Sustainable Sites Pilot Project: SWT Design Campus - 2011 Merit

Overall Project Summary

The studio and office space located at 7722 Big Bend Boulevard in St. Louis encapsulates sustainable design practices and showcases its firm’s high commitment to the environment and the community.  The original office space was housed in an 1890’s Queen Ann Craftsman style residence.  When the firm found a need to expand in 2003, a contemporary studio addition was integrated onto the south side of the building in a manner that utilized green building practices and preserved and enhanced the existing Victorian building.  When the firm saw an opportunity to expand again in 2008, it aimed to repeat this adaptive re-use model of expansion in order to minimize waste and environmental impact.  This was achieved through the purchase and renovation of an adjacent 1950’s concrete block-style building.  With this “Phase II” expansion of the overall site, the firm depended on the landscape architect’s expertise to capitalize on the opportunity to apply innovative landscaping and stormwater management techniques, and was selected to participate in the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) pilot program.  The office campus was designed to include various roof gardens (a semi-intensive pre-vegetated modular area, an extensive propagation area, and an extensive traditional area), a vegetated rain garden, a native woodland garden, and an edible garden.


A key tenet of the site design was to implement innovative techniques for managing stormwater runoff on a tight urban site.   Through an intricate system of roof gardens, a rain garden, pervious pavers, sumps, and percolation pits a full 100% of stormwater is managed on-site.  75% of the campus’s hardscape surfaces are now pervious.  A pedestrian bridge connects the original historic building with the “Phase II” addition, allowing stormwater from the front of the property to pass underneath and through a vegetated rain garden which contains a rock stream bed and a collection pond.  Excess water is collected by an underground pipe and funneled into the base courses and subsoils beneath the adjacent rear parking area.  The parking area’s pervious pavers allow stormwater to pass through the surface and into a system of underground percolation pits. 

Native Missouri and well-adapted plants compose the design palette throughout the site, and plant species are accompanied by markers to indicate their origin to staff and visitors.  Educational signs are placed throughout the campus to educate visitors on both the design and construction techniques used as well as the environmental benefits surrounding concepts such as the roof garden and rain garden. 


Project Purpose/Program

The environmental consciousness of the firm was the driving motivation for ensuring that state-of-the-art sustainable design techniques would be utilized throughout the building and site.  The primary goal of the project was to provide a more expansive office and studio space for a growing firm while minimizing environmental impact and showcasing innovative green practices. The campus design provides an opportunity for staff, clients, and community members to take advantage of the site as a living lab for stormwater management as well as sustainable building and landscape initiatives. 

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect team has held a primary role in the project from initial concepts of Phase I through construction and maintenance of Phase II.  This included the entire site design and layout, building design, site grading, stormwater management, signage design and oversight of sign fabrication, sculpture selection & placement, green roof design & installation, planting design, and the “hands-on” oversight of all built elements on the site.

Special Factors and Significance

Of special significance is the fact that the campus is part of a select international group of projects that are being monitored as a manner of evaluating the new SITES ratings for landscapes.  In addition, the extensive sustainable design features that drive the site design allow hands-on experience for staff to apply Best Management Practices for a variety of design methodologies.  The roof, rain, and woodland gardens serve as a living and evolving exhibit and demonstration space for clients and community members.   The roof garden serves to reduce radiant heat, slow stormwater runoff, filter water and airborne pollution, provide additional insulation value, extend life of roof membrane, and promote a beneficial insect habitat.  Of further significance is the functional space the roof garden provides for staff and community gathering, as well as the positive impact it has on employee emotional wellness.

Dewey School: HOK - 2011 Merit Award

Overall Project Summary

Dewey School is a St Louis Public School located on Clayton Avenue between Grandview Place and Central Ave.  Home to over 400 students between Pre-K and 6th Grade, this school is an international magnet school that represents over 100 different nationalities.  The building was built in 1917, and the playground has undergone many transformations - most recently including extensive asphalt paving which has fallen into disrepair and is now the source of much neighborhood-wide flooding and unsafe play conditions.

Project Purpose / Program

In Spring 2010, the design team was approached by the Parent/Teacher Organization to consider a pro-bono project to assess ways to make the playground more hospitable and increase permeability.  A masterplan was developed with various spaces including basketball courts, a “peace garden,” infiltration basins, lawn mounds, vegetable plots, and restored prairie.   With limited budget ($2500 total) and summer quickly approaching, the masterplan was phased to be completed over three summers.  The first phase, constructed over several weekends during the summer of 2010 included relocating the existing teach parking area, reorganizing bus traffic and parking, providing a student-friendly access point from the sidewalk and a Learning Garden and shade structure. 

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architectural design team worked elbow to elbow with St Louis Public School officials, the Dewey International School’s principal and faculty, material donors, and the Parent/Teacher Organization to develop the concepts, enact an implementation strategy, coordinate volunteers and donors, and construct and oversee construction of the first phase of the master plan.


Special Factors & Significance

The Learning Garden:

 The Learning Garden occupies a space 40’ x 80’ at the south end of the gymnasium addition to the school building.  It is surrounded on two sides by an 18” height concrete seatwall to provide seating for students and also to protect them from vehicular traffic adjacent.  The garden was excavated of asphalt and mulch was installed for a pervious surface that is still accessible to all students.  Wooden raised planting beds were constructed by the design team and volunteers at various heights to accommodate different ages and abilities of students.  These beds were filled and prepared by the students themselves and will be planted by various science and health classes taught at the school.

The Shade Trellis:

The trellis is a cedar cantilevered structure with a corrugated metal roof.  The trellis is anchored to a planter which will host vines to grow up the wire mesh attached to the trellis itself.  The planter also serves as a student-height bench for hosting outdoor classes or lining up for activities.  The roof on the trellis structure directs stormwater to a gutter below which moves the stormwater toward the center of the garden, where it falls exposed to the rainbarrels below.  The exposure of this water collection educates students on rainwater harvesting.   The rainbarrels are grouped in twos to increase holding capacity and are elevated to improve flow.  The bright colors bring a pop of whimsy to the schoolyard.  Students have a blast during science class “collecting water” from the water collection system to take to the planters.  After a few rainfalls the barrels were filled up and ready for action.