New Apartment Community Leads Austin Toward a Healthy Future
by Sheila Julson
Phrases such as “deconstruction” and “rainwater retention” have become part of the construction industry lexicon as developers nationwide seek ways to make buildings more environmentally healthy. In Austin, the B-Austin Community, a mixed-use apartment complex with 14 residential units, received a four-star rating from the intensive Austin Energy Green Building program and was recently awarded the prestigious Austin Green Award for 2018.
Builders of B-Austin Community recycled or reused 83 percent of its construction debris, and all heritage oak trees on the property were left in place instead of being cut down. The apartment also has four renewable energy components, gray water recycling, rain barrels and a sophisticated insulation design to conserve energy.
“I think it’s essential that developers take this approach moving forward to reduce their tenants’ ecological footprint while maintaining modern conveniences,” says Gray Godwin, an owner, investor and manager of B-Austin Community. “Nobody wants to be judged on enjoying the conveniences of modern life, so if we find a way to integrate those conveniences while still reducing these footprints, it might catch on with other developers.”
B-Austin Community’s four types of renewable energy include photovoltaic solar panels, which provide much of building’s energy needs. There’s also electricity generating cardio equipment in the gym. Flow generators are placed in downspouts, so when it rains, generators turn and create a token amount of electricity. A biogas generator digests food bones, meat, vegetables and pet waste in an anaerobic environment. The end product is a nutrient-rich liquid as well as methane that is captured in a bladder and used to light a grill.
Their unique gray water recycling system has two seven-gallon holding tanks that captures water right from a resident’s washing machine, filters it, then pumps the water out to a drip irrigation system. “There’s no actual holding of gray water for an extended period of time, so there’s no chance for bacteria to propagate and create any undesirable smells,” Godwin explains.
Rainwater retention barrels on site capture up to 5,000 gallons of water for the vegetable gardens and fruit trees. This spring, Two Hives Honey, a professional beekeeping group, will put hives on site to propagate the plants and trees. A community garden option allows tenants to donate an hour per week to the community plot and get produce from those plots. Tenants can also get individual plots to grow their own food.
An efficient insulation system includes not just normal construction materials such as drywall but also four different layers of insulation to keep out harsh weather elements. There’s also on-site composting and two electric vehicle-charging stations.
Godwin believes that happy, healthy homes and environments begin with healthy people, so they’ve integrated access to wellness practices for the residents. “We designed public spaces on-site as multi-purpose spaces for practitioners in the area to operate their businesses, in exchange for allocating 20 percent of their spaces to our residents,” he says. It’s a win-win for practitioners to run a business with zero overhead while giving tenants on-site access to meditation classes, group counseling classes, yoga, Pilates and more.
B-Austin Community is located at 6700 Manchaca, Austin. For more information, call 512-653-6287 or visit B-Austin.com.