LifeWorks is a non-profit branch that provides a model for sustainable design in low-income neighborhoods. Located in East Austin, a socioeconomically-disadvantaged area, the 33,467 sq ft facility will provide a hub for educational and financial literacy in Central Texas.
The massing of the building is a play on the Texas vernacular “dog trot”, which breaks the building into two parts connected by a shaded breezeway. Deep overhangs capture prevailing winds and provide shade to a rhythmic arrangement of windows, while outdoor spaces offer flexible meeting areas. To reinforce the urban nature of its site, the building establishes a strong edge that follows the curvature of the adjacent road. A generous colonnade acts as a communal “front porch,” inviting visitors in and providing shade, refuge, identity and light. Wrapped bands of stucco, aluminum and cedar wood on the façade represent the organization’s three cornerstones: counseling, education and youth development.
The interior utilizes colors to create a simply yet effective visual wayfinding strategy. A tranquil, uplifting palette minimizes the institutional nature of the facility and amplifies the spirit of healing, inspiration and confidence that permeates the organization. Flexibility was a major priority, since several rooms had to accommodate both large group counseling sessions and individual break-out meetings. . In response, the interior includes sevecorral spaces that can be broken up into more intimate segments
via movable furniture and partitions. The seamless integration of sustainability into all aspects of LifeWorks sets a precedent for responsible development that encourages public health, connectivity and diversity in fractured, low-income communities. LifeWorks is the fourth commercial project to receive a 5-star sustainability rating from the Austin Energy Green Building program, the nation’s first green building program and the model for the LEED certification system. Since the commercial rating program’s inception in 1995, only 2.7% of projects have achieved a 5-star rating. Despite a tight budget ($158/sq ft), sustainability was conceived of as a central part of the design. During construction, 82.9% of waste was recycled or salvaged, and 52.5% of the building materials were sourced in-state. When compared to a baseline case study by a third-party commissioning agent, the LifeWorks facility uses 79.6% less energy (40% via energy-saving features plus 39.6% via on-site solar power generation), 80% less potable water for irrigation, and 28.3% less indoor potable water. Over 90% of the occupied spaces have exterior views and natural light.