Transforming Urban Landscapes: Sustainable Revitalization through Technology


A case study on sustainable practices and cutting-edge technology. 

Thriving and sustainable public spaces provide more than recreation and beauty for city-dwellers. They impart clean air and water, energy efficiency, and enormous social, economic and health benefits. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the culturally bustling city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After decades of erosion, sedimentation, and ecological struggles, the University Lakes, one of the city’s largest public spaces, is undergoing a transformative revitalization, ushering it into the 21st century as a resilient and sustainable urban landscape. 

In coordination with other public and private groups, Sasaki, a multidisciplinary design, architecture, and engineering firm, has taken on the historic University Lakes project by blending sustainable practices, natural beauty, and cutting-edge technology. With 360 acres, six lakes, and more than 60 years of history to tackle, the Sasaki team is embracing the importance of technology and collaboration to create a resilient and eco-friendly urban environment for generations to enjoy.

Sustainable mission across divisions

Over its seven decades, Sasaki has been committed to sustainability and building healthy cities, including revitalizing urban waterfronts and supporting communities. “Sustainability and sustainable stormwater practices are an integral part of every project, every department, every team at Sasaki. In addition, we have a whole team overseeing all the different divisions that is focused on sustainability, incorporating engineering, stormwater, CO₂ emissions, research, and leadership,” said Mary Sullivan, Associate, at Sasaki. 

As a pioneer of integrated design, Sasaki operates globally with three core divisions – architecture and interiors, civil engineering and landscape, and planning and urban design. With interdisciplinary expertise, the firm navigates a diverse range of projects, spanning campuses, parks, public spaces, and corporate sites.

Embracing technology for sustainable design

Recognizing the transformative role of technology in advancing sustainable practices, Sasaki has integrated high-tech tools and planning into everything they do. Technology has allowed them to elevate sustainable hydraulic design and stormwater practices to improve water quality, address flood mitigation, and preserve natural ecosystems. With advanced software capabilities, teams across functions can improve efficiency and drive sustainable objectives by automating workflows, aggregating elements, and processing information and visualizations quickly and easily.

Symetri partnership: Integration and collaboration

Challenges with their existing hydraulic modeling software led Sasaki to tap into its strategic partnership with Symetri, a leading worldwide solutions provider of technology and consultancy services, and integrate Autodesk InfoDrainage® as a design and analysis solution. The software’s adaptability with other software and ability to bring together different project facets into a single, intuitive interface made it an ideal platform for the team.

“Because we are collaborative in how we work, we wanted to be able to use everything to integrate functions – landscape, civil engineering, stormwater, and others – in a singular program with a straight-forward set up and ease of use. Its ability to save time and create efficiencies is a game-changer for us,” explained Sullivan.

The Symetri team helped develop, manage, and optimize workflows for their projects and provide ongoing training and mentoring along the way. The teams worked together to find and implement solutions that align with the firm's sustainability goals.

University Lakes project: A historical revitalization

Baton Rouge’s University Lakes project is an ongoing example of Sasaki's innovative use of technology to design and develop an environmentally resilient, vibrant public space. Originally designed in the 1920s, the lake system faced significant challenges over the years, including poor water quality, flooding, failing infrastructure, and unsafe conditions. The University Lakes project encompasses four major goals: creating a more sustainable aquatic system, increasing flood protection, enhancing the natural habitat, and improving safety and recreation. In a multi-phase effort, Sasaki's approach is focused on reusing over 600,000 cubic yards of dredge material to create innovative edge conditions and improve hydrology and ecological health. The first stage emphasis is on dredging the lakes, rebuilding bridges and paths, and reducing flood risks.

Supporting sustainability goals

The Symetri team and Autodesk InfoDrainage technology have provided both the needed expertise and tools to buoy and strengthen Sasaki’s efforts in this important project. On a macro and micro level,
the software facilitates big picture planning and analysis along with detailed designs and 2D and 3D visualization. “InfoDrainage was used for this project on a broad scale – like high level surface analysis
and designing bioretention ponds – and also on a micro level, such as moving a pipe inch by inch, sizing stormwater pipes, and generating details for construction documentation,” said Sullivan.

With the complexities of six large lakes, a main bridge, paths, and other features to coordinate, the ability to manage precise details and see how one piece affects another is critical. “The program’s ability to help in the design process via the round-tripping capabilities with Civil 3D, ease of navigation, true to scale visualizations and validation checks are invaluable as opposed to being a post design check tool. Users can visualize the impact of design decisions, with a comprehensive overview before running final results,” said Mike Gonzalez, Senior Solution Specialist, at Symetri.

“InfoDrainage was used to connect and model all elements – structures, pipes, outlets, and incorporate rain gardens and bioswales, in a larger bioretention area - all in one program. It helps all the different teams visualize and coordinate without going back and forth between programs and iterations,” added Sullivan. 

Ultimately, when priorities from different areas come together in a comprehensive and efficient way, it makes the project’s sustainability goals more accessible and achievable, contributing to a healthier, more resilient eco-system.

Collaboration and shared passion

The collaboration of Sasaki and Symetri extended beyond technology; it reflected a shared commitment to sustainability. The teams worked together to find solutions and develop workflows for more efficient stormwater modeling and green infrastructure design.

“It can be intimidating to use a new product and process, but Sasaki’s thirst for knowledge and excitement for the product made working with them a great experience. As an instructor, hearing the “lightbulb” moments when they realize that the software can do exactly what they were looking for was hugely satisfying. They asked excellent questions and made me excited to use the product as well,” said Gonzalez.

The University Lakes project serves as a blueprint for sustainable urban development, illustrating how the combination of sustainability, collaboration, and advanced technology can add new life to a historical landmark, safeguarding the ecosystem for generations to come.


For more information, visit Sasaki. 

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