A Texas A&M student's award-winning design proposal for a coastal Texas city’s commercial and residential development, including natural and engineered solutions to prevent flooding, was featured in WLA, an international website showcasing outstanding plans by professionals and students.
The proposal, by graduate landscape architecture student Zixu Qiao ‘17, was her final Master of Landscape Architecture study project. It features renderings and detailed descriptions of a medium-density development for a 97-acre site in League City, which is highly vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. Qiao is now a landscape designer at Jacobs.
Her plan earned a highly coveted 2017 Student Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architecture. The award is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards a landscape architecture student can earn, said Galen Newman, associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, who chaired Qiao’s final study committee.
Her concept’s main feature is a large, central green space that also serves as a flood zone during heavy rains or a storm surge. The space’s numerous amenities include an amphitheater, boat launches, a recreational pier and walking paths. A gate protects the development from adjacent Clear Creek floodwaters and a built slope covered with vegetation mimics a natural levee.
The green space is surrounded by residential and commercial areas with permeable paving and bioswales — landscape elements with gently sloped, vegetation-filled sides that remove silt and pollution from storm water runoff and route it to larger waterways.
The design also calls for dredging low-lying areas and using the sediment to raise the elevation of the site’s higher ground, and preserving its existing wetland areas.
Qiao surveyed flood-resilient designs around the world as part of her project, eventually adopting elements of them in her final proposal.
She evaluated her concept with the National Green Values Calculator, found that the design decreases the site’s impermeable areas by 26 percent, shrinks its 100-year flood plain from 74 acres to 15 acres and provides additional advantages over conventional storm water draining methods.