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HOUSTON—The WaterLights District, located 15 minutes from Houston in Pearland, Texas, is a $700 million, 1.9 million-square-foot planned mixed-use lifestyle center that the developer said will incorporate advanced sustainability measures into all aspects of the planning and design. WaterLights is located near the thriving Texas Medical Center and will feature condos, brownstones, luxury apartments, office buildings, retail boutiques, a fresh market, restaurants and wine bars, three luxury hotels, a conference facility, a water wall, and public park along a Grand Canal waterway.

Sustainability is a key priority in the creation of this new community. Advanced site planning underway will supply the greatest opportunity for sustainable buildings to be established with the LEED Gold objective.

"Our goal is to produce a community that raises the bar from a technological standpoint; a community that is self sufficient as it pertains to the use of energy and its ability to create clean energy and a healthy environment," said David Goswick, executive director of Historic Real Estate Inc., the developer of WaterLights.

Ecological zones are planned with manmade wetlands at the water’s edge and at strategic points along the network of the canals. The wetlands will create a preserve for native flora and provide an added feature for the public to enjoy. A stormwater retention system will retain rain water in vertical structures for use as a source of hydro-power to run the fountains. The WaterLights fountains have numerous purposes, from shielding the noise of Highway 288 to ambient cooling in public gathering areas to creating dynamic water features for public enjoyment.

Solar energy will also be incorporated at WaterLights for a secondary source of power when the hydro-power is insufficient (for example, when the stormwater has been depleted). Moreover, it will serve as an energy-efficient solution to light up the bridges at night through small solar-powered photovoltaic disks to be suspended from polycarbonate fiber nets. These light generating disks will be affixed to netting between the canal bridges and at strategic points between structures. The disks will absorb the sun’s rays in daylight, transforming the solar energy to radiate a glow at night. Light emanating from the solar disks will reflect off the water, generating needed light for the safety of pedestrians walking over the bridges without tapping into the power grid. Additional photovoltaic technology will be used at rooftops and near park shelters to provide ambiance and minimum security lighting.

Segregation of water systems is planned throughout the development. The work currently underway will reduce potable water supply lines from stormwater and rainwater retention systems. Grey water from showers and residential sinks will be filtered and used where possible for irrigation or as secondary wastewater (flushing). Stormwater will be circulated throughout the site for irrigation of plants and green spaces.

The priority of green practices extends to the selection of materials used in creating the WaterLights infrastructure. For example, materials selected for paving and streetscapes throughout the initial development will be sustainable and allow for reduction in heat islands and filtration of surface water. Open-cell pavers and permeable asphalt products will be used where appropriate. Further, several types of green roofs are included in the master plan. Reflective roofing materials will be used in most residential settings. These green roofs are designed to retain soil and water, and create rooftop gardens to be included in public and retail settings where rooftop dining, public terraces, and rooftop recreation spaces are planned.

According to the developer, the WaterLights master plan and initial site development will involve many more sustainable design strategies including control of construction activity pollution (dust and runoff), alternative transportation considerations (bus stops and water taxis), bike trails and connections to regional bike paths, innovative wastewater treatment (reclamation of water from restaurant grease and oil traps), a 30-percent reduction in potable water use, construction waste management, wind power for natural ventilation, covered parking areas to minimize heat islands, and reflective surfaces to allow natural light to reflect and penetrate interior building spaces.

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