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Gene Green Beltway 8 Park - Houston:
Harris County's First LEED-Certified Park


Landscape Architecture by Asakura Robinson Co., Houston





Houston's 230-acre Gene Green Park has a multipurpose office building with classrooms, restrooms and parking amenities. The building incorporates many recycled and regional materials, including recycled crushed glass and fly ash, which accounted for 13 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of the aggregate for the concrete slab. The landscape is native and adapted plants. The only irrigation (Rainbird bubblers, with Hunter 'Flow-Clik' overflow sensors) is for the trees here in the core area. The 10-ft. pedestrian lighting is the 'Circa' (CR20) product line, a low profile, arm-mounted, curvilinear cutoff luminaire with 175-watt metal halide lamps. The 6-ft. backless benches ('Gretchen' series) are recycled plastic (PolySite) in a 'bark' color. The picnic tables and litter receptacles are from the same series. Note also the decorative gabions by the building with recycled crushed concrete.


Gene Green Park is 230-acres of parkland in an underserved area of northeast Harris County in Houston, near the intersection of US 90A and Beltway 8. A large section of the park, 173-acres, is a detention basin for the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD), and adjacent to Carpenter's Bayou. Harris County partnered with HCFCD in 1997 to allow dual use of the detention basin as parkland. The regional park has active and passive recreation facilities, and incorporates sustainable design practices. Phase I construction included the core of the park's planned amenities, which was completed in August 2008 at a cost of $5.5 million. Future master plan amenities include excavating a lake/wetland for additional storm water filtration within the detention basin, and preservation of a pristine stand of old-growth cypress within the Carpenter's Bayou oxbow.

Asakura Robinson Company (ARC) played a vital role as the prime consultant to Harris County Precinct 2 in the successful design and implementation of the Gene Green Beltway 8 Park. ARC led a multidisciplinary team through master planning, design, contract documentation and construction. This is Harris County's first "green" park and first USGBC LEED registered project.

 




Other phase I amenities for Gene Green Park include an amphitheater suitable for concerts; signature rolling gabion walls; large skate park; splash pad; Adventure Playground; educational signage; numerous seating and "hang-out" areas; tennis and basketball courts; a BMX dirt track; soccer, football and softball fields; and a two-mile looped trail (jogging/walking/biking) that's intended to link to a proposed regional trail system.



Functionality
The design work relied heavily on input from a six-person steering committee of local civic leaders, plus a public workshop attended by over 50 community residents. Teenagers were constructive and vocal at this public meeting. Subsequently, the park was designed as a safe-haven for teenagers, a population often overlooked in park design. Phase I amenities include signature rolling walls; a large skate park; a splashpark with "big kid" water cannons; an adventure play area with a zip-line; a unique skate-rail and gyroscopic apparatus; educational signage; an amphitheater suitable for concerts; numerous wide, seating and "hang-out" areas; tennis and basketball courts; a popular BMX dirt track; soccer, football and softball fields; a two-mile looped trail (jogging/walking/biking) trail that is meant to link to a proposed regional trail system; and a multipurpose office building with restrooms, classrooms and parking.

"El Paseo," a wide paving spine, flanks the park's core facilities. This spine is a central axis stretching from the amphitheater up the detention basin ramp to the multipurpose building, the BMX track, the splashpark, skate park, tennis and basketball courts, the adventure play area, then down the other detention basin ramp. The two-mile looped jogging trail extends from El Paseo, which is designed to accommodate festivals and markets. Spacing of trees, light fixtures and benches allow erection of 10'x10' modular tents with ample electricity and water sources nearby.

Amenities capable of withstanding periodic flooding are located within the detention basin: the amphitheatre stage and seating; the BMX track; trails; sports fields; wetland plantings that filter storm water; and a meandering stream. These areas have flooded several times, but have survived beautifully, including withstanding Hurricane Ike's direct hit on Sept. 13, 2008, purported to be the "costliest hurricane in Texas history." Gene Green Park offers an educational experience for park visitors. An educational theme of "adventure in motion" is featured throughout the park. Educational signage explains the physics behind the fun of riding BMX bikes and skateboards, traveling on zip-lines and playing on the playground equipment. The reverse sides of the signs illustrate sustainable park features: bioswales, gabion walls and meander streams. The park is already a popular field trip for area school classes of all ages.

 




The gabions are recycled 9-gauge metal mesh filled with 3-6-inch recycled concrete filler. The concrete footings use recycled fly ash. Gabion seat walls have precast concrete caps. The undulating gabion wall is the site's most prominent feature. There is also gabion seating at the amphitheater and gabion benches on the "El Paseo," the park's wide paving spine.



