SITES Project Spotlight: The University of Texas at El Paso

Recently, the University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP) Campus Transformation Project was awarded SITES® Silver certification, in addition to becoming the first project to certify under SITES v2. SITES owner Green Building Certification Inc. sat down with some of the project team members to get their insights into pursuing SITES at the Campus Transformation Project (CTP).

Heather Venhaus is principal of Regenerative Environmental Design in Austin, Texas, and was the sustainability consultant to the project, and Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, is president and principal in charge of UTEP’s CTP.

Why did you choose to pursue SITES certification at UTEP?

Ten Eyck: We, as a design team, felt the CTP would be a great project for SITES because we would be transforming a vehicular-oriented core campus into a community landscape that created social and recreational spaces, while linking the campus with the surrounding watershed and Chihuahuan Desert region.

We mentioned the possibility of SITES to the university, and they enthusiastically supported pursuing SITES certification from day one. We knew it would be ambitious being an 11.5-acre site, but being a research university, we felt it was a great fit.

What makes the Campus Transformation Project so remarkable?

Venhaus: The CTP is a great project for many reasons; however, I am most proud of the social equity, human health and stormwater achievements. The site is located on the U.S.-Mexico border in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez binational metropolitan area. More than half of the University’s students are first-generation college students. The site provides public access to a sustainable landscape that is unique to the El Paso region. Visitors can experience mental respite, socializing and physical activity in a space that reflects the natural beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert eco-region.

In addition, the 98th percentile stormwater event is managed in vegetated arroyos and acequias that mimic natural desert waterways. The stormwater system connects the Franklin Mountains in the upper portions of the watershed to downstream arroyos and allows visitors to witness and enjoy sustainable water management.

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