SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — Atkins’ water resources staff in Texas teamed up with several local San Antonio organizations to take top honors in the Multi-family Mixed Use category of the San Antonio Low Impact Development (LID) Design Competition. Staff members in San Antonio, Austin, and Houston were part of the Atkins-led team that won a $15,000 prize. The Atkins team included The University of Texas at Austin; the architecture firm of Ford, Powell & Carson, Inc.; and landscaping specialist Rialto Studio, Inc.

The San Antonio River Authority (SARA) and the Texas Land/Water Sustainability Forum joined forces to create the San Antonio Land/Water Sustainability Forum and sponsor the area’s first-ever LID competition. Teams competed by developing LID designs for actual properties in Bexar County; the goal of the competition being to promote understanding and raise awareness within the San Antonio/Bexar County design and development community about the economic, environmental, and quality-of-life benefits of Low Impact Design.

“We did our final presentations in a ‘lightning talk’ format, with 7 minutes to present our design concept in 20 slides or less,” said Atkins principal technical professional Duke Altman, who served as team captain. “Three of us presented a total of 17 slides, and our timing had to be perfect as we transitioned from one speaker and design element to the next.”

The competition consisted of three categories, involving three corresponding San Antonio properties:
• Urban Redevelopment — Hemisfair Park (the site of the 1968 World’s Fair)
• Green Roadway — Evers Road in Leon Valley
• Multi-family Mixed Use — Port San Antonio.

Atkins selected the Multi-family Mixed Use category, for which the subject property was a portion of Port San Antonio, an industrial airport at the former Kelly Air Force Base. The team’s concept was a “New Urbanist Community” design that promotes an enhanced quality of life by treating and managing stormwater as a resource — but without increasing redevelopment, operations, or maintenance costs.

LID is a comprehensive, up-and-coming approach to sustainable land development and re-development that uses creative planning and design strategies to manage stormwater near its source while protecting the environment — all while maintaining hydrologic conditions at pre-development levels. The Atkins team incorporated into its design a LID-based, best management practices (BMP) stormwater system that slows and diverts runoff onto pervious surfaces, increases infiltration, and reduces runoff volume; which, in turn, can improve overall water quality, protect against downstream erosion, and reduce flood potential.

“SARA has been an active Atkins client for more than 12 years, and we have provided them with a variety of services, ranging from watershed-level planning to river-basin planning for an area of more than 4,000 square miles,” said Altman. “So when they announced this competition, we really wanted to participate and help bring stormwater-related LID alternatives to the forefront of San Antonio’s design and development community.”

Modeling shows that the long-term average runoff volume proposed by the Atkins LID design would be much less compared to Port San Antonio’s current conditions — comparable, in fact, to that of an undeveloped area. The Atkins team’s “New Urbanism” concepts promote high-density land use, with varying types and sizes of housing, office, and retail units. The team’s design would also encourage healthy living practices, with the result being a “walkable” community that would include sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails to connect residents to facilities inside and outside the development.