Environmental Responsibility
The multipurpose building is oriented southeast to capture the prevailing summer breezes blowing over the detention basin. Ample fenestration and sliding garage-type doors open the building for events and classes therefore reducing the air-conditioned footprint to the office space only. The building incorporates many recycled and regional materials including recycled, crushed glass and mirror as 13 percent of the aggregate in the concrete slab. Diamond polishing smoothed the surface to a spectacular finish. Waterless urinals, motion sensing faucets and low-flow faucets reduce water usage within the building. A central "dogtrot" breezeway aids air circulation throughout the building, while functioning as the building's entry. ARC was responsible for the building's schematic design, and worked closely with the architect, structural and mechanical engineers, the electricians and plumbers to ensure design intent was maintained.

 




Waterworks International built the splash pad, which combines above ground sprayers with flush in-ground sprayers. 'Bubble Towers' (right) are 20 gpm, 20 psi omnidirectional 360? sprayers that let children alter the spray with their fingers. The hooked red sprayer (left) is a 'Water Cane' that blasts water at 15 gpm. The elements are stainless steel with a UV stabilized finish. The splash pad uses a 5 hp recirculation pump.



Paving design offered many sustainable material options within the park. All concrete included 20 percent recycled fly ash as a cement substitute. Asphalt paving included recycled asphalt (RAP) and a "flex-base" of recycled crushed concrete replaced typical non-native limestone as base material. All these specifications were new to Harris County and required extensive research and approval processes. Today, Harris County standard specifications include these sustainable materials, in large part the result of the success and research of this project.

 




ARC worked closely with the civil engineer on stormwater infiltration. The native prairie grass plantings, recycled-concrete riprap berms, and the meandering outfall stream alignment with native vegetation and bioswales in the parking lot are the outcome. Gabions enclose the parking lot bioswales, landscaped with 30-gal. swamp red maple, 30-gal. bald cypress, Louisiana and yellow flag iris and swamp lily.



Gene Green Beltway 8 Park was the first project developed by Harris County to be registered and receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council. As part of the LEED certification, over 90 percent of all construction waste generated by this project was recycled and diverted from area landfills. Many materials specified for the park design included recycled content, such as the recycled crushed concrete for the numerous gabions: columns, benches, ramps, rolling walls and amphitheater seating. The full cut-off lighting throughout the park is also in compliance with the light trespass guidelines of the International Dark Sky Association.

 




A large section of the park (173-acres), adjacent to Carpenter's Bayou, is a detention basin for the Harris County Flood Control District. Amenities capable of withstanding periodic flooding are located within the detention basin: the amphitheater stage and seating; the BMX track; trails; sports fields; wetland plantings that filter storm water; and a meandering stream. These areas have flooded several times, but have survived even Hurricane Ike's direct hit on Sept. 13, 2008, purported to be the "costliest hurricane in Texas history."



ARC worked closely with the civil engineer to provide various water filtration methods for onsite and offsite storm water flows. The native prairie grass plantings, recycled-concrete riprap berms, meandering outfall stream alignment with native vegetation and bioswales in the parking lot are among the stormwater filtering techniques employed. The parking lot bioswales have been particularly successful for plant vigor, and have been the subject of numerous presentations as they are some of the first constructed in Harris County.

 




Adventure Playground ('EVOs' elements) is between the skate park and zip line. A smaller playground with mostly "tot" play pieces is tucked between the parking lot and the multipurpose building.



Quality of Design
Gene Green Beltway 8 Park's success within the community and its unique focus of sustainable park design has garnered two prominent awards: 2008 Mayor's Proud Partner/Keep Houston Beautiful award, and the 2006 Best Practices for Planning Honor award from the Houston-Galveston Area Council. The park has also been the subject of several presentations, including the 2009 EPA Regional MS4 Conference Tour, 2009 Houston Land Water Sustainability Forum Low Impact Development Case Studies, 2008 Bayou Preservation Assoc. Symposium, 2008 Gulf Coast Green Conference, 2008 Louisiana ASLA State Conference and the 2008 KUHF Ed Mayberry's Building Green radio series.

 




The Gene Green "Extreme Skate Park" (and BMX Park) was designed and built by American Ramp Co., of Joplin, Missouri, which has built 2,000 skate parks worldwide.



Gene Green Park Phase 1Team
Prime / Landscape Architect: Asakura Robinson Co.
Architect / Leed Admin.: NATEX Architects
Civil Engineers: Cobb Fendley & Associates
Structural Engineers: Conti Jumper Gardner & Associates
MEP Engineers / Commissioning Agent: DBR Engineering Consultants
General Contractor: SpawGlass Civil Construction

Agencies
Harris County Precinct 2
Commissioner Sylvia Garcia
Deputy Commissioner Roel Garcia
Harris County Public Infrastructure Dept.,
Parks and Recreation Division
Architecture Division
Harris County Flood Control District







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