Thirty miles (48 km) north of downtown Houston, a new community is taking shape. The vision of developer CDC Houston, Springwoods Village has been master planned by Design Workshop with sustainable design guidelines developed by Gensler to balance the natural attributes of the land, to protect the existing ecosystem, and to provide a mix of uses and the density required for a true live/work/play environment. The project is under construction, and the first development parcel is expected to be complete in 2015. Over the next 15 years, Springwoods is intended to support a population of 50,000 residents and workers in single- and multifamily homes, corporate campuses, retail shops, restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, libraries, churches, and community centers.

Leveraging Site Assets

A creek flows through the land, whose 2,000 acres (809 ha) include three distinct ecosystems—forest, savannah, and wetlands—that support a wide variety of bird, fish, and mammal species. Not only will the creek be maintained, but it will also be connected to multiple preserves along its course to create a contiguous, forested corridor for recreation and education. Yet this is more than just a selling-point amenity for residents and workers: the creek and wetlands system will serve the community as part of a low-impact design for stormwater catchment and reuse. Runoff from the development will pass through biofiltration wetlands before flowing into storage ponds, which will be engineered to handle large storms.


Because Springwoods Village is in an unincorporated area outside Houston, it is not served by standard Houston utilities. In addition, as is customary in Houston, stormwater and sanitary sewer water are kept separate from one another. All stormwater will be remediated on site through an interconnected, green system of permeable paving, bioswales, and water features. All roadways and parking areas on site will be designed to minimize sheetwater flow and other flooding impacts. As Springwoods is built out, design standards will encourage parcel developers to harvest rainwater through green roofs and other systems. The result of these cumulative efforts is that stormwater will not go to the wastewater plant, and all storm­water will be cleaned on site.

Sanitary sewer water, on the other hand, will be treated at the on-site wastewater plant, which will be capable of generating on-site power through solar panels. After it is treated, it will be retained at a large water feature on the eastern part of the site. There, it will be saved for reuse for irrigation, cooling towers, and fire suppression, and will ultimately return to the natural water flow system (on-site creeks that feed into nearby regional lakes).


Community dependence on municipal power will be lessened in two ways: through the use of independent, renewable-energy systems, including wind farms, sited throughout the development; and through the layout of buildings and streets, which will take advantage of prevailing winds to help ventilate the community and reduce the need for energy-hogging air-conditioning systems.

Springwoods Village will be able to provide synergies of different uses to mitigate the need for residents, workers, and visitors to leave the area for food, water, power, and services should disaster strike. In essence, thanks to its resilience-focused design, Springwoods will be practically self-sufficient.

This case study is related to the article: Minimizing Risk in an Era of Resilience