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University of Texas at Dallas Landscape Enhancements

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Sequesters 154 tons of CO2 annually through newly planted trees, equivalent to the CO2 emitted from driving approximately 370,000 miles in a single passenger vehicle. The tree canopies also intercept approximately 1,078,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually.
  • Reduces the peak stormwater flow rate for a 2-inch rain event by 18.7% from 35.1 cfs to 28.6 cfs by reducing impervious surfaces by 49% or 4.3 acres.
  • Manages all runoff along the 1.1-mile main entry drive for up to a 100-year storm event using native woodland bioretention areas.

Social

  • Improves perception of the campus for 87% of the 334 UT Dallas campus users surveyed, including students, faculty and staff.
  • Improves the quality of life for 70% of campus users surveyed, primarily by reducing stress and providing better spaces to be outdoors and meet friends.

Economic

  • Influenced decision to apply/enroll at UT Dallas for 44% of students surveyed. The campus landscape improvements also likely contributed to a 13% increase in enrollment from 2010 to 2012.
  • Created an estimated 72 temporary jobs with approximately 150,000 construction man-hours documented between October 2008 and October 2010.
  • Stimulated university fundraising, with $31.2 million in project-related funds raised to-date. This includes donations to support design and construction and 158 naming rights opportunities for trees, reflecting pools and other completed elements.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    PWP Landscape Architecture

  • Project Type

    Courtyard/Plaza
    School/University

  • Former Land Use

    Institutional

  • Location

    800 W Campbell Road
    Richardson, Texas 75080

    Map it

  • Climate Zone

    Humid subtropical

  • Size

    33 acres (Phase 1)

  • Budget

    $30 million

  • Completion Date

    2010

This first phase of the University of Texas at Dallas’ Campus Identity and Landscape Framework Plan transformed the once harsh, largely-asphalt landscape into a walkable environment with substantial native plantings, an increase in tree canopy, and a dramatic transformation of the campus entry drive. The central portion of the campus is now a series of memorable, engaging public spaces, pocket parks, walkways, and water features, celebrating the site’s natural contours and creeks. The new landscape has radically changed the perception of the campus, making it a source of pride for students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community. The campus today is considered the new public face of the university, which has seen increased enrollment since the completion of the plan and which ultimately aims to achieve Tier 1 status.

  • The 1.1-mile main entry drive is surrounded by a 71,825 sf native woodland typical of Texas’ Eastern Cross Timbers habitat. The forest was planted with over 5,000 trees, some of which were transplanted from other areas of the campus. The drive leads to a formal campus entry punctuated by a large arc of transplanted live oaks.
  • Curb cuts intermittently placed along the drive’s median direct stormwater runoff into the native woodland, which is recognized as one of the largest rain gardens in the Dallas Fort Worth region.
  • A central mall features a double allee of 116 ‘Claudia Wannamaker’ magnolia trees that flank 5 reflecting pools which stretch over 600 linear feet. This space offers a dynamic setting for student gathering, organized activity, and campus fairs. Students can set up tables on the grass under the double allee while keeping the 8 ft-wide pathway accessible.
  • The central node of the mall contains a plaza with four 256-sf, human-scale chess boards and 1,112 linear ft of seat wall made of Austin-sourced granite. Two large walls serve as bulletin boards for student community notices and event postings.
  • A series of perforated pipes beneath the central mall that allow for infiltration of stormwater into the water table.
  • The mall terminates at a central plaza defined by a 25-ft tall arbor with wisteria vines, an 11,000-gallon ‘fog fountain’ (supplied by a recirculating water system), and two digital clock walls that provide a reference to the Texas Instruments’ legacy and the company’s ties to the campus.
  • The 24,090 sf central arbor is constructed using FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Polymer), a building material that is recognized as a green alternative because of its long lifespan and lower carbon footprint for production and maintenance. The structure creates dappled shade and is painted white to raise its albedo.
  • Approximately 482 linear ft of 9-tiered amphitheater seating made of recycled IPE are located under the central arbor.
  • Additional seating along the central mall includes 12 fixed-in-place tables with 48 seats, and over 50 movable chairs with tables located under the shaded building arcades.
  • The design uses a 97% native plant palette, reducing irrigation water consumption as well as maintenance and upkeep costs.

