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By Dennis Jerke, ASLA
At Texas A&M University in College Station, a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students is undertaking a unique research project to measure the value generated by holistic urban design on six Texas projects.
The research project is being led by Geoffrey John Booth, the Youngblood Endowed Professor of Land Development in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University. The research is being conducted by students in his fall Master of Science in Land Development class, a group that includes 40 graduate students and 26 undergraduates from architecture, business, agriculture, landscape architecture, planning, construction science and real estate disciplines.
The research is rooted in metrics associated with the “quadruple net bottom line” as articulated in my book, Urban Design and the Bottom Line: Optimizing the Return on Perception, which examines a variety of projects, such as Chicago’s Millennium Park and the San Antonio River Walk, to demonstrate impact on their communities and the landscape. The basis for measuring this added value is a four-category matrix that evaluates factors such as safety and security, public access, transportation choices and context sensitivity (social/cultural value); taxable value, adjacent property values and occupancy rates (economic value); permeable surfaces, storm water management and rainwater harvesting, carbon
footprint (environmental value); and green space, public art and water features (sensory or visual value).
The students are studying four projects designed by TBG Partners, a Texas-based landscape architecture and planning firm for which I serve as a principal, as well as the restoration of two historic Texas courthouses. The students are using Urban Design and the Bottom Line as their textbook to study the quadruple net value generated by these projects. They are measuring the economic, social/cultural, environmental and sensory value that the design of these projects has created — what we call “the design dividend.”
The projects include Town Lake Park, a large urban park in downtown Austin; Market Street at The Woodlands, a mixed-use town center north of Houston; the Dallas Design District, an area encompassing more than 160 acres of city blocks, open space and Trinity River frontage in north Texas; and the University of St. Thomas campus life mall, a university commons in the heart of this Houston-based campus.
In addition, the students are studying restorations of the 1884-built Lampasas County Courthouse and 1889-built Wharton County Courthouse. They are gathering data/metrics from a variety of sources in each category to identify the measurable quadruple net impact of each design on the landscape and larger community. The Texas Historical Commission will use the data to evaluate the impact of investments in courthouse renovations on the downtown districts in these county seats.
This research is a pilot program to develop a database of projects and value metrics that demonstrate project performance and real estate value uplift. We plan to share our findings with the Landscape Architecture Foundation to add case studies and methods for quantifying landscape performance benefits to the Landscape Performance Series.
Urban Design and the Bottom Line: Optimizing the Return on Perception was published by the Urban Land Institute in December 2008. Dennis Jerke’s background as a landscape architect includes managing the design of more than 300 significant projects across the Southwest. The book combines his passion for communicating the value that landscape architecture generates in Urban America with his 32 years of experience in adding design value in the urban built environment.
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