This site is the bee's knees

Site Tours – May 26, 2012

Trinity River Audubon Center

Our first visit was the Trinity River Audubon Center, the city of Dallas’ first LEED certified building. Sahar Sea, Education Manager, explained the site was previously used as a landfill that was used for illegal dumping for years. Through the efforts of the City of Dallas and architect, Antoine Predock, they have designed the site to minimize the effects on the environment and repair some of the pre-existing problems from the illegal dumping. Following the state’s requirements and the goal of returning the land to nature for the use of future generation and as the site of the Trinity River Audubon Center, the restoration plan consolidated landfill waste into capped rolling hills replanted tall prairie grass and hardwood trees.

The Center is designed to reduce storm water runoff and erosion. At the base of the hills, a series of cascading wetland marshes and ponds captures and filters runoff from adjoining neighborhoods and prairies before returning the cleansed water to the river. All trails are wheel chair-accessible and are made of recycled decking material or decomposed granite, which channels rainwater into the wetland pond system.

There were many other key sustainable elements throughout the Trinity River Audubon Center. The interior walls are made of a combination of concrete and fly ash. Fly ash is a by-product of coal mining that would usually end up in a landfill. The Center is designed to utilize the maximum daylight and views to the exterior without nternal heat gain the hot Texas sun. Also throughout the building the glass windows are slanted with soap circle to reduce sun glare and bird strikes.

The exterior wall of the exhibition hall is made of Corten steel, which is low maintenance product which has a beautiful patina as it ages and rusts.



The ceilings have acoustical ceiling tile made of 100% recycled cotton.




Likewise, there are components of the site which assists in reducing energy costs. The building has light-reflecting white roofing which helps minimize heat absorption. The insulation is made of 14″ inch recycled denim. The administrative wing has windows that can open during cool weather to relieve the pressure from the air conditioning system.

The Trinity River Audubon Center reuses local natural resources throughout the site.
Namely the exterior of the entrance to the building is East Texas Cypress.




The floors in main lobby are comprised of East Texas Bamboo.






The office furniture is “cradle to cradle” which is comprised of recycled materials and the cabinets are from recycled East Texas Pecan.






Landscaping is filled with drought tolerant, native plants and grasses to Texas.

All in all, the Trinity River Audubon Center done what I say in my words to my family all the time, “Use what you got.” The center has taken an unsightly, toxic landfill and turned it into a beautiful oasis for birds and nature lovers alike with the use of local natural resources and materials. No out-sourcing here. The center has succeeded in its efforts of sustainability.

The Fairmont Dallas

Jason James, Director of Engineering led our class on the site tour of the Fairmont Hotel, in the heart of the arts district in the city of Dallas.  It is a multi-use luxury building, comprised of hotels, apartments and retail space.  The Fairmont’s elements of sustainability were discovered through the use of fluorescent and LED lighting.  The hotel utilizes single stream recycling.  To say the least, they even recycle the grey water from the ice machines which goes back through the roof tower and into the coolers of HVAC system.

Another resource saving method the hotel has adapted is out sourcing the laundry facilities.  Without the mechanism to recycle their laundry water on site, the hotel has found a launderer who has their own reuse of water established, therefore the Fairmont will not be wasting water on laundered items.

Also, the hotel commissions artists who recycle and up cycle materials for the artwork throughout their hotels.

The rooftop garden displays an array of plants and vegetables also including a greenhouse.  The garden is a tranquil getaway, there is lounge sitting for the guests to relax and provides fresh fruits and vegetables for the chef to use in her recipes.

Although, Mr. James explained the hotel only has single pane windows and this is admittedly an economic challenge for the hotel to overcome, it is certainly has done good effort in the right direction.  I learned we must start somewhere and we cannot do everything at once.

Sustainable Project Features. Trinity River Audubon Center, 2012. [Brochure]

Ferrier Homes Residential Build

We visited a new residence site at 2807 Hedgerow Drive in Dallas.  Don Ferrier, owner and CEO of Ferrier Custom Homes guided us through the details of new build.  Initially the homeowner wanted to renovated the previous existing home; however he discovered it would be more cost effective to rebuild a new more energy conscious home.  The home will be two stories, approximately 1800-1900 square feet with a concrete basement.  Experts estimate a typical home of this side in North Texas would normally yield an electric cost of $400- $500 monthly.  In contrast, once completed, Hedgerow energy costs monthly will only be approximately $60!              

The sustainable elements in the home will include an air conditioning system with energy effective rating of 18, tankless water heater and white TPO roofing.  The roof is considered a lifetime roof by insurance industry standards and can uphold in a Class 4 tornado, due to the anchor bolting of every 3 feet instead 6 feet as code require of the wall assembly.  The insulation will have a spray foam value of 25. Buffalo grass will be laid down.  Once established after the first year, its water needs will be minimal.

I initially questioned the rate of return on the homeowner’s investment.  However, if he plans on staying in his home for many years to come, the costs will be worth the investment.

Green Living

Our last stop of the day was Green Living retail store located at 1130 Dragon St., Suite 140, Dallas TX.  Green Living sells eco-friendly products for your home and garden.   The products are recycled and chemical free; perfect for our allergy sufferers out here.

Dining sets made of reclaimed wood

Glassware from recycled glass

Check out their website and go shopping.

In summary, sustainability efforts can be applied to all types of projects, being residential, commercial, retail or parks & recreation.  Our visits today, exemplified some our Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design.   As Jane Ahrens, Director of Sustainability and Project Architect at Gresham, Smith and Partners stated, LEED was established for organizations who want to be leaders and show exemplary performance. Despite the companies who want to be perceived as leaders, with the continued efforts of businesses and government programs, I have observed in the past couple of weeks, I believe sustainability of natural resources and energy will be a play a major role of all in the near future.

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