The Sustainable Sites Initiative™, a new rating system for sustainable design in landscape and site development, has named UT Arlington’s The Green at College Park one of the first three projects in the world to be certified according to the organization’s rigorous benchmarks.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative, also known as SITES™, is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden. The goal of this group is to provide a ratings system for landscape design that is similar to the popular U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED designation. With the help of design and sustainability experts, the SITES partners established a list of guidelines and performance benchmarks in 2009. Worldwide, more than 150 pilot projects – including The Green at College Park – have been working toward initial certification since May 2010.
The Green at College Park, opened in March 2011, is a three – acre urban infill development on the southeastern border of the UT Arlington campus that is adjacent to the University’s new 7,000-seat College Park Center. Prior to construction, this area was a neglected edge of campus. University leaders charged Schrickel, Rollins and Associates, Inc. (SRA), to revitalize the area and create a gateway interlocking the campus and the recently developed City of Arlington Center Street trail system. Prior to development, the existing city block consisted of 75 percent impervious surfaces, much of which was parking and dilapidated apartments. An undersized, eroded drainage channel bisected the site and contributed to significant flooding issues in the area. Stormwater management constraints, discovered by SRA’s team, were managed and integrated into the final design. The flowing form of the park celebrates the path of water and the plant life that thrives from its drought and flood dynamics.
The park now celebrates a defined campus edge through the use of gateway entrance treatments, an oval lawn for organized and informal events, pedestrian promenade, animated LED lighting, outdoor classroom and layers of seating. Through specialized soil, native plants and innovative design concepts, the park helps reduce storm water runoff from College Park Center by more than 25 percent and it filters 80 percent of the suspended solids out of the water before it flows toward flood-prone Johnson Creek. The Green also contains several recycled features, such as a walkway made from recycled beer bottles and large shade structures made from recycled metal.
The Green at College Park connects to a downtown Arlington community development project known as Center Street Trail, also designed by SRA. Because campus leaders believe “great places need great parks,” this project became a catalyst in attracting two major University projects: College Park, a mixed-use development, and College Park Center, the special events arena. The site work around these two major projects was also designed by SRA. This provided a valuable opportunity to orchestrate the sustainable features of the storm drainage gardens to serve a larger purpose, which is expected to play a significant role in the University’s application for LEED Gold certification for the College Park Center development.
Janna Tidwell, RLA, ASLA, Project Manager and Landscape Architect of Record on The Green at College Park for SRA, said UT Arlington was an enthusiastic partner in the project and allowed her firm to incorporate new products and concepts. “Many times we have to sell clients on these ideas, but we didn’t have to do that with UT Arlington,” she said. “Now, nearly every week someone calls us and wants to know about something we did on the project. It’s exciting to see that it is reaching out into the community and becoming an example.”
Schrickel, Rollins and Associates, Inc. (SRA) has been committed to the stewardship of the land and connecting people to the natural environment since the firm’s beginning in 1955. SRA provided a team of landscape architects, civil engineers and architects that developed this project from master planning through construction