Landscape architecture student’s concept earns coveted award

Zixu Qiao

A resilient residential and commercial development design for coastal League City, Texas that includes natural and engineered solutions to protect it from flooding earned its creator, Zixu Qiao ’17, a recent Texas A&M [Master of Landscape Architecture] ( graduate, a highly coveted 2017 [Student Honor Award] ( from the American Society of Landscape Architecture.

Juried by leading industry professionals and academics, the awards competition recognizes the best work of landscape architecture students around the world. Qiao, now a landscape designer at [Jacobs] ( , and her fellow award recipients will be honored Oct. 23, 2017 at the ASLA [Annual Meeting and EXPO] ( in Los Angeles.

“This is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards a student in landscape architecture can receive,” said Galen Newman, associate professor in the [Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning] ( , who chaired the committee for the project, Qiao’s final study.

In her project, “Climate Change Armor Toolkit,” Qiao designed a medium-density development for a 97-acre site earmarked by League City as a low-density residential site.

“Located 25 miles southeast of downtown Houston, League City is highly vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise,” said Qiao, who surveyed flood-resilient designs around the world as part of her project, eventually adopting elements of them in her final design.

Her concept’s main feature is a large, central green space, which includes numerous amenities such as an amphitheater, boat launches, a recreational pier and walking paths, that also serves as a flood zone during heavy rains or a storm surge.

The green space is surrounded by residential and commercial areas with permeable paving and bioswales — landscape elements with gently sloped sides filled with vegetation that remove silt and pollution from storm water runoff and routes it to larger waterways.

The design also calls for dredging already low lying areas and using the sediment to raise the elevation of the site’s higher ground, and preserving its existing wetland areas.

Her design also includes a gate to protect the development from floodwaters from adjacent Clear Creek and a built slope covered with vegetation that mimics a natural levee.

Qiao, who evaluated her concept with the [National Green Values Calculator] ( , found that the design decreases the site’s impermeable areas by 26 percent, shrinks its 100-hear flood plain from 74 acres to 15 acres and provides additional advantages over conventional storm water draining methods.

Richard Nira

posted September 14, 2017