Design Innovation Centers for the 21st Century

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Innovation-Park-exampleby Susan Rainier, AIA

The city of Davis is reviewing and analyzing three innovation center proposals. The Gateway/Nishi property along Interstate 80 from Olive Drive west is about 44 acres, the Davis Innovation Center northwest of Highway 113 and Covell Boulevard near Sutter Davis Hospital is 208 acres and the Mace Innovation Center northeast of Mace Boulevard and I-80 is about 212 acres.

A Measure R vote is required for each project.

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 nonprofit 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 Davis 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 for present and future generations

In two previous op-ed pieces 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 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,” it states. “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 provides 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 and water, is adapted to climate and site, operates pollution-free, is composed of integrated systems and is beautiful.

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.

A beautiful example

Indigo | Hammond & Playle Architects’ new office at 909 Fifth St. 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.

Susan Rainier, AIA, an architect and “urban resiliency” planner and advocate, is the founder of Visionary series, which brings top innovators to the region. She is a Central Valley Living Future facilitator.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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13 thoughts on “Design Innovation Centers for the 21st Century”

  1. Anon

    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.”

    Why is it necessary that only one innovation park be put forward?  First, more than one innovation park has the potential to generate much more tax revenue.  Secondly, each proposed innovation park may serve different purposes.  For example, the Nishi development is considerably different than the other two proposals for innovation parks.  Nishi is part residential, is sandwiched right next to UCD w unique access issues, and is a joint partnership between the city and UCD.  Totally different animal.  It is unclear right now how the other two innovation parks differ, and I assume as the process unfolds, the picture will become clearer.  It they both serve the exact same purposes, then yes, we probably don’t need both.  If, on the other hand, they are vastly different concepts serving different markets and provide enough incentives to make them attractive for Davisites, then why not both?  IMO, I think it is important to keep an open mind, and to collaborate with each developer to encourage the innovation parks to evolve into something citizens will really want for their town.

    1. Davis Progressive

      again the likelihood of voters approving two or more seems remote and there are concerns that if the vote gets split, none would be approved.

      1. Frankly

        I think you are missing some considerations.

        1. The other two innovation parks will built out over 20 years.

        2. The fiscal benefits to the city are profound.

        3. We only need 50%+1

        4. Related to the previous, all we need to do is mobilize the youth vote in a campaign of hope and change.  The grumpy old no-changers won’t stand a chance.

        1. Barack Palin

          Frankly, you’re on to something here.  If our college kids were informed that they might actually have a good job in town if they vote for the parks I think it would work.

  2. Anon

    you still have to convince the largely slow growth voters to approve it and that will be harder if they believe this is larger.”

    There is a huge assumption here that the slow/no growthers outnumber the smart growthers!  Not necessarily, especially now, in light of the city’s abysmal fiscal situation, the lack of jobs in this city, Davis schools closing for lack of students, among other considerations.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i agree with that point.  however, i think i’m justified in using history as a guide and that arguing that history is not a guide requires some sort of extra showing by you.

  3. Topcat

    Wow.  My head is spinning after reading all the buzzwords and gobbledygook in this article. Does the author really think that this non-sensical drivel will make the project they propose more exciting for the citizens of Davis? Perhaps it would be fun to translate it into normal English.

    Here’s a list of the most obvious gobbledygook phrases that I saw:

    * Innovation Hub
    * criteria-performance-based selection
    * best value and greatest innovation
    * sustainable design and planning in the face of the environmental and climate crises we now face
    * Living Community Challenge of the Living Future Institute
    * performance-based competition
    * a hub for visionary programs
    * global strategies for lasting sustainability
    * grounded and relevant solutions
    * embracing the psychology of the endgame
    * direct path to a future in which all life can thrive
    * socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative
    * Community-Driven Transformation
    * a path to a regenerative future

    1. Don Shor

      [moderator] Re: “gobbledygook … non-sensical drivel….”
      We request that comments to guest articles be more respectful to the author. If you have specific criticisms or comments about the content, please discuss those.

  4. Tia Will

    Topcat

    Perhaps it would be fun to translate it into normal English.”

    Ok, since you seem to be having difficulty, I will give it a shot albeit from the perspective of medicine.

    1. Innovation Hub – I have heard this phrase from developers, businessmen, and city council staff and council members so I was just trusting that it had real meaning. My interpretation is a central place where people on the cutting edge in their various fields can collaborate and draw ideas from each other aided by their proximity.

    2. Criteria performance based selection – I think that this is exactly what we do every time we decide who to hire, who to promote, or which instruments to invest in. We decide what criteria and the most important to the task at hand, decide which person or piece of equipment has the best performance with regard to the criteria we have selected and make our selection accordingly.

    3. Best value and greatest innovation.

    Value is not hard to understand. I perceive it as being the best outcome at the lowest cost or with least disadvantages. Greatest innovation is a little harder because you have to decide if you want something that is merely innovative in the sense that it does not exist in Davis, or whether you want something that does not yet exist in this country.

    4. Sustainable planning…..

    I don’t think that this is particularly difficult to understand. Think of the difference between a truly energy efficient design and the “green washing ” that was done in getting approval for the Target by saying “look how many trees we are going to plant in this huge parking lot”.

    5. Performance based competition

    Isn’t that what the free market that so many seem to idealize is all about ? I can’t see how this is at all difficult to understand. Nor do I understand why one would not value competition between developers if competition is a value you hold dear.

    6. A hub for visionary programs – see # 1

    Isn’t this exactly what the city said it wanted and the developers claim they are providing?

    7.Global strategies for sustainability

    Well I thought that this was a centerpiece of what Chancellor Katehi has been promoting as part of the mission of the university. If we want to be a world leader, this would certainly be on the list of the provision of global leadership.

    8. Grounded and relevant solutions.

    This also seems very clear to me as someone who is frequently on this blog accused of utopian ( ungrounded) and irrelevant ideas.

    9. Direct path to a future in which we can all thrive.

    This comment is certainly not unique to this author. We have heard it from each of the developers and it has been espoused hear by the “smart growth” or “grow as fast as we can” proponents who are fond of telling the “slow growthers” that if we just get on board or at least get out of the way, we can be sure that we will like the “new and improved Davis” even better.

    10. Community driven transformation – with the requirement for a measure R vote, do you really believe that “innovation centers” have much of a chance if they are not “community driven” projects, at least conceptually ?

    For the items I did not comment on, I also am not sure what is meant. But because I cannot decipher them meaning of something does not mean that it does not have meaning or substance. It just means that I don’t understand.

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