A planned $150 million “urban living laboratory” — complete with apartments, office space and tenants — could help pave the way to more sustainable communities.

At least that’s what the Texas A&M University System and Dallas-based Realty Appreciation have in mind with what a Reuters story describes as “a commercial and residential incubator where cutting-edge sensors will monitor data on everything from light bulbs to appliances and toilets.”
“There’s nothing like it in the world,” Realty Appreciation’s Director of Real Estate Kevin Rogers said in a presentation last month at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School.
The urban living laboratory will be on 73 acres at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas.

Johnson Controls is developing the technology platform that will collect data from every thermostat and faucet in the community for analysis. Rogers said the data will show “how people are utilizing these products, so we know how behavior affects the performance.”

J.P. Hymel with Johnson Controls told Reuters the data will allow researchers to “study the process of building a green community — the design and construction — as well as the operation and management.”

How many people could the 1.2 million-sf laboratory/community accommodate? In his presentation at Mays Business School, Rogers said it will provide apartment housing for 3,500 tenants, and it will have office space for 1,800 permanent, on-site jobs. That’s in addition to the 150 research positions the project will require.
Companies such as General Electric, Philips Electronics, Owens Corning, LG Electronics and Kimberly-Clark have already agreed to donate products and appliances to the project. While they’ll benefit by learning how their products are used and how effective they are, people who choose to live in the community could gain something from the arrangement as well.
For example, in addition to enjoying use of “smart” appliances donated by the corporate partners, Rogers said they might pay a reduced rent and 50 to 70 percent less in utilities.

Work is expected to begin on the project late next year.

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