We’re excited to announce that the Austin ISD Performing Arts Center (PAC) earned its U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED Gold Certification! Congratulations to the entire project team on this achievement!
Environmental focus has been of the utmost importance since this project was proposed and added to Austin ISD’s bond election in 2004. Austin ISD formed the Energy, Water, and Sustainability consulting team to play an active part in the project’s development during design, construction, and operation. American Constructors played an integral role in helping execute the sustainable features of this project. The following are a few examples of how we provided our input and expertise.
The developer involved with this project wanted to avoid the illusion of a big, dark box. The building’s large glass windows allow visibility to the public both day and night. However, glass windows also cause additional heat gain within the space. An analysis was completed to compare different window systems that would allow visibility while also taking into consideration the sustainable requirements of the building. In the end, we used a combination of polycarbonate sandwich panels, which were translucent and insulated, combined with low-emissivity glass windows. This achieved the desired look while also reducing heat gain. In addition, the dance studio includes solar tubes at the windowless end to lessen the need for artificial lighting.
During design and pre-construction, American Constructors conducted an analysis of initial costs and long-term operating costs of various HVAC systems being considered for the project. One option included tapping into existing chilled water lines in the street connected to a nearby hospital’s chiller. We also explored the use of a water-cooled chiller plant. Ultimately, we determined that the most efficient system would be an air-cooled chiller plant, which was built with sound insulation to minimize disruption of performances.
During construction, 835 tons of construction waste was recycled. More than 35 percent of material used in the building was made from recycled content and more than 51 percent was sourced from Texas, reducing transportation emissions and supporting the local economy. In addition, when constructing the parking garage, the columns and beams were pre-cast on site, further reducing transportation emissions. Nearly all the wood in the building was sourced from sustainably managed forests. This includes the 25,000 linear feet of Douglas fir in the lobby, which American Constructors suggested in lieu of hand-stained wood planking.
The PAC received a 5-star rating from Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB), which is the highest honor. This rating is awarded to buildings that show a considerable commitment to sustainable design and construction practices. The PAC is only the sixth commercial building to achieve an AEGB 5-star rating. The PAC, which was originally slated for a 4-star rating, ended up exceeding minimum requirements, receiving 62 out of a possible 77 points. The award commended energy savings at the PAC, which uses a 60 kw solar panel system, and the use of reclaimed water and high-efficiency plumbing fixtures to reduce total water usage by more than 65 percent.
The PAC is located near multiple bus lines and a planned future light rail. The garage is also equipped with electric car charging stations as well as bike racks. It achieved a score of 82/100 in bike accessibility, deeming it “very bikeable.”