JANUARY 12, 2021 – A new outdoor classroom at UTSA will provide science students and the San Antonio community with opportunities to get their hands wet via water education. The Cypress Living Laboratory is designed to promote habitat and environmental education opportunities associated with the Edwards Aquifer watershed, including the laboratory’s adjacent creek ecosystem.
Designed by Ford, Powell & Carson, the state-of-the-art facility is part of a $2.6 million project funded by the City of San Antonio’s Proposition 1 Edwards Aquifer Protection Venue Project.
The innovative project supports UTSA’s Classroom to Career initiative, which creates experiential learning environments for students. In addition to an open concept classroom, the approximately 2,000-square-foot building will include multiple low-impact development features to manage storm runoff and will showcase best management practices for improving water quality and quantity. The San Antonio River Authority, which is contracted by the city to administer the program that funds this project, is providing guidance to UTSA and its design team on the living laboratory’s low-impact development components.
An eco-friendly green roof, bioswale and bio retention areas will be functional examples and educational areas for students and the community to learn about water issues, such as the impact of urbanization on water quality over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. UTSA also plans to use the space for outreach activities and summer camps open to the community.
“We are so excited to add this facility to our outreach initiatives,” said Janis Bush, who is project lead as well as chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Ecology and associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Sciences. “This unique building will enhance our students’ experiential learning opportunities by providing hands-on education to prepare them to tackle environmental challenges facing our world, such as water quality, water quantity and water management.”
This is the first building of a planned nature area on the northwest corner of Main Campus within a dedicated 11-acre set aside for the College of Sciences. The Cypress Living Laboratory is a project under the Campus Master Plan and is the first new building at UTSA to be named after a native Texas tree.
“The Cypress Living Laboratory will serve as a unique and aesthetic long-term education destination for San Antonio’s K–12 students and university students to learn about the importance of protecting the Edwards Aquifer—our primary source of drinking water—while observing how the project’s [low-impact development] features, which are still a relatively new concept to the San Antonio area, can improve water quality,” said Homer Garcia III, director for San Antonio’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Ford, Powell & Carson has supported UTSA’s growth as San Antonio’s urban-serving university since the inception of the university. Fifty years ago the architecture firm designed the original three UTSA classroom buildings, Library-Administration Building and Sombrilla. UTSA alumni Celeste Taylor ’04, Mark Henderson ’14, M.Arch. ’16 and Andy Castillo ’07, M.Arch. ’10 are part of the current Ford, Powell & Carson design team.
Construction of the Cypress Living Laboratory is scheduled to begin this month and is expected to be ready for students, faculty and the community to use this summer.
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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.