The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation Learning Center provides a home for education for all ages, community events, and free after school care within Foundation Communities’ Lakeline Station Apartments.
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation Learning Center provides a home for education for all ages, community events, and free after school care within Foundation Communities’ Lakeline Station Apartments. As the first “net zero” commercial building in Austin, the design team began with the goal of achieving all five petals of the Living Building Challenge setting the stage for a unique and particular landscape architecture design. Located in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, the design highlights vegetation that thoughtfully responds to ecological conditions and human need (food production), human waste (wastewater treatment), and human experience. All toilets flush with gray water, and all of the landscape is irrigated with rainwater harvested in galvanized steel cisterns. Onsite blackwater treatment was designed and fully permitted through TCEQ for the property but did not make it into the final construction budget.
As Central Texas typically receives 30 inches of rain annually, and in summer, temperatures can stay above 100 degrees for over thirty days in a row, most traditional food crops would not survive on limited rainwater irrigation. Thus, the landscape surrounding the Learning Center incorporates numerous native and adaptive plants and trees that may not be commonly known as edible.
The planting palette features native edibles including prickly pear, yaupon holly, blackberry vines, loquats, sunflowers, and Turks Cap. Eight raised garden “wicking” beds fed by rainwater harvesting provide community gardening opportunities. A small orchard provides shade, food, and seasonal interest to residents. All of these elements serve as an opportunity for the staff to develop educational activities and curriculum, such as foraging and cooking, for children and adults at the Learning Center every day.
The Learning Center is Living Building Challenge 3.1 Zero Energy Certified , rated 5 stars by Austin Energy Green Building, and in 2017 won “Project of the Year” by The Austin Green Awards.