The University of Arkansas Community Design Center and the U of A Office for Sustainability, both in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, have received the LafargeHolcim Acknowledgement Award for their collaborative resiliency design work with the city of Conway. This honor comes with a $20,000 prize.

Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center, and Marty Matlock, executive director of the Office for Sustainability, traveled to Chicago to receive the award at the Oct. 12 ceremony. The project, titled “Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan: A Reconciliation Landscape,” was an interdisciplinary collaboration between architects, planners, engineers, economists and ecologists.

It addresses the impact of urbanization on the 42-square-mile urban sub-watershed that incorporates much of Conway. Problems include increased flooding, water quality contamination and property damage.

The three-year project was funded by a $498,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, administered by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, with matching funds from the city of Conway, Faulkner County, the University of Central Arkansas and the Lake Conway Property Owners Association. Undergraduate and graduate students received stipends to support this work.

The Conway framework imagines a cityscape that cultivates a highly livable green urban environment that solves some of the challenges cities face from climate change. These improvements can be made through low-tech/high-concept enhancements to ordinary infrastructure investments already scheduled to serve the city’s growth.

Because urban watershed forest and prairie lands are in direct competition with cities over the very ways in which the surface area should be shaped, this plan proposes a portfolio of infrastructural elements that include green streets, water treatment art parks, urban eco-farms, conservation neighborhoods, parking gardens, riparian corridor improvements, lake aerators, vegetative harvesters and floating bio-mats, and a city greenway. The approach provides city planners and community designers with the tools to create a city with open spaces that reduce the damages from increasingly frequent extreme rainfall events.

The Conway framework plan was released as a book by ORO Editions this month. The book features transferable technology other communities can apply as a design guide for how to build a green city.

The international LafargeHolcim Awards competition is held every three years and recognizes innovative projects and future-oriented concepts on regional and global levels. Each award cycle recognizes 35 projects globally from more than 5,000 submissions from 121 countries. The award juries evaluated projects based on criteria for sustainable construction set forth by the LafargeHolcim Foundation – principles that define sustainable construction in a holistic way. 

The LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, based in Switzerland, was created in 2003 to raise awareness of the important role that architecture, engineering, urban planning and the building industry have in achieving a more sustainable future. This awards competition “seeks projects that go beyond balancing environmental performance, social responsibility, and economic growth. Projects should, in addition, exemplify architectural excellence, a high degree of transferability, and thereby extend notions of sustainable construction and design throughout all stages of a project’s lifecycle,” according to the foundation’s website. 

Luoni is a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School; Matlock is a professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Engineering. This is the second LafargeHolcim Award received by the project team of Luoni and Matlock in the program’s 14-year history; they received the 2005 Acknowledgement Award for their work in Warren, Arkansas. This award is the fourth they have received for this project.

For more information on the project, visit the Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan.

AuthorLinda Komlos