A Living Building Challenge: Touring the Betty and Clint Josey Pavilion

About a week ago I had the privilege of joining members of the U.S. Green Building Council North Texas Chapter and fellow members of the Living Building Challenge North Texas Collaborative on a trip to Leo Ranch outside Decatur, Texas, to visit the Betty and Clint Josey Pavilion, a building designed by Lake|Flato Architects and on track to be the first Living Building in Texas.

For a building to identify as a Living Building, it must meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge, a building certification program that establishes the highest measure of sustainability in the built environment. The Challenge is comprised of seven performance categories called Petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty.

The Josey Pavilion is a suitable building for the Challenge because as an education center, gathering place and a demonstration site for the Dixon Water Foundation, an organization that promotes healthy watersheds using sustainable land management practices, the site promotes ecological stewardship.

“Everybody who comes through here is going to learn about this building as much as our ranches,” said Melissa Bookhout, Secretary/Treasurer and North Texas Education Director for the Dixon Water Foundations. “We feel very privileged to be a part of this building.”

Corey Squire, Sustainability Coordinator at Lake|Flato Architects lead the tour and presentation of the Pavilion and highlighted some of the milestones the building overcame to move closer to Living Building status. Squire described, in more detail, three of the seven imperatives of the Living Building Challenge that the architect focuses on: Water, Materials and Energy.

For example, as a part of the certification process, the Architect had to tabulate how much water the Pavilion used monthly. In the following video, Squire goes into detail about measuring the Pavilion’s water usage:

The biggest unknown in the Challenge was the Materials Petal, which required more than 500 hours of research, Squire said. As a result of this research, the architect now holds a database of materials that can be used on future Living Building projects. This materials matrix is downloadable and available to the public and those seeking to take on similar built projects.

Focusing on wood specifically, the Challenge requires all wood to be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, except if it is salvaged material. All the wood used in the Pavilion is salvaged Sinker Pine from Louisiana, and creates the structure that houses the herbarium, restrooms, kitchen and joining education pavilion, which acts as the central gathering room.

Inside the education pavilion, large rotating doors allow and discontinue wind flow throughout the space. As I stood in the room, I felt the 65-degree breeze come in when the doors were open, and the temperature rise slightly when they were closed.

“The main strategy for this room is that it really transforms from summer to winter,” Squire said. “Just by opening the doors and windows you can completely transform the space.”

With features such as solar panels and an east-to-west layout that promotes seasonal wind flow, the Pavilion fulfilled the Living Building Challenge™ requirement of generating all energy on site. Within the last year alone, the Pavilion generated 50 percent more energy than it used.

Toward the end of the tour, Squire pointed out one important note: “You can’t do a Living Building Challenge without the support of the owners,” he said.

Pavilion caretakers Tom Bookhout and his wife Melissa Bookhout adopted a life of sustainable farming and education, which Tom said has altered his outlook on life.

“It change my whole paradigm of thinking,” he said. “You have to think about how you’re living.”

All in all, I think the tour was incredibly educational and clearly demonstrated that Living Buildings are a possibility in Texas. I’m looking forward to when other Texas architects and designers create spaces that show they are willing and ready to step up to the Challenge.


Living Building Challenge 3.0 (pdf)

Lake | Flato: Josey Pavilion Brochure

The Dogrun: the Value of Transparency (blog post)

Outsiders getting Outside: From Dallas to the Dunes

Road Trip

Important to every life of a Studio Outsider is planning how to use our paid time off (PTO). Last year my wife and I, new to North Texas, decided to take advantage of our closer proximity to Colorado and take a road trip to  the Rocky Mountains. Our America the Beautiful Annual Pass was expiring and we wanted to squeeze-in one more park, do some hiking, and see some scenery. A (long) day’s drive from Dallas, nestled in the south Rockies, Great Sand Dunes National Park seemed like an interesting destination to visit with beautiful scenery, unique hikes, and fascinating history.

History and Geology

Originally designated in 1932 as a National Landmark, Great Sand Dunes National Park was established in 2004 to preserve the unique character of the site and to protect valuable water resources that still exist just a few feet below the surface of the sand. Covering 44,245 acres, the sand dunes are the highest in North America. Trapped between the San Juan Mountain Range to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Range to the east, the dunes rise as high as 770 feet above the San Luis Valley floor. The dunefield evolved and grew over the past 440,000 years as winds from the west deposited sand left behind by the now extinct Rio Grande River and prehistoric Lake Alamosa at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. The dunes grew higher as storms blew from the east down from the mountains pushing and depositing the sand back towards the valley floor. Contributing to this constant evolution Medano and Sand Creek run along the base of the dunefield carrying sand from the eastern edge of the dunes around to west edge where the eolian process continues in an endless loop.   

The Hikes

The Park offers incredible dune hikes as well as hikes into the Rocky Mountains and through the valley’s grasslands and wetlands. Our favorite trail was to the summit of Star Dune, the highest dune in North America. I use the term “trail” loosely as I can’t tell you how we reached the Dune. As we entered the dunefield we gradually found our way up, around, down, and across several ridges, past High Dune, and eventually to the summit of Star Dune. From Star Dune we looked across the 30 square miles of the dunefield toward the Rocky Mountains in the distance. If you remember your sled (we didn’t) you can make the trip down the dunes much quicker by sliding or sandboarding down the sandy slopes to the edge of Medano Creek.

Safe Travels

A uniquely exciting trip, I would recommend Great Sand Dunes National Park to anyone looking to escape the city for a long weekend. If by chance you have enough vacation days to extend the trip, the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is a quick and beautiful four hour drive north through the Rocky Mountains. Drive safely and remember your water and sunscreen!