2011-09-27

#Jackson Street Inventory & Analysis

The next step in the process is to fully inventory and analyze the prospective site. This involves a lot of information gathering and interpretation, through remote sensing as well as site visits. Being that this site is just down the street from my house, I’ve been able to get really familiar with it. Basically in this stage you are looking for any features and constraints that might inform your design, from high points and slope of the land to views and vegetation. On this project in particular, Taze wanted us to pay special attention to weather conditions and solar orientation. It adds a new level of information onto the design process, information that I never realized was 1. so heavily disregarded in everyday practice and 2. so constraining from a design standpoint. I can tell that having to deal with this is already making me a better designer.

Site Overview

The site chosen for this project lies to the west of Jackson Street (or Highway 389) and north of Curry Street in Starkville, Mississippi. Consisting of 7 acres of mostly undeveloped and vacant land, it lies within easy walking distance of downtown Starkville and a fairly short bike ride from Mississippi State University. Jackson Street provides easy access to the Highway 82 bypass, allowing for quick coming-and-going as well as a fairly high volume of traffic for commercial enterprise.

The site also lies near the Highway 182 corridor, a place rich with potential and perennially in need of redevelopment. Long targeted for improvement by the city, recent events are signaling a coming renaissance to the area. A new city police complex and park to be located at the corner of Jackson Street and Highway 182 will soon be voted on by the people of Starkville, and the highway itself is slated for a complete overhaul within the next few years. New eating establishments have breathed new life into area, and recently completed school buildings nearby have established this area as an important one to the city.

A conspicuously vacant lot in the middle of this redevelopment action,this site begs for an intervention. With a general housing shortage city-wide due to growth in the university and a need for affordable, reasonable housing near the city core, this site’s central location is an exciting opportunity to realize the beginning of a new community in Starkville.

Neighborhood Context

Within a half-mile radius, the site is surrounded by a fairly diverse mix of land uses. The majority of the land immediately surrounding it and to the east is single-family residential, with some multi-family residential mixed in. An 80-unit apartment complex is immediately adjacent to the north, with a smaller apartment complex across Jackson Street to the east. Commercial uses dominate the Highway 182 corridor and its intersection with Jackson Street, and this continues, increasing in density, as one moves south to downtown Starkville.

Moncrief Park lies across Jackson Street to the east, and Westside Park is right at a half-mile away to the west. Sudduth Elementary (K-2) and Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary (3-5) are within the half-mile radius, with the real potential of a greenway connecting the two schools, the two parks, and the new community with each other. This provides an exciting potential amenity for young families who could move into the new development. Though beyond the immediate scope of this project, another vacant, city-owned lot adjacent to Sudduth Elementary provides the opportunity for an additional park along this greenway. A lack of sidewalks plagues this area (and the town in general), so this addition would be well-used.

The Oktibbeha Regional Medical Center and the surrounding medical offices provides easy access to medical care, and multiple child care facilities are within easy reach as well. Starkville’s downtown provides a diverse array of dining options, though desirable jobs are hard to come by aside from employment at the University.

Site Topography & Hydrology

The site is mainly rolling hills, with few level spots. The high points on the eastern side of the site rest atop a saddle, which divides the waterflow from east to west. The other high point of the site lies on a slope in the southwestern corner. The low points are on the east and west edges of the site, lying at the bottom of drainageways that conduct water from the entire site.

The topography and hydrography of the site point to some potential design constraints. Nearly the entire site is downhill, meaning that whatever is built on the hillside will have water running into it. This does present some opportunities for imaginative stormwater management, however, and leaves the potential for plenty of greenspace to buffer the drainageways.

Another major problem this poses is one of circulation on site, specifically vehicular. No good ridges exist to run a road along, nor is the site conducive to any sort of grid. The most expedient way to access the west side of the site would be from the Starkville maintenance department driveway, but that may be difficult for them to agree with.

Slope Analysis

According to a slope analysis completed in ArcMap, very little of the site is even moderately flat. Most of the site is sloped, with the more level areas tending to be in the valleys. The level areas on the east and west sides correspond to low points on the site. The level area in the middle of the site is in a saddle; so while it is not funneling runoff, some water will flow to it.

This data points toward some interesting design solutions. Combined with the soil analysis, it is becoming clear that this is not an excellent building site. In order to keep the natural landform, some arrangement of piers and platforms will have to be devised to make this site useful.

Soils

Gullied Land-Sumter Complex (GsE) - These soils are mildly to moderately alkaline, with slow permeability and usually rapid runoff of water. This soils tends to form fingerlike gullies. Because of the severe threat of erosion, these soils should be kept permanently vegetated, with pasture plants, cedars and pines performing the best. Shrink-swell potential is high.

Kipling Silty Clay Loam (KlC2) - These soils are strongly to very strongly acid, with slow permeability and medium runoff potential. It poses only a moderate erosion threat, easily thwarted by vegetation. Pasture plants, crops (specifically sorghum, soybeans and small grains) and pines tend to do best. Very high shrink-swell potential.

Oktibbeha Silty Clay Loam (OlC2) - These soils are strongly to very strongly acid, with slow permeability and medium runoff potential. It poses only a moderate erosion threat, easily thwarted by vegetation. Pasture plants, crops (specifically sorghum, soybeans and small grains) and pines tend to do best. Shrink-swell potential ranges from low to high.

Oktibbeha Soils (OtE3) - These soils are strongly to very strongly acid, with slow permeability and usually rapid runoff of water. Because of the severe threat of erosion, these soils should be kept permanently vegetated, with pasture plants, cedars and pines performing the best. Shrink-swell potential ranges from low to high.

Due to the shrink-swell potential of these soils, they are not optimal to build on-grade. Aside from bringing in more suitable soils to build on, the most likely option is some sort of pier and grade beam set up.

Vegetation

The site is mostly clear, dominated with grasses and low-growing shrubs (as depicted in light green on the map). It is showing some signs of succession in the open areas, mostly down in the bottomlands. The land seems to have been mowed within the past year or two. The grasses are most lush along the bottomlands, while higher up the slopes, especially on the north side of the site, the grasses thin out and become less profligate. In some places, the ground is bare, exposing a white, chalky soil. Along Jackson Street on the east side of the site are old home sites, one of which was razed within the last 3 months. Lawn grass dominates here, with some crepe myrtles planted along the roadside. A fig tree is also present.

A wooded strip divides the old home sites from the main site. Consisting mostly of cedars and pines, it is fairly scrubby and unkempt in appearance. The southern part of the site is heavily wooded, with planted pines in one section. Osage-orange is also present. The bottomland on the western side of the site shows classic wet-soil vegetation, with willows and sycamores being the most common trees.

Overall, the site could be heavily replanted, though the present vegetation seems to be doing a good job of preventing erosion. From the soil analysis, pines and cedars seem to be the recommended choice; however, Mississippi has many native tree species adapted to these soils that can be employed in the landscape design of the site.

Solar

The most solar radiance on the site falls along the south-facing slopes, the best locations falling along a mainly east-west axis. A fair amount of solar radiation can also be found north-to-south along the saddle. The least amount of solar radiation is along the north-facing slope on the west side of the site, and on the west side of the saddle. Cloud cover is highly variable, however, which can lead to unreliable solar power generation.

The optimum solar orientation for the site is due 182.5 degrees south, with the limits of beneficial orientation approximately 40 degrees east and west of 182.5. The sun angles are also shown, depicted at the summer and winter solstices and the fall and spring equinoxes.

Though this analysis does not take into account the tree coverage on site, this can be altered to maximize solar gain. For optimal positioning, buildings should be oriented along the saddle north-to-south with the long side of the building facing south, and along the south-facing slopes east-to-west. Further analysis will determine exactly how building positions, heights and overhangs should be designed.

Weather

Starkville, Mississippi has a wide variety of weather. Though it does not face the prospect of much winter precipitation (usually), wide swings in temperature occur throughout the year. Summers are usually very hot, while winters can get very cold. One constant factor is the high average humidity. This makes the hot temperatures of the summer oppressive and the cold temperatures of the winter bone-chilling.

Winds in Starkville can be variable (but rarely still), and usually blow out of the south or southwest. Occasionally they will come in from the east and northeast, but almost never from the northwest. To get optimal natural ventilation, a building would need operable partitions on every side but the northwest.

Surprisingly, the winter heating needs for dwellings in Starkville outweigh the cooling needs in the summer months. The very short overlap in the graph at right demonstrates the short spring and fall here, meaning the opportunity for a conventionally-designed house to be comfortable is very small. Active and passive heating and cooling methods are needed to make the indoor environment comfortable.

Concept

The concept for this site is to develop a true community, connected to its surroundings but endowed with a unique sense of place. Through thoughtful building placement, a dynamic mix of uses, and amenities that respect the land they are built on, this site will become a loved home for the families who live in it. It will also be designed for people, accommodating cars only where necessary. This will be a community for all ages, where seniors can age in place alongside young families with children.

Goals

  1. Minimize disturbance of the land.

  2. Design for people of all ages, using universal design techniques and accommodating cars only where necessary.

  3. Provide a dynamic mix of uses.

  4. Connect with its surrounding, tying into existing infrastructure where possible and encouraging connections to area amenities.

  5. Provide spaces for connection to the land, through recreation, gardening, and agriculture.

Program

  1. Achieve at least seven dwelling units/per acre.

  2. Provide an approximately 70/30 mix of multi-family and single-family housing.

  3. Protect the existing drainageway with buffers and create a recreational amenity.

  4. Connect the site by greenway to nearby schools and parks.

  5. Use the difficult drainage conditions of the site to construct creative stormwater solutions that contribute to the design as a whole.

  6. Minimize ornamental plantings, including lawns, and plant edible landscaping wherever possible.

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Picking a Site After we looked at some built examples around town, Taze had us find three undeveloped parcels of land in town that we felt had
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Functional Diagrams After going through the inventory & analysis process, the next step is to investigate how the site should be laid out