Located in one of America’s largest metropolitan regions, City North has been designed like many of the world’s greatest metropolitan enclaves: a place with upscale shopping, luxurious residential neighbourhoods, corporate campuses, resort hotels and convention halls, art/cultural facilities, community recreation centres, and outdoor parks and public spaces.
As the heart of Desert Ridge, a nearly 5,000-acre (2,000-hectare) master planned residential community in the resort area of Phoenix, Arizona, the project combines urbanism and natural systems into a sustainable urban destination for people worldwide to enjoy.
Formulating principles that would encourage urbanism and smart growth in a suburban context, Design Workshop embraced an urban layout that would compress buildings, streets and public spaces to encourage greater outdoor use in the stunning Sonoran Desert.
A balance of jobs, shopping and housing was programmed so that pedestrians, not automobiles, would be the priority and so that every community amenity, whether public or private, would be centrally located within CityNorth. This way, its occupants and those of the larger Desert Ridge community would be within walking or biking distance of each other.
The project places priority on a balance of needed land uses and provides convenient and safe walking paths, which helps reduce car traffic, air pollution, vehicular accidents, lost time and road maintenance. In fact, an initial analysis of the full build out of CityNorth identified that nearly 60,000 car trips would be reduced on a daily basis.
Sustainability is much more than implementing green practices like conserving water, using LED light bulbs, installing solar panels and wind turbines, driving hybrid vehicles, riding their bikes or taking public transportation. The Owners of CityNorth realised that, for their project to be truly sustainable, it must have a comprehensive long-range plan and sustainability goals.
To that end, Design Workshop completed a master plan and design guidelines that were based on achieving the owner’s goal to pursue certification from LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a recognised body of development and design experts in the United States who promote sustainable design and development through certification of primarily new developments.
Specifically, the plan for the first phase of development was designed to achieve many goals, including to:
• Provide a comprehensive bike network with bike racks and on-site employee showers to encourage the use of non-motorised or carbon burning vehicles.
• Use native or desert-adapted plants to help replenish the Sonoroan landscape lost to new development.
• Transplant native trees from the site to new streets and public spaces in order to provide habitat, shade and scale for public spaces.
• Limit lawn areas to the absolute minimum area and use controlled drip irrigation systems with rain gauges to reduce irrigation water consumption by 10,000 gallons a day during the hot summer months. Use recycled water generated from on-site sources to offset the amount of potable water needed to support and sustain the landscapes.
• Use low volatile organic compounds (VOC) products that reduce the quantity of indoor air contaminants in retail, office and residential buildings.
• Use a 20,000-gallon underwater tank for recycled water, which will save approximately 4,000,000 gallons of water annually and reduce the burden to the municipal water treatment facility.
• Install water source heat pumps to provide energy-efficient heating and cooling systems in all buildings.
• Use dark sky lighting strategies to preserve nighttime vistas and reduce light pollution.
• Separate recycling and trash in all buildings.
• Support building management practices that promote green cleaning and green pest control using environmentally friendly products.
• Purchase over 10 per cent of construction materials from sources within 500 miles of the site.
• Use construction materials that contain at least 10 per cent recycled materials.
• Capture 75 per cent of the construction waste for recycling.
In addition to the previous goals, the design team recognised the importance of addressing the human comfort for people walking outside in the hot arid climate. Orientation of buildings and streets was important to reducing solar gain and to harvesting the natural breezes of the area. The designers organised the primary streets and buildings along an east-west axis, meaning that the short side of mixed-use buildings and sidewalks weren’t directly exposed to the hot afternoon sun and heat from the west.
Streets and buildings were more tightly spaced to each other in order to provide additional shading on public sidewalks and spaces. The project did not want to rely on misting systems to cool the sidewalks during hot weather, so implemented lush street trees, architectural canopies and garden paseos between the buildings to provide shade and enable light breezes to penetrate the project.
Today, the first phase of City North has been built, providing retail, restaurants, professional and medical offices, and rental apartments to an area that still enjoys some economic activity, even though a majority of the larger metropolitan region was hit hard by the economic recession.
City North has proven that sustainable developments that consider the economic, social, environmental and aesthetic factors are still attractive to investments, and still places where people want to shop and dine.