Posts Tagged: Construction

Aug 14

The Seaholm District

You may have heard the saying, “the mockingbird may be the State Bird of Texas, but the City bird of Austin is the tower crane.”


It is undeniable that the construction trade is booming in Austin, Downtown as much as anywhere. However, even within Downtown Austin, there is a staggering concentration of new development and redevelopment in what is known more specifically as the Seaholm District.


The Seaholm District is named after the decommissioned Austin Energy Power Plant’s Generator Building, which in turn was named for former City Manager, Walter Seaholm. This historic, art-deco style building sits at the heart of the District. The District boundaries are Lady Bird Lake to the South, 5th Street to the North, Lamar Boulevard to the West and San Antonio Street to the East. It’s a part of Downtown where the typical city street grid is a bit disjointed, but it would equate to approximately 30 typical City blocks. Today, there are six tower cranes flying in the District.


Among the buildings currently under construction, in just this portion of Downtown alone, include:

  • The new City Library, scheduled to open in Q2 of 2016,
  • 300 Bowie, a high rise building, which will open this fall, featuring both ultra-modern office space and luxury rental apartments,
  • Green Water Treatment Block 1, which will also be a luxury high-rise apartment building, scheduled to open in Q4 of 2016, and
  • The three buildings that make up the Seaholm Redevelopment Project (see below).


Downtown Library and 2nd Street Bridge

Downtown Library and 2nd Street Bridge

300 Bowie

300 Bowie

Green Water Block 1

Green Water Block 1


The Seaholm Power Plant is an adaptive re-use project that will feature more than 100,000 square feet of high tech office space, a 10,000 square foot restaurant, and a 3,000 square foot coffee shop and public viewing gallery. In addition to all of that, two other buildings are in the Seaholm project. The first is a 70,000 square foot retail and office building that will open later this year. The second is a luxury high rise condominium building scheduled for completion in Q4 of 2015. It is noteworthy that this is the first condominium project to be developed downtown since the recession that began in 2008.


In addition to all this vertical building work, there is an enormous amount of public work and utility infrastructure being installed in the District. Among the more noteworthy public works projects are:

  • The eastern extension of 2nd Street from San Antonio to West Avenue,
  • The southerly extension of West Avenue from 3rs Street to Cesar Chavez,
  • The southerly extension of Nueces Street from 3rd Street to Cesar Chavez, and
  • The northerly extension of Walter Seaholm Drive from 2nd Street to 3rd Street.


Seaholm Redevelopment

Seaholm Redevelopment

Sound like a lot? That’s just what’s happening right now! Other projects in the pipeline, meaning real projects having real dollars spent this quarter, include Green Water Treatment Block 23, which will be a high rise office building breaking ground in early 2015, and the redevelopment of the former Austin Energy Control Center Site, which is reported to be a 50 story condominium tower. Lastly, there are two separate infrastructure projects dedicated to bicyclists & pedestrians. These include the Bowie Underpass, which will connect 3rd Street to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway under the Union Pacific railroad tracks, and the 4th Street Bridge, connecting 4th Street to the Shoal Creek Trail over the creek.


It looks like, at least for the foreseeable future, the Seaholm District will remain the preferred habitat for the unofficial City Bird of Austin.


Written by Bill McCann, Vice President


May 14

Austin Traffic: MoPac Improvements

For Austinites who commute to work each day, we often find ourselves at the mercy of Central Texas’ famous traffic congestion. There are two main traffic corridors serving the Austin area – IH 35 and Loop 1.  Both seem to be more and more congested each day.  Loop 1, better known as MoPac, is the focus of the long awaited MoPac Improvement Project, currently underway.


The steady growth trend in population here in Central Texas has turned this once viable alternative to IH 35 to one of the most congested traffic routes in the State of Texas.  As partners in determining options to improve mobility along this route, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the City of Austin, and Capital Metro (CapMetro) initiated a study in 2012. Their study determined that Express Lanes with variable pricing were the preferred option for this corridor to address congestion and long-term mobility issues.


In a nut shell, two (concrete barrier separated) toll lanes (one in each direction) will be added to the middle of the MoPac corridor beginning at Parmer Lane to the north and ending at Cesar Chavez to the south.


Different from traditional HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, these lanes will have variable tolls based on the amount of congestion, raising the price when traffic is heavy and lowering the price when traffic is light. Overall, authorities believe this will help keep traffic moving more effectively while maximizing the use of this facility.


It’s a unique alternative for addressing traffic congestion and the first of its kind in Austin. Construction is expected to be complete in late 2015.


Mopac Map


For history on this project and up-to-date information on construction, please visit the MoPac Express website for more information. There you’ll find a Twitter feed of lane closures and delays, construction alerts and real-time congestion maps. You will also see a “Construction Progress” bar, and at the time of this blog posting, construction is 24% complete.


Also, if you visit the MoPacExpress YouTube channel,  you can watch videos that convey what it will be like to drive on MoPac once the toll lanes are complete.


Written by Arnold Gonzales, Senior Project Manager


Jun 12

Green Building at Its Finest

Imagine a world where city buildings are capable of self-cleaning themselves and the air pollutants around them. Sounds like something out of the future, right? Turns out, that future is already here!


