. They also have grading that is easy for vines to climb (more plants) and diffuses light (more shade).

B) The buildings' shape shades courtyards and creates breezeways.

C) Staggered balconies shade other terraces — which cools both the courtyards and condominium interiors — and help keep units private.

D) Plants survive in the Arizona climate and in the community's shade, so there's no water wasted in upkeep.

E) Floor-to-ceiling windows don't face directly into neighbors' homes (more privacy).

F) Each unit has a landscaped terrace, so homeowners see something nice and never look down to a roof — just other landscaped terraces. The design also helps with privacy.

G) Opaque glass reflects light and also maintains privacy.

H) No two spaces are the same in the entire project.

I) Sandstone panels that “float” and horizontal aluminum planes on the exterior create sightlines and shade from the hot Arizona sun, cooling the building.

J) Transportation is a mere 1/2 mile away, along with 95 restaurants and shops.

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Pool at Camelview Village from Optima
Pool at Camelview Village

High quality materials, swank swimming pools, Sub-Zero appliances and green features come with a cost. How do you include all that and keep the price low enough that a buyer will bite? David Hovey turned to what he knows best: prefabrication. As much of the building production as possible is done in a factory because fixed labor costs are key, Hovey says.

For the Camelview Village units, the team uses standard structured bays of 30 feet by 30 feet and 5 feet by 5 feet. “The job site had a very systematic, repeatable way that proved to be economical,” Hovey says. “Doing this allowed us the additional amenities and things like green roofs that are normally cost prohibitive.”

To keep track of building plans, Optima uses Tekla Structures software.

Look, Ma': No Blacktop — The Story Behind the Greenery


Camelview Village Site Plan from Optima
Site plan of Camelview Village
Fourteen acres, with 21 acres of landscaping and a dog park to boot. The Optima team wanted to keep hard surfaces — which retain heat and boost the community's temperature (thus requiring more air conditioning) — to a minimum at Camelview Village, so it positioned the parking underground and landscaped the roofs, courtyards and terraces.

But you can't just use any type of plants to be truly green. The landscaping needed to be hardy and require as little maintenance and water as possible. Plants that required chemicals or lots of community-provided water would defeat the purpose of going green.

To find the right types of foliage to use, Optima turned to a professor at Arizona State University. After two years of year-round trials, they settled on 350 plant types. “[The professor] was really helpful because he believed in our idea, and he believed it could work,” David Hovey says.

The result is low-maintenance landscaping that lowers the ambient temperature around 11 buildings 10–12 degrees, Hovey says — and it's pretty to look at, too. Mission accomplished.


Community: Camelview Village

Location: Scottsdale, Ariz.

Project Type: Low-rise infill multifamily

Buyer Profile: First-time, move-up, downsizing

Square Footage: 800 to 3,200, or customizable

Builder/Developer: Optima, Phoenix

Price Range: $400,000s to $2.5 million


Appliances: Sub-Zero, Miele

Bathroom Fixtures: Kohler, Bain Ultra, Dornbracht

Cabinetry: Bulthaup

Closet Systems: California Closets

Flooring: Travertine and Mohawk Carpeting

Windows: Harmon Glass


A living room in Camelview Village from Optima
A living room in Camelview Village

Indoor Sanctuary

Camelview Village condominiums feel just as luxurious and serene on the inside.

David Hovey and his team specifically chose monochromatic colors for the interiors so homeowners' identities come through in their furnishings — not in the finishes the builder chose. Travertine and bird's eye maple cabinets, for example, offer soft, creamy colors that compliment many palettes.

One color buyers have to appreciate is green, because you can see it outside through every floor-to-ceiling window. Hovey relies on the windows to incorporate the outdoors into the indoor living space. A scarcity of walls — most are non-load-bearing — and the plethora of windows make the units feel luxurious and larger than they actually are.

Mundane (in comparison) but important: Each unit controls its own HVAC system, and finishes are maintenance-free.

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What Wowed Us

It's rare that so many editors of Professional Builder's staff get to experience a project in person at the same time. When we toured Camelview Village in October, we all agreed: we wanted an identical Camelback Village project (including the warm weather) in our Chicago back yards.

What had us crooning? Our editors explain:

“The thought behind sight lines that allowed residents to maintain privacy yet still have tons of fenestration.”

Paul Deffenbaugh, Editorial Director

“The green roofs and reflecting pools make this project feel like an oasis in the desert. I also love the way the architecture evokes prairie style with its wide roof overhangs. Frank Lloyd Wright would approve!”

Susan Bady, Senior Editor, Design

“The first thing that grabbed me walking in was the very distinctive, modern architecture. I liked the glass walls that let in lots of natural light and the idea of having green terraces for each unit.”

Felicia Oliver, Senior Editor

“Their ability to sell those things in the market the way it is now and the amount of luxury it offered. The contemporary architecture of it was very cool, there's no question.”

Bill Lurz, Senior Editor, Business

“I was particularly impressed by the lush greenery that cascaded from every ledge, which turned their central walkways and courtyard area into a private, calming oasis while the outside bustled with neighborhood traffic and noise you couldn't see or hear.”

Mark Jarasek, Senior Editor, Electronic Media

What made us go hmmm?

Although there was a lot to love, we did wonder about all those windows. Although the building design, landscaping and Low-E glazing on the windows make it hard to see in, it might take a while to get accustomed to feeling private if you can see all that lovely green all the time. And the amenities sure are nice — but we wouldn't want the assessments.