Woodlands, Texas, north of Houston, has been recognized as a model for the integration of environmental and economic concerns in a highly successful real estate development.
The project was inspired by the developer’s dream of a new town that he imagined as springing up in the midst of pine-oak woodland, but the 18,000-acre site posed serious challenges: one third of the site was within the 100-year floodplain of three creeks; flat slopes and poorly drained soils covered most of the site; heavy rains were followed by pools of standing water. Conventional drainage techniques would have been expensive and would have destroyed the woods. Instead, we proposed a “natural drainage system” that exploited the properties of existing soil, vegetation, and hydrology to drain the site and store the runoff. An added benefit was a town-wide open space system that now serves as a frame for the town.
Guidelines for Site Planning is a manual for how to achieve these objectives. It filled a crucial gap between the environmental planning studies and their application in site planning and design. For years it was distributed to developers and architects working at Woodlands.
This report was produced by Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd (WMRT) for the Woodlands Development Corporation. I was project director for and author of the report.
“The Woodlands was largely a private-sector project. It had to compete in a market where housing sold at very low prices compared with the rest of the country. That it did so while selling an innovative design that broke with the manicured look of other master planned developments in Houston it a testimony to its planners – and its developer.” Ann Forsyth, Harvard University