Challenge

Most established universities have an aesthetic patina that evolves from the maturation of a sound and forward-thinking masterplan. However, before the Landscape Framework Plan, the UT Dallas campus was a car-centric place which lacked architectural character. Therefore, the main challenges were creating an enduring campus identity within the short timeframe of the masterplan and designing a space that would foster social connections between current and future students, faculty, and staff.

Solution

The Landscape Framework Plan introduced numerous enhancements that would have a big, visible impact in a short timeframe. The first phase included major improvements to the main entry and central mall with the integration of plantings, water features and shaded seating areas would foster the social and aesthetic character that had been absent on campus. By replacing hardscape with pedestrian pathways intertwined with green space, the plan created a series of exciting and diverse spaces for the campus community.

  • The central trellis, which is made of Fiberglass Reinforced Polymer (FRP), is the major sculptural element of the design. The cost of installation for FRP may be up to 20% higher than typical industry standards, but this structural material makes up for the price difference through its lower dead load, limited corrodibility, and a lifespan that is approximately twice as long a conventional metal building material. The central arbor utilizes approximately 45,400 linear ft of FRP with an approximate weight of 41,500 lbs. In comparison, this length of stainless steel pipe weighs over 200,500 lbs. This amounts to a 79% weight difference which is favorable to transportation, installation, and maintenance.
  • With low-maintenance landscapes, formal maintenance plans are necessary to support the design intent. Absent from the initial design effort were a published maintenance plan and outreach strategy for campus facilities personnel. As a result, the University allocated unnecessary resources in the form of time, equipment and fuel to counter-productively maintain the native landscapes. Areas like the woodland at the campus entry have had their habitat potential stunted as a result of “too much maintenance”. This situation occurs throughout the region as landscape maintenance crews do not have experience working with the native plant palette and as a result, may over-water, over-weed and over-mow.
  • The total cost for phase 1 was $30 million, with an additional $1 million donation designated for the maintenance and care of the trees. The project was originally budgeted at $6 million, until a private donation of $30 million arrived to fully implement the first phase of the vision laid out in the Landscape Framework Plan. The situation illustrates how an initial investment in a vision and a strategic masterplan can stimulate additional interest and streams of support.
  • A catalyst project can instigate changes not only within the campus but also in the community at large. For example, now that phase 1 of the Landscape Framework Plan is in place, the planned ‘Cotton Belt’ line from Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) with a transit plaza and mixed-use center directly north of the campus will be activated with multi-modal connections. The 2025 vision had the place-holder property valued at approximately $165 million (2010).

Project Team

Landscape Architecture: PWP Landscape Architecture
Consulting Engineers: Charles Gojer and Associates, Inc.
Registered Professional Surveyor: ARS Engineers, INC.
Horticulture: Dr. Robert Moon
Traffic and Parking: Fehr and Peers
Electrical Engineering: Blum Consulting Engineers
Architectural Consultants: David Neuman
Irrigation: James Pole Irrigation
Design Cost Estimation: Davis Langdon Adamson
Code Consultant: Schirmer Engineering
Site Lighting: Horton Lees Brogden
TAS/ADA Consultant: Accessology
Architects: JMA Johnson/McKibben Architects, Inc.
Structural Engineering: Gary Jaster
Site Signage and Graphics: C&G Partners LLC

Role of the Landscape Architect

The University of Texas at Dallas hired the landscape architect to develop a phased landscape framework plan that could help the University achieve its goal of obtaining Tier 1 status. For phase 1 of the campus improvements, the landscape architect led the design process, and acted as the project manager and administrator.

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: Taner R. Ozdil, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington 
Research Assistant: Sameepa Modi, MLA Candidate, University of Texas at Arlington
Research Assistant: Dylan Stewart, MLA Candidate, University of Texas at Arlington
Firm Liaisons: Lauren Hackney, Adam Greenspan, PWP Landscape Architecture
August 2013

Topics

Stormwater management, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Recreational & social value, Other social, Job creation, Other economic, Bioretention, High-albedo materials, Native Plants, Reused/recycled materials, Trees, Placemaking

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