Greenplex -- A Sustainable Urban Form for the 21st Century

EPA Grant Number: SU835522
Title: Greenplex -- A Sustainable Urban Form for the 21st Century
Investigators: Balling, Richard J , Farnsworth, Clifton B , Borup, M. Brett , Walters, Lawrence C , Schultz, Grant G , Ward, Carol J , Clay, Michael J , Tripeny, Patrick J , Jones, Matthew
Current Investigators: Balling, Richard J , Farnsworth, Clifton B , Borup, M. Brett , Walters, Lawrence C , Schultz, Grant G , Ward, Carol J , Clay, Michael J , Tripeny, Patrick J , McCall, Amy , Valdez, Arnold , Mecham, Bradley , Farnes, Cree , Humble, Jarrett , Buxton, Jeff , Cummings, Kayla , Nilforoushan, Massih , Jones, Matthew , Newbold, M’kynzi , Christensen, Sam , Burdette, Seth , Withers, Stuart , Antonov, Teodor
Institution: Brigham Young University , University of Utah
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Challenge Area - Air Quality , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


The technical challenge addressed by this project is the design of a sustainable urban form for future cities.  Current urban forms such as low-density sprawl and high-density skyscrapers are not sustainable because they gobble up land, waste energy, pollute the air and water, do not adequately protect people, and suffer from car-dependency and traffic congestion.  The project investigates a new urban form called the greenplex.  The greenplex consists of tall buildings massively interconnected with skybridges to create a three-dimensional, walkable, car-free community.  Optimization techniques will be used to mix residential and commercial space both horizontally and vertically.  The lightweight transparent material, ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), spans between the building roofs creating tall sheltered atria between buildings.  This envelope protects people from severe weather and significantly reduces exposed surface area, thus reducing energy consumption for heating and air-conditioning.  The greenplex is sustained with innovative green technologies such as ground-source heat pumps, hydronic heating/cooling, natural ventilation and lighting, onsite wastewater treatment/recycling, and surface collection of solar/wind energy and rainwater.


The multidisciplinary student team will design a University Community Greenplex for Brigham Young University in the city of Provo, Utah.  Space will be included for all university functions, student housing, residences for all faculty and staff and their families, stores, restaurants, medical facilities, schools, churches, entertainment/recreation establishments, and residences for the people that operate these support services.  It will not include manufacturing, industrial, or agricultural space.  The primary benefit to people is the walkability of the greenplex community -- everything is within half a mile.  The absence of cars in the greenplex benefits people by eliminating noise, congestion, traffic accidents, air pollution, wasted time, and stress.  The greenplex dramatically reduces energy consumption, carbon footprint, and air pollution by eliminating gas-powered vehicles, by reducing exposed surface area, and by utilizing a variety of green technologies.  The consumption of land and the environmental impact on the local aquifer and watershed are also reduced.  The prosperity of greenplex occupants is enhanced by reducing heating and power bills, by eliminating costs for gasoline and car insurance/maintenance, and by reducing health care costs.  The sustainability of the greenplex form will be shared with freshman and senior students, the technical community, and the public media.

Expected Results:

Outputs include images of architecture, space usage, social design, elevators, skybridges, ETFE envelope, structures, construction process, HVAC system, and water system.  Outputs include performance metrics for the University Community Greenplex and traditional university communities dominated by sprawl and/or skyscraper forms.  These metrics include the reduction in air pollution, energy consumption, travel time, construction/maintenance cost, and water requirement.  Another output is a financial plan investigating market viability of the greenplex.  Outcomes demonstrate that a highly-connected, three-dimensional, mixed-use, car-free, walkable community is possible, and that congestion can be eliminated.  Outcomes include the benefits of sheltering people from severe weather and providing them with multiple emergency escape routes.  Outcomes demonstrate that a variety of green technologies and optimization techniques can advance the goal of a net-zero energy/water community.  The final outcome is that the greenplex form is a profitable investment.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 8 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report