Innovation Centers Designed for the 21st Century

nishi map

Susan Rainier, AIA

The city is now reviewing and analyzing three innovation center proposals. The Gateway/Nishi property along I-80 from Olive Drive west is about 44 acres; the Davis Innovation Center northwest of Highway 113 and Covell Blvd near Sutter Hospital; and the Mace Center northeast of Mace Boulevard and I-80, about 200 acres respectively. A Measure R vote is required for annexation to the city.

The goal is to provide facilities and infrastructure for Davis to become an “innovation hub” in a region already the focus of intense economic development. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development has designated Sacramento an Innovation Hub (iHub) and the non-proit business group Innovate North State is “dedicated to ensuring the 530 area code is recognized as the most economically competitive non-metro region by 2017.” Thus, the City Council’s ambitious “fast-track” timeline for a vote in March 2016 considering one or more of these projects becomes clearer in this context.

Cities across the nation and abroad have found that using a criteria-performance based selection achieves the best value and greatest innovation as the developers are challenged to show who can meet the criteria in the highest and best manner. Having specific criteria makes this possible. Then the project that meets the most requirements and has the highest points would be put forward for the community vote. This puts the reins in the hands of the City to receive the best benefits for all, rather than letting developers dominate and control the process.

Clearly, these projects offer the city a huge opportunity to not only provide space for all manner of business, research and technology enterprises. They offer the city the opportunity to set a very high bar with measurable requirements for building and site design that meet 21st century needs for real, not “green-washed” sustainable design and planning in the face of the environmental and climate crises we now face.

Designing the Innovation Centers for Present and Future Generations.  In two previous Op-Eds in the Davis Enterprise (January 18 and 25), it was pointed out that although the city gathered input from a wide range of commissions and Cool Davis, the Guiding Principles, adopted last December, do not set the bar high enough nor include measurable requirements to avoid having basically standard freeway industrial parks.

Much more is needed to achieve Gov. Brown’s State Climate Plan 2020 goals to reduce emissions to 1990-era levels. This is a call for the City to revisit the Guiding Principles and set the bar high with measurable standards by using the Living Community Challenge of the Living Future Institute. This Challenge describes the metrics and selection of the proposal to go forward for annexation through a Performance Based Competition determining which developer and project best meets the needs of the community and can deliver the best value to the City.

About the International Living Future Institute

As the International Living Future Institute states, it is a hub for visionary programs. “We administer the Living Building Challenge™, the built environment’s most rigorous and ambitious performance standard. We are the parent organization for Cascadia Green Building Council, a chapter of both the United States and Canada Green Building Councils that serves Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. We are also home to Ecotone Publishing, a unique publishing house dedicated to telling the story of the green building movement’s pioneering thinkers and practitioners.

“The Institute offers green building and infrastructure solutions that move across scales (from single room renovations to neighborhoods or whole cities). We offer global strategies for lasting sustainability, partnering with local communities to create grounded and relevant solutions, and reaching out to individuals to unleash their imagination and innovation.

“Through our work on the Living Building Challenge and other programs, we have helped to redefine the green building movement, substantially raising the bar for true sustainability. By embracing the psychology of the endgame, we strive to identify the most direct path to a future in which all life can thrive. We seek partnerships with leaders in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in pursuit of a future that is socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.”

Living Future: An International Vision for Community-Driven Transformation providing a path to a regenerative future. It asks us to “imagine an entire community designed and constructed to function as elegantly as a forested ecosystem, or buildings as elegantly as a flower.”

In fact, the symbol the Institute uses is the metaphor of the flower: Rooted in place and yet: Harvests all energy & water, is adapted to climate and site, operates pollution free, is comprised of integrated systems and is beautiful.

Design for Present and Future Generations

Let’s put Davis on the map as a beacon for other communities to transform the market to a green locally based economy by how we set standards and approve new development.

Indigo Architect’s new office at 909 5th street is an inspired and fabulous repurposing of an old dilapidated building. They have incorporated Biophilic elements, used local materials such as straw bale, indigenous planting for landscape, and rainwater capture, and are soon to be net-zero energy, using various strategies including, natural daylighting, passive solar-thermal mass, natural ventilation and night-sky cooling. This is a prime example of what we can do in our community if we put our minds to it. This is truly building design for present and future generations.

The City of Davis would be a very good candidate to be a Pilot Living Community and any one of the Innovation Centers could be prime examples.

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