Protecting Natural Resources and Promoting a Healthy Community
Sustainability and resiliency strategies at the Capitol Complex will reduce the demand on natural resources and sustain healthy ecological systems, while promoting occupant health and community. Energy conservation, water conservation and historic preservation strategies are central to the Capitol Complex Master Plan and its Phase One implementation.
“The most resilient building is one that represents the community and is built to last. Significant efforts were made to preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of the Capitol Complex which will contribute to the district’s sustainability strategies.”
The Texas Mall will be a native-plant filled urban park that serves as a gathering space for State employees and the larger community of Austin. The mall will be anchored by a 50-foot-wide lawn flanked by double allées of live and red oak trees, which encourage biological diversity. Understory gardens characterized by shade-loving, drought-resistant plants will grow beneath the trees. These plants will support the storm water detention system integrated into the design of the allées. Formal walking gardens will frame building entries and other significant site features, such as the amphitheater.
A diverse, native plant oasis, the mall and numerous green roofs will reduce the heat island effect.
The urban space is activated through pedestrian-oriented activities, including cultural venue, cafes, food truck area, playground, amphitheater and outdoor stage for events. These activity spaces will foster community and help connect the Capitol Complex to its neighbors: The University of Texas campus and downtown Austin.
The building designs seek to provide high-quality environments, while also minimizing each structure’s environmental impact and operations costs by reducing energy and water consumption. Energy is reduced through an integrative modeling process which helped to evaluate energy conserving measures. Strategies implemented included demand control ventilation which reduced cooling loads and optimization of the high-performance building envelope through integrated vertical granite fins for sun-shading. The basic arrangement of centralizing cooling generation for the buildings at a new Sam Houston plant expansion provides the most energy efficient process with regard to resource consumption and on-going maintenance. Natural light access, open office layout and daylight responsive controls all work to contribute to lighting power reduction design during daytime hours.
The project seeks to reduce reliance on potable water through the use of water-saving plumbing fixtures; green roofs; reclaimed water for irrigation and non-invasive, drought tolerant landscaping. The project will connect to the City of Austin’s reclaimed water infrastructure, encouraging expanded use of this reclaimed water system and make-up water at the central chilling plant.
Health, Nature, Resilience
In addition to efficiency, health and resilience are prompted in the building design. Among the many health- and nature-oriented sustainable features of the buildings are 1) natural light and available nature views for the majority of work spaces; 2) occupants have easy access to outdoor spaces via the Texas Mall and terraces or roof gardens oriented to views of downtown Austin and the State Capitol; 3) fresh outdoor air is monitored to promote occupant comfort and healthy CO2 levels; 4) indoor finishes have been prioritized for health and environmental qualities such as low toxicity, regional materials and recycled content.
The most resilient building is one that represents the community and is built to last. Significant efforts were made to preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of the Capitol Complex which will contribute to the district’s sustainability strategies. The conservation of the buildings in the Garden District as well as strict adherence to the Capitol View Corridors restrictions are fundamental to maintaining the character of the Capitol Complex now and into the future.