Green Trends: Sustainable Design, Construction Gaining Ground in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

In downtown Oklahoma City, the region's most needy population occupies one of the newest and best buildings using sustainable design and building practices.

WestTown, designed by TAP Architecture, not only incorporates decomposed native Oklahoma granite instead of concrete paving for its parking lot and landscaping, it also uses locally created recycled glass countertops in places like the bathroom. The day center for the homeless and indigent has integral colored concrete floors versus floor covering, and its sign is made from natural oxidized steel. The $4 million, 32,762-square-foot WestTown Resource Center's architectural design incorporated durable materials, sustainable landscaping and mechanical systems to minimize expense of operations.

Anthony McDermid, principal of TAP Architecture, said the Homeless Alliance put an emphasis on having a green building - a trend TAP is seeing more often.

"Local clients are increasingly aware of the difference between the first cost of buying buildings and the ongoing cost of owning buildings," McDermid said. "Traditionally our local culture has viewed first costs as paramount and the result is a building stock characterized by deferred maintenance and high operating costs. Owners need options and the green movement is causing some scrutiny of our approach toward the built environment. Do our actions cause betterment or detriment?"

Yet sustainable design is still not wildly popular. DesignIntelligence, publisher of market intelligence for the architecture and design industry, said in its 2011 Green & Sustainable Design Survey that despite all the talk about sustainability, "sustainable design practices are not yet in the mainstream of architecture and design." However, DesignIntelligence's Trends Forecast & Foresight Scenarios listed top five trends, including sustainable design, BIM adoption, life- cycle design, productivity increases and intelligent buildings.

In Oklahoma City, McDermid said he sees certain trends in local development, the top three being in energy consumption, maintenance and life span.

"There are a multitude of design criteria that are considered in a green building project, but I would say building systems and materials are where we see the major trends," he said. "In a nutshell, I predict we will see smaller buildings of higher quality in smarter locations."

In Tulsa, the major trends in green design are no different than trends throughout the region and nation.

"The main difference is that Tulsa building owners have been slower embracing green design," said Janet Selser, president of Selser Schaefer Architects. "The city of Tulsa does not have the financial incentives and/or requirements for building green that many other cities such as Austin, Texas, have implemented. It has taken a few building owners/developers in Tulsa who were willing to spend a 'little' extra money to implement green technologies in an effort which helped 'prove' the advantages of sustainable design."

Selser said clients are definitely talking more about sustainable design than they were 10 years ago due mainly to the advantages that eliminate the cost effect of building green. Those advantages include the increased availability of green products being produced, more contractors with experience in green initiatives and the tracking tools that assist architects in explaining the process and options for greening a project.

"We try to incorporate as many sustainable elements as possible into all of our projects," Selser said. "(A project at) 200 E. Brady is a good example of green design that does not necessarily differ from traditional construction in terms of cost. …