Revitalizing a Brownfield Site: The Lofts at Washington University in St. Louis

02.20.22 | Alicia Drumm, Douglas Johnston, Samuel Laskey, Christopher Aubin | Sustainability

Delmar Boulevard is a vibrant urban corridor in St. Louis designated as one of the “10 Great Streets” by the American Planning Association. Fondly known as “The Loop” by locals and students from the nearby Washington University, this street boasts dozens of restaurants, shops, performance venues, and places to convene. The Lofts, a mixed-use development project for WashU, re-energizes a portion of the Delmar streetscape where a corner gas station used to sit idle amongst the bustle of the rest of The Loop. This project brings together a series of new storefront shops, a second floor green roof terrace, and a south-facing glass facade with perforated aluminum sunshades. A pedestrian mews traverses the large city block and acts as a collector and focal point of entry for the new residential student community.

The University’s aspirations to achieve LEED Platinum for this project integrates into an overall pedagogic belief in educating the whole student. WashU’s Residence Life holds a sustainability summit each year and meets with incoming residents to discuss energy saving systems and sustainable initiatives (such as point of use HVAC controls, occupancy sensors, and bike facilities) that will be a part of their life in the building they occupy.

Instead of building new student housing on a greenfield site, the Lofts is sited on a redeveloped brownfield site that was formerly a corner gas station. This location makes use of a remediated urban site with access to public transportation, bike-friendly corridors, and of course the existing amenities on the Delmar Loop.

The Lofts incorporates several different design solutions that improve the site’s water. Surface run-off is channeled to a runnel which is deposited into a rain garden, while three roof gardens control stormwater run-off and are irrigated by cistern. Two landscaped courtyards located on grade cover the below-ground parking structure and are themselves drained into a bioswale.

To achieve LEED Platinum certification, the Lofts were designed to meet rigorous energy saving criteria. The combination of an efficient exterior envelope and mechanical systems reduces the energy load by 40%. Similarly, a controlled interior environment, complete with occupancy sensors and efficient fixtures and appliances, further reduce energy loads and resource consumption. A portion of the project’s remaining energy loads are provided by rooftop PV panels and solar thermal arrays.