ALCOA, a world leading integrated aluminum company, has developed a product called Reynobond® with EcoClean™. This proprietary process leverages HYDROTECT™ technology from TOTO® to apply a titanium dioxide coating, called EcoClean™, to the pre-painted aluminum surface of Reynobond®. The result is the first coil-coated aluminum architectural panel that cleans itself and the air around it by utilizing natural components like sunlight, water vapor and oxygen.



In the United States, carbon dioxide, a leading cause of smog, is the most common greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere. Nearly 40% of that comes from buildings alone, and according to experts, total U.S. carbon emission are projected to grow by 16% between 2006 and 2030. With numbers like that, it’s clear how valuable green technology like Reynobond® with EcoClean™ is becoming to the construction industry and society as a whole.


The Reynobond® with EcoClean™ process is so effective that 1,000 sqm / 10,000 sq ft² of it on your building can have approximately enough cleansing power to offset the smog created by the pollution output of four cars every day, which is the equivalent air cleansing power of 80 trees every day. Neat, right?


Here’s hoping this green technology soon shifts from an innovative idea to an industry standard.



Jan 12

Living Building Challenge

Could the Living Building Challenge soon be the new industry standard for green building?



Over recent years, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program has emerged as the industry standard for rating green buildings. Though the program has been considered widely successful, there are many in the A/E/C community who have stressed that LEED simply does not go as far as it could. From these green idealists, the movement behind the Living Building Challenge was born.


What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place? That question is what the Living Building Challenge (LBC) poses to all involved in the future of green building. The LBC was founded with the sole purpose of creating a higher level of sustainable building by expanding and improving upon current standards of green design and construction.


One of the main proponents behind the LBC is Jason McLennan, LEED AP, a Canadian-born architect who was involved with LEED from its early onset. McLennan, who served as Project Manager in the first 10 pilot LEED projects, began outlining the concepts behind living buildings in the late 1990s. By the mid 2000s he began devising the living building idea into a construction standard. In 2006, McLennan brought the intellectual property of the Living Building Challenge to the Cascadia Green Building Council and from this, later formed the International Living Future Institute (IFLI).



The ILFI describes the Living Building Challenge as “a philosophy, advocacy platform, and certification program.” The LBC founded its standards around seven “petals” which are: site, water, energy, heat, materials, equity and beauty. The first five of the seven petals match up with LEED’s current credit structure. Unlike LEED, however, teams cannot choose which petals to highlight, since there are no credits and just prerequisites.


The materials component seems to be the hardest petal to comply with since the LBC has a “Red List” of materials that cannot be used in any form of a project. However, individuals who have been involved in early LBC projects, like Stan Richardson, feel that “The materials component is the hardest to comply with, and it takes more time up front, but it will eventually be overcome.” In fact, there are hopes that manufactures will rise to the occasion and produce more materials that meet the Red List requirements.



So, the question remains. Will living buildings eventually replace the LEED program as the standard rating system for new green buildings? The answer is more than likely no. Most experts hope the LBC will emerge as a complimentary and not competitive program to LEED. In fact, according to architect  Dan Hellmuth, AIA “LEED is trickier for smaller projects and is better for $2 million and higher projects.” Pilot projects for the LBC have used LEED Platinum as a baseline and aimed for the LBC as the ideal goal.


For more information on the Living Building Challenge visit their website, or watch a few feature clips below.

Jan 12

Tablets in Construction

Construction companies have adopted the use of tablet computers to shave hours, days and potentially weeks off of their projects. With information at the “tap” of his finger, a superintendent can provide a client with a price quote, obtain client approvals, complete inspections, arrange logistics and manage complications…to name a few. Instant, important, calculated data available as-needed, at any time – without leaving the project site. Who would deny a streamlined process?
What’s even more intriguing is the unlimited and mounting value tablets are providing the construction industry. It seems that they may have only scratched the surface…

View this video done by ENR:

Six ways builders use tablets to manage construction operations

  1. Instant access to construction documents — Using file-hosting apps like Dropbox, builders can access virtually any construction documents from the field, including purchase orders, floor plans, site plans, selections, colors, and neighborhood plats.
  2. Jobsite inspections — For instance, superintendents can snap a photo of a problem area, write a note on it, and email it along with a copy of the plans.
  3. Face-to-face meetings remotely — Builders, supers, trade partners, and suppliers can have instant video-conference meetings using apps like Apple’s FaceTime and Skype.
  4. Installation videos and instructions — Instant access to streaming video and a large, crystal-clear screen allow builders to easily troubleshoot a product installation or double-check proper installation techniques while on the jobsite.
  5. Storm tracking — Apps from WeatherBug and the Weather Channel provide advanced weather data that allow builders to make better-informed decisions on construction projects.
  6. Remote access to enterprise data — For builders that use enterprise management systems like Sage, Builder MT, and Kova Solutions, tablets can tie directly into workflow, schedule, accounting, estimating, purchasing, and project management systems, providing a host of benefits.

For more information, visit:

Tablets Take Off in Construction

Touch, Zoom, Sell: How Builders are Using Tablets to Sell Homes

iPads in the Toolbox: Using Tablets to Manage Construction Operations

8 Ways to Use Tablet PCs

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