San Antonio-based architecture firm Ford, Powell & Carson was recently awarded top honors in the Low Impact Development Design Competition for their environmentally and contextually sensitive proposal to revitalize Billy Mitchell Village – an aging military housing complex at the old Kelly Air Force Base. Ford, Powell & Carson partnered with local landscape architect Rialto Studio and international civil engineering firm Atkins to envision a mixed-use development that not only solved storm water drainage issues, but also enhanced the quality of life for current and future residents.
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Ford, Powell & Carson partnered with local landscape architect Rialto Studio and international civil engineering firm Atkins to envision a mixed-use development that not only solved storm water drainage issues, but also enhanced the quality of life for current and future residents. “Our design challenges the ‘business as usual’ approach to new development and planning” says Adam Reed, architect with Ford, Powell & Carson. “This project was just an extension of what we believe as an office- creating places that respond to both their site and their story. Much how LEED has impacted our buildings, we’re trying to push LID for future developments.”
The competition prompt was unique because of the size of the site and the building types involved. The current Billy Mitchell Village is composed of 44 acres of multi-tenant housing. The team at Ford, Powell & Carson, Rialto Studio, and Atkins proposed nearly doubling the current density of the site with more diverse housing types, all the while minimizing storm water runoff by nearly 83%. To achieve this, the team designed new structures, roads, and landscaping that were sensitive to environmental impacts from the rooftops to the receiving waters.
The design reacts to existing surface water issues, and uses bioswales, pervious paving, water harvesting, and drought tolerant planting as opposed to traditional street drainage applications. Their aim was not only to show the on-site benefits of Low Impact Development, but “to set a precedent for the economic feasibility and benefit of environmentally sensitive design driven by civil engineering” said Duke Altman with Atkins.
The team will soon be meeting with Port San Antonio to discuss next steps after the competition. With the understanding that Port San Antonio is actively looking to drum up interest in the old air base, this group of designers is looking to endorse development that is both environmentally conscious and inviting.