With all the recent discussion about crumbling infrastructure and stimulus spending, it seems appropriate to talk about a design proposal that is actively addressing many issues that are showing progress across the country. Project Green, slated for downtown Austin, Texas, represents a comprehensive approach to sustainability in the context of an urban, mixed-use development. In addition to incorporating the usual features like solar panels and wind turbines, this proposal takes a serious approach to handling the most precious resource on earth. Water.
Some water savvy techniques utilized in this design include above and below grade treatment cisterns, green roofs, and most notably, on street treatment swales. These swales are loaded with plant material that cleans storm water as it is filtered through, creating a silent display of environmental stewardship with each rainfall. First popularized in the northwest suburbs of Portland and Seattle, treatment swales are a simple, natural solution for treating water before it re-enters the cycle.
Put together by a team of architects, planners, and designers over at Mithun, Project Green strives for water and carbon neutrality. Here is a little insight into what they were thinking during their conceptualization:
- Minimize the impact on water resources, including storm, potable, and waste water discharge, through stormwater management and storage, fixture efficiencies, grey water systems for flushing and irrigation — augmented by sewer mining which processes sewer discharge for grey water uses and creates a net reduction in potable demand;
- Maximize passive energy opportunities through solar shading, natural ventilation, building orientation, and energy efficiency;
- Maximize opportunities to use solar energy for electrical and hot water needs through photovoltaic and concentrated solar hot water arrays;
- Create a carbon neutral development by offsetting the remaining performance margin through external carbon offset programs.
While this is still a highly conceptual proposal, these ideas are not beyond the realms of modern engineering. The biggest hurdle to overcome in this situation is finding appropriate financing during this current economic climate. However, the design is exceptionally unique and it's been proposed by a private developer. Project Green is slated to include roughly 2.5 million square feet of office, hotel, residential, retail space, and parking space, yet somehow, there is still room for a solar collection field, water treatment facilities, and green space.
In short: These public-serving infrastructural advancements are driven by the need for environmental restoration, yet supported by proactive private interests. End result: A sustainable urban oasis. Outstanding!
Image credits: © Mithun.