The Austonian is considered a remarkable achievement in the history of architectural development in the 21st century. The towering skyscraper sets a new standard of urban luxury living which made the city of Austin proud of its existence. What made Austonian unique from its neighboring counterparts? Its commitment to energy conservation, restoration of natural resources and utilization of construction materials from sustainable resources are the major factors that sets Austonian apart from all other buildings. The Austonian’s effort to restore and incorporate the Brown-Dumas blacksmith shop represents the architecture of cultural significance that recognizes Austinite’s cultural heritage. In these modern times, people prefer to live in higher-density areas where all the basic necessities and luxury of living is accessible by just a push of a button. The Austonian made it possible by creating urban luxury homes with its finest craftsmanship built in an eco-friendly and green living environment. With their incomparable amenities, residents experienced luxurious, convenient and healthy lifestyle. Its distinctive construction techniques and methods made Austonian an icon of environmental awareness combined with luxury and high technology. The team of developers, consultants and construction engineers made a brilliant project and they deserved to earn such awards and recognition for a job well done.
Keywords: Austonian, skyscraper, architecture, amenities
Austonian is the tallest residential skyscraper located in downtown Austin, Texas. The 56-story building was developed in 2006 by Benchmark Land Development, a subsidiary of Grupo Villar Mir, the largest Spanish industrial group. The structure of the building was built by CBM Engineers with Balfour Beatty Construction as the main contractor. Austonian is owned by Moreland Properties and its construction costs $200 million. It started its groundbreaking ceremony on August 31, 2007 and was opened in June 2010. The Austonian is the only high-rise residential building in Austin to earn a rating of Four Stars from Austin Energy Green Building in November, 2010. The majestic building lies in the vicinity of shopping, dining and entertainment centers in the heart of the city where residents are just steps away from parks, establishments and other services.
Uniqueness of the Architecture
The Austonian Tower’s award- winning design and construction was created by Ziegler Cooper Architects. Ziegler Cooper is a well- known architectural firm known for its high-rise residential projects in metro Texas. The firm won the project due to their expertise in designing urban residential high-rise buildings. The Austonian represents a post-modern architectural design with a graceful and slender elliptical structure and a curved slope allowing a breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view overlooking the Capitol View Corridor and its surrounding hill country. Its significant architecture includes the preservation of the historic Brown- Dumas Blacksmith shop which lies on the intersection of Congress Avenue and 2nd street. (The Austonian 2011) noted that the base of the Austonian building featured the unique history of 100-year old facade of the Brown-dumas Blacksmith Shop which used to be an integral part of Austin's commercial center where dirt, horses and buggies used to dominate the streets. The restoration was made possible by integrating its original building materials into the tower. The façade which stands as a reminder of the early 20th century building was awarded as a historic landmark designation. The magnificent Austonian is a signature building that fosters green living which provides unequalled glitz of amenities. The commitment to protect and to conserve natural resources is the key factor in designing and developing the building. Its condominiums are tailored according to the homeowner’s needs and personalities. Austonian is regarded as a piece of art that made residents proud to live in their distinct and unique homes.
Significant Engineering Features
Austonian has been conceptualized as a “timeless building” that could endure landscape development changes for many years. It is the tallest and most complex building in the Austin skyline designed for urban sustainable living which occupies one third of a city block with unique design and engineering features. The 683 ft tall building with its 622 ft roof and 607 ft top floor is consists of 56 floors with an area of 590,870 square feet. The concrete tower is oval shaped that measures163’on long axis and 90’ on short axis. The building’s state of the art engineering features a 6,000 square feet fitness center with high-level fitness facilities on the 56th floor, a media room with a Grand Cinema ceiling-mounted HD projector with theater and climate controls through a wireless tablet. According to (Spencer 2009), the building's other amenities includes the 55th floor sky lounge with 6,000 square feet of entertaining space, street-level retail restaurants, touch-screen climate, lighting, media and security controls in each homes. It has 43 residential floors where each home is provided with home automation systems such as audio controls, thermostats and security systems with state-of-the-art network that uses Ethernet Technology. It has seven parking lots which were placed below the first and second floor retails and inside the building beginning on the third floor. The parking lot is private and completely secure which can only be accessed through a key fob or pass code. Additional features of the building include bicycle storage, climate-controlled wine vault, private storage spaces, innovative acoustical engineering and automated recycling on each floor. The Austonian takes pride with its unique aspects of eco-friendly landscape architecture that creates peaceful atmosphere. Its outdoor amenities include the 10th floor Lawn with a 75 foot swimming pool complimented with eight foaming bubbler fountains and luxurious in-water seating area and Promenade sundeck. It also features secluded areas with a seven-seat saltwater spa and eight luxurious private cabanas on the borders. Added to that is an outdoor kitchen completely furnished with a grill and a stovetop and outdoor fireplaces. On the west side of the Lawn is a 600 square ft dog park built with Synlawn synthetic grass and a draining system for pets. Austonian is built on a high-rise framework which lessened the influence
on land, energy and other resources, placing life within walking distance
with lesser need to drive thus reducing pollution and congestion.
Construction Materials Used
The Austonian is built with a caisson foundation system using structural concrete materials with a light blue colored glass facade and flat roofing system. The structure of the building is connected through a foundation of a drilled pier that is 8’-0” in diameter into the bedrock with a 30’ wide shear wall core structure and columns with post- tensioned flat slab floor system. An 8 ½” thick post-tensioned floor slab was used for the floor span measuring 30’. The Austonian also used construction materials that adhere to the strict low volatile organic compound (VOC) standards as a requirement from the LEED Green Building Rating System. All adhesives, sealants, paints and its roofing system is a combination of reflective materials and sustainable sources that reduces urban heat. Building ventilation requirements are reduced and indoor air quality is improved through the use of low off- gassing materials. According to (Mahn 2010), Landscape architect TBG Partners Inc., made emphasis on urban setting by incorporating street level design into pedestrian-oriented elements that coordinated transition from the building to the street through the use of standard paving materials, street trees and furnishings along the curb line and distinct spaces highlighted by planters, trellises and landscape materials.
Austonian interiors have the best finish quality with a variety of hardwood floors, marble kitchen, bathroom countertops, 10 foot ceilings, solar shades, Italian cabinetry and designer fixtures that comes in different tastes of colors and finish-out choices.
Construction Techniques and Methods
engineering team conducted an extensive wind tunnel tests that could
endure high winds exceeding 100 miles per hour. Outrigger walls were built in between the 31st and 32nd floors connecting them to the exterior columns. A splashing shock absorber was built at the top of the tower and deployed hundreds of thousands of galloons of enclosed fluid to counter the motion. Its unique irrigation system that uses water condensed from its air conditioning system in landscape watering of The Lawn’s urban garden saves up to 33 million gallons each year. The Lawn is designed as a green roof system that utilizes 65 different plants species to create a cooling effect. Each home is provided with at least 75% of natural lighting due to its elliptical shape which minimizes electrical lighting requirements. The lighting is kept on only when needed through sensors and dimming ballasts. (Ballinger 2011) states that energy and water conservation was practiced through the use of drought-tolerant plants on landscaping, a shade canopy made of two 300-gallon trees, an irrigation system that uses condensed water from the building’s HVAC system, a reflective roofing system, specially insulated glass with a low-emitting coating and a street-level dining terrace with a vegetated canopy. In association with the City of Austin’s chilled water system, it uses chilled water for air conditioning. Each home is built with low-flow lavatories which lessens 30% of potable water usage. Each residential floor is provided with automated recycling channels connected to collection chamber at the ground floor. The Austonian’s support for energy and natural resources conservation and its dedication to foster a healthy living earned them a Going Green Award in 2011 from the Austin Business Journal.
Ballinger, B., High on Green. (February14, 2011). MultiFamily Executive Projects. Retrieved from http://www.multifamilyexecutive.com/projects/high-on-green.aspx
Historic Preservation: A Walk Down 2nd Street in Downtown Austin (April 18, 2011). The Austonian. Retrieved from
Mahn, D.,Four- Stars for the Austonian. (November 24, 2010) Benchmark.
Retrieved from http://benchmarktx.net/4-stars-for-the-austonian/
Spencer, I.,Austin’s Tallest Building Halfway There (January 27, 2009). Architectural Record. Retrieved from http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/090127austonian.asp