The Urban Living Laboratory: Environmentally Sound Mixed Use

The Urban Living Laboratory: Environmentally Sound Mixed Use

This lifestyle community, which will be the largest LEED-certified research, demonstration, and teaching laboratory, is planned to be a 1.1 million square-foot, next generation complex of buildings outside of Dallas, TX.
This lifestyle community, which will be the largest LEED-certified research, demonstration, and teaching laboratory, is planned to be a 1.1 million square-foot, next generation complex of buildings outside of Dallas, TX.

What happens when the manufacturers of leading-edge sustainable technologies meet with developers of a master-planned urban community designed specifically to monitor every building component, system, and process for efficiencies and sustainability? You create the Urban Living Laboratory.

This lifestyle community, which will be the largest LEED-certified research, demonstration, and teaching laboratory, is planned to be a 1.1 million square-foot, next-generation complex of buildings. The mixed-use development, situated on 73 acres of land and only minutes from downtown Dallas, will have 800 multi-family apartments, 120,000 square feet of office space, 100,500 square feet of retail space, and two hotels with a total of 250 rooms.

As a sustainable built environment, the community will be designed to optimize resources, reduce storm water runoff, and minimize water usage through native and xeriscape landscaping outside and more efficient fixtures inside. Energy costs will be reduced by maximizing natural daylighting and installing thermally efficient windows, exteriors, highly-reflective roofs and high-efficiency HVAC systems throughout.

At its core, however, the Urban Living Laboratory will be a research facility, as a result of a public-private partnership between the Texas A University System (A), Realty Appreciation and its partners, including the Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments (ASBE).

“We are proud to be associated with such a high-level project,” said Craig Zurawski, executive director of ASBE. “First of all, the Urban Living Laboratory will provide a research platform to analyze the interaction between the building and the people inside it. The fact that researchers will be able to examine all aspects of the built environment – from lighting and floor coverings to water and windows – is what sets this project apart. It will have a profound effect on new product development for years to come. Second, the attention the Laboratory will undoubtedly receive will also help ASBE accomplish its mission of promoting sustainable development and making greener facilities. Being a part of that is tremendously exciting.”

Behind the scenes, Johnson Controls, Inc., will help Realty Appreciation install a seamless technology platform. This infrastructure will allow behavioral scientists, product manufacturers, architects and designers, city planners, and researchers of all kinds to monitor and record the way the inhabitants use, behave in, and interact with the buildings, its lighting, heating and air conditioning, water service, waste systems, and every key element and component of the building – many of which we simply take for granted and ignore in our daily lives.

At the outset, the Urban Living Laboratory will be designed to accommodate constant renovations and updates in order to test the newest technological advances. This will enable researchers not only to observe how people live, work, and play, but also collect both quantitative and qualitative data from building occupants over a long period of time. The research completed at this Dallas-area facility will be completely transparent and have far reaching implications for the future of urban planning, building design, space utilization and product development.

“When we first considered the project, we looked to ASBE not just for the products and services it could bring, but for the cumulative understanding of future market transformation. ASBE helped establish some of the long-range strategies,” said Kevin Rogers, director of real estate for Realty Appreciation, the company chosen by A to develop the site. “The initial planning needed to take into consideration not only current technology, but also future product innovation and ongoing improvement. We wanted to make sure all the research will be relevant both short–term and long–term and that the data will be highly reliable and have the greatest credibility. Nowhere else will researchers be able to test and monitor products across all environments – from residential to office, and from retail to hospitality – all at the same time.”

The mixed-use aspect of the Urban Living Laboratory was one of the elements that attracted ASBE to the project. ASBE is a non–profit organization consisting of industry–leading manufacturers of green building products for all types of buildings. It is committed to a progressive, coordinated effort to inform decision–makers at every level that the choices they make with regard to their facilities – the built environment – have a tremendous impact on their organization’s triple bottom line.

Separately, each member company of ASBE has the ability to deliver a piece of the sustainable built environment puzzle. Together, ASBE can deliver a comprehensive package of solutions to a broad base of building industry decision makers. Membership currently includes: Bayer Material Science, Eaton Corp., Forbo Flooring, Haworth, Inc., Johnson Controls, Inc., Kohler Co., KONE, Milliken Company, Philips Lighting Co., and Watertronics.

To accommodate future innovation, whether it would impact lighting, plumbing fixtures, HVAC, windows or floor coverings, the entire facility must be designed to be continually retrofitted. ASBE members were engaged in some of the earliest planning meetings, participating in design charettes in Milwaukee and Dallas with the entire team associated with this project. The goal was to create something truly visionary: buildings that improve with time.

Since the initial meetings, ASBE member firms have committed to provide the project team – developer, architects, designers, contractors, and others – with direct access to leading experts in sustainable products and services. Each company has also committed to provide leading edge sustainable solutions that show how to save resources yet deliver O&M savings, ROI, and long-term value.

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  1. This kind of plan is a tough sell where I live. There are two different projects in development here and they’re both marred with controversy. People balk at the price tage of living or building there and other people pay lip service to the sustainability idea, but rarely are people stepping up and taking a chance. They’ll survive, but already there have been compromises to the integrity of the idea.

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