Growing up on a cattle ranch at the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains, I developed early on a passion for the natural landscape and wildlife that has informed both my life and work.
Of the hundreds of projects I have done in the course of a long architectural career, the Bike Ranch is the most environmentally sensitive and most in line with my own respect for nature. Because it has engendered a lot of commentary, some of which I believe is not accurate, I’d like to explain how I arrived at the site plan for the proposed development.
In early conversations with the developer, we all recognized the potential to design a project that would not only adhere to a high standard of environmental sustainability, but that would be an example of how projects should be designed next to resource sensitive areas like Saguaro National Park.
The majority of the site also falls under the requirements of the Buffer Zone Ordinance and the Scenic Route Regulation, and our plan meets and, in most instances, exceeds all of those conditions.
Working with a leading wildlife biologist from the UA, we determined the areas of the property that were the most critical for wildlife and its connectivity with the park. As a result, buildings are sited away from washes, and there are no walls or impediments to obstruct the flow of wildlife.
The only wall on the plan is along the northern boundary of the property which is required by the Pima County Landscape Ordinance, and I would be happy to delete it if the county has a process to allow that.
The 15 buildings that comprise the Bike Ranch plan, some of which are two-story, are clustered on the site in order to create the largest amount of open space.
As a starting point, we are allocating nearly 60% of the site as natural open space, but this will increase after construction areas are restored with native plants. The Buffer Zone Ordinance allows a maximum 30% lot coverage by structures. Our actual lot coverage is 10% , one-third of what is allowed.
We also increased setbacks beyond the code requirement, and sited buildings so that they would have little or no visibility from Saguaro National Park. The building on the plan that is closest to the park is set back 275 feet from the existing Old Spanish Trail right-of-way.
When the right-of-way of 80 feet is added in, the actual separation between the Park and the nearest building is 355 feet. The minimum setback required by the code is 150 feet.
Automobiles are restricted to the east end of the campus, and internal pathways, most of which will be covered by a solar pergola, are designed for pedestrian or bicycle use.
We will be using compacted permeable materials that allow rainwater transfer and minimize any heat-sink effect on the driveways, parking areas and paths.
In order to conserve water overall, we are planning rainwater harvesting on each building and a system to recycle gray water, and will be incorporating water saving devices throughout the development.
John Riggs, AIA, is a fourth-generation native Arizonan whose family settled in Cochise County in 1879 and continues operating ranches today. He is a graduate of the UA College of Architecture, a founding partner of Architecture One, and since 1996, the principal of John Riggs Architecture.
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