Draper, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. (Shutterstock)

A recent ULI webinar focused on innovative and sustainable development approaches at The Point in Draper, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. Called a “generational opportunity and unlike anything else done in the state,” The Point is a 600-acre (243 ha) brownfield situated near Silicon Slopes, a fast-growing technological hub, and within 100 miles (160 km) of four major universities. The Point’s development has been in process since Governor Jon M. Huntsman shared the idea in 2004. The webinar was hosted by the Curtis Infrastructure Initiative.

Considered a prime location, the project began with the formation of a prison relocation commission in 2014 and has concluded a lengthy public engagement period. The land is governed by a state-appointed board and the state land authority owns the property in perpetuity. The development aims to be a “15-minute city” and is still in the framework development stage.

Through robust feedback sessions from over 10,000 Utahans, the community’s need is centered around a vibrant mixed-use space that is sustainable, walkable, and accessible by transit while also being an innovation and financial hub. AECOM—represented by principal Avinash Srivastava—was brought in to help translate the sustainability vision into a reality through research. Sustainability goals for the development include net zero carbon emissions, efficient water use, and crafting a 15-minute city that includes all modes of transportation.

“It seems somewhat abstract, but really looking at how we use energy?  How do we link it with transportation?  and how do we create a model… for the rest of the world here because of all the mix of uses and activities that are happening here. Another significant goal was around water. Certainly, in Utah and this part of the country, water is very scarce. And how do we maximize our efficiency on the use of that water?” said Srivastava.

To answer these resource questions, a sustainable model was created simulating the energy demands, and water demands by building types, and use. The model also accounted for the use of solar panels, and the geothermal wells that already exist in the area. In addition, the model focused on more than just the baseline demand but how much various use types would cost and how to reduce use. Electric vehicle charging, bike and car shares, internal circulators, and mobility hubs were also accounted for in the usage of energy.

AECOM’s research looked into different certifications, such as ENVISION, LEED, or International Well Building Institute. Simultaneously, working with the local utility Rocky Mountain Power’s decarbonizing efforts, the improvements could save almost 77 percent of emissions by 2050, and WaterPro—an irrigation company—can provide secondary water for the development. The next step is to determine the funding alternatives to support this work. On the development side, Lincoln Property Company—represented by company vice president Abbey Ehman—expressed excitement in getting involved with the project because of the close collaboration with the municipality and the state.

“Because it is challenging and we would be remiss if we didn’t at least admit that you know anytime you’re starting to push the envelope, go a little bit further outside the boundaries, you are always in the education business,” said Ehman. The challenge with education, Ehman continues, is convincing people that the increase in cost is better in the long run for reducing carbon emissions and reducing water shortages. Furthermore, there will need to research on the soil and the potential for geothermal.webinars in knowledge finder