Long before the Holy Cross neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis became a hot spot for community renewal a few years ago, Redevelopment Group (RDG) was converting abandoned infill lots into single-family homes. And long before sustainability became the buzzword of the building industry, the builder was implementing practices and products designed to achieve efficient, healthy homes.

Still, Highland Stacks, completed last spring, was a departure from RDG’s previous projects in the area: The three-story row-style condominiums are the company’s only multifamily project and were its first homes certified under the NAHB’s Model Green Home Building Guidelines, reaching Gold level.

Built on an abandoned lot, the six attached houses are 11 blocks from Indianapolis’ center—the landmark Monument Circle—and are within walking distance of restaurants and retail. The rowhomes provide a structural transition between the community’s larger industrial buildings and its single-family homes, while their exterior design—a modern aesthetic softened by natural-feeling textures such as painted lap siding and slatted-wood entry surrounds—helps balance the contrasting styles of stark commercial structures and traditional bungalows.

The interiors also lend a more contemporary feel than is typical of this Midwestern city. It “[pushes] the boundaries without overstepping them,” Micah Hill, manager of operations, says of the style choices inside and outside the units.

Also unique for that area was the parcel’s topography—a 17-foot elevation rise from front to back in an area dominated by flat streetscapes. To address the challenge, RDG moved away from its usual detached-garage designs, opting instead to position the garages/entryways on the ground level off the street, while the main living areas on the second floor walk out onto a shared rear courtyard created by the building’s L shape. Third-floor bedrooms lead to roof decks with skyline views.

From a sustainability perspective, efficiency was the firm’s top concern. “I’m all for recycled materials, I’m all for using locally sourced things, but in the end it’s about [the fact that] this home is going to be around for 100 years, so let’s make sure it performs well,” says Hill. “Eighty-five percent of what green is, in my opinion, is energy efficiency.”

As with previous projects, RDG utilized advanced engineered framing, insulated with Nu-Wool cellulose and supplemented in hard-to-reach areas by a soy-based spray foam. Headers were moved out of the wall cavity into the rim joist area and sprayed with foam, eliminating an uninsulated area above windows. For easier access, insulation subs came out prior to the installation of ducts, which are located in conditioned space.

Redevelopment chose Huber’s ZIP system sheathing because the material’s integrated weather barrier reduces labor and ensures proper installation, Hill says, a plus for the high third floor in particular.

Among the units’ efficiency-boosting products are wood-framed, Energy Star–rated Quaker windows with low-E glass and argon gas fill, 92% efficient zoned Carrier gas furnaces, and Energy Star–labeled Bosch kitchen appliances.