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City of Austin Permitting and Development Center wins Texas ASLA Merit Award


We’re excited to share that Texas ASLA awarded The City of Austin Permitting and Development Center (PDC) a Merit Award in the Design Constructed, Corporate category! Learn more about how PDC is setting a new standard for municipal development. Its success serves as a testament to the power of visionary planning, strategic partnerships, and creative problem-solving in shaping urban landscapes.

About the project

The City of Austin’s Permitting and Development Center (PDC) is a transformative milestone in Austin’s municipal landscape. Located in the revitalized Highland District, PDC redefines the notion that function can be beautiful in the built environment. A systems-based place, PDC is a civic destination and welcoming campus efficiently utilizing 5.1 acres through sustainable adaptive reuse and innovative water reuse technologies. The Center plants the flag for Texas’ first demonstration blackwater reclamation system, an innovative, integrated on-site reuse facility that includes a fit-for-purpose rainwater and air condition condensate that supplements the building’s closed-loop blackwater recycling system.

Economic and Community Impact

You don’t normally expect to learn about the true potential of blackwater on your way to getting a permit. That’s now likely to happen to attentive visitors to Austin’s new Permitting and Development Center (PDC). And it’s exactly what the city wants—developers confronting, face-to-face, the remarkable, cost-effective potential of water reuse technology.

The project serves as an inspiration not only for City workers but also for private sector designers, engineers, and the development community that interfaces with the public sector.

A standout feature of the PDC is its robust public realm and public access component. Beyond serving as a municipal office, the facility hosts community educational lectures, public board and commission meetings, voting sessions, and opportunities for citizens to engage with city officials on various development matters. This inclusive approach fosters transparency, participation, and collaboration, strengthening the bond between the city and its residents.

The project’s water story manifests in the central courtyard as a nod to a Texas hill country escarpment outcropping with a water feature that bubbles over the rock edges.


The living machine is comprised of two systems, nicknamed OSCAR (On-Site Collection and Reuse) and CLARA (Closed-Loop Advanced Reclaimed Assembly). CLARA processes up to 5,000 gallons per day of wastewater from the building’s sewers. Following treatment, CLARA recycles this reclaimed water back into the building, primarily for flushing toilets. This closed-loop system ensures that water is recycled repeatedