Getting it right in mixed-use buildings

Mixed-use buildings—often a combination of retail and residential—are unique structures with varying needs. Tenants, sustainability, HVAC, and a host of other factors must be considered.


Michael Albanese, PE, LEED GA, Senior Associate, Kohrs Lonnemann Heil Engineers, Fort Thomas, Ky. Courtesy: Kohrs Lonnemann Heil EngineersDavid Callan, PE, CEM, HBDP, LEED AP, QCxP, Vice President, McGuire Engineers, Chicago. Courtesy: McGuire EngineersDonna Miller, PE, PEng, LEED AP, Vice President, Engineering, WD Partners, Dublin, Ohio. Courtesy: WD PartnersGary Poole, PE, Principal, Bury Inc., Houston. Courtesy: Bury Inc.Andrew H. Smith, PE, CEM, LEED AP, Principal, Jordan and Skala Engineers, Dallas. Courtesy: Jordan and Skala Engineers


Michael Albanese, PE, LEED GA, Senior Associate, Kohrs Lonnemann Heil Engineers, Fort Thomas, Ky.

David Callan, PE, CEM, HBDP, LEED AP, QCxP, Vice President, McGuire Engineers, Chicago

Donna Miller, PE, PEng, LEED AP, Vice President, Engineering, WD Partners, Dublin, Ohio

Gary Poole, PE, Principal, Bury Inc., Houston

Andrew H. Smith, PE, CEM, LEED AP, Principal, Jordan & Skala Engineers, Dallas  

CSE: Please describe a recent mixed-use project you've worked on.

Figure 1: Mixed-used projects in Bury Inc.’s portfolio (like Watters Creek in Dallas) generally include a combination of office spaces, hotel, residences, and parking. Courtesy: Bury Inc.Michael Albanese: One of our recent, very successful projects was U Square @ the Loop, located across the street from the University of Cincinnati campus. Financed by the university and managed by the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., this $80 million development includes 80,000 sq ft of street-level retail and 161 upscale apartments above.

Gary Poole: In recent years, our firm has been involved in many mixed-use projects of different sizes and scopes. Some of Bury's best-known mixed-use projects include The Domain in Austin (Texas), Texas Watters Creek in Dallas, and Memorial City in Houston. Our mixed-use projects have generally included some combination of office spaces, living spaces (both hotel and apartment), retail spaces, and parking facilities. These types of facilities, often more than others, greatly benefit from the creativity and cohesive vision that often come with teams who frequently work together. The typical team we see for this type of project is an experienced project manager using construction and design team members that are familiar with the project type and have an existing working relationship. For Memorial City, in particular, owned by MetroNational Corp., we have been involved with the project for many years. Memorial City includes numerous office buildings, apartments, a retail shopping mall, multiple parking garages, a hospital, and a hotel.

Andrew H. Smith: Jordan & Skala is providing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineering design on a Dallas downtown mixed-use development with Forrest City Development and GFF Architects. The project combined high-end and in-town living within a hybrid of high- and low-rise apartment buildings. The development includes a large, structured parking garage and street-level retail and restaurants. Tenant amenities included a large fitness center, two-story clubhouse, outdoor swimming pool, and leasing area.

CSE: How have the characteristics of mixed-use projects changed in recent years, and what should engineers expect to see in the near future?

Smith: The walk-up 2- and 3-story garden-style apartment development, with adjacent retail and restaurants, are less often constructed. Building high-density and mixing "live-work-play" on one site is desired by the millennial generation and is also green/sustainable. Minimal commute time is just one advantage of mixed-use developments. Current amenities are resort-style living with amazing clubhouse areas, fitness centers, yoga rooms, coffee/smoothie bars, and much more. Expect more high-rise in lieu of low-rise due to increasing land costs.

Donna Miller: The characteristics of mixed-use projects obviously vary based on location, but generally we've noticed a shift from enclosed malls and destination shopping to more lifestyle, community-type developments. The focus of the engineering systems in lifestyle communities has been directed more to sustainable systems. Sustainable systems that are budget-friendly, with low energy consumption and a short return on investment have been the most favorable with our clients.

Poole: The biggest change we have probably seen is greater support for a sustainable approach to the design of systems (energy and water, primarily). We have also seen greater concern for the security of the users and facilities, heightened requirements for fire and life safety systems, system design to support operational flexibility, and very aggressive cost control. I would expect to see these trends continue in the near future for mixed-use projects.

Albanese: Mixed-use projects continue to change just as often as the spaces are designed. Commercial office space can be quickly converted to retail, or apartment buildings can be switched to condominiums, with little renovation needed to complete. Engineers should anticipate these changes and consult with their clients on the design implications and potential issues. Engineering will continue to meet the standards set forth in energy standards and codes; however, modifications to our construction standards and methods will need to shift. A sample of proposals to the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) include ductwork insulation requirements, lighting allowances, and building envelope commissioning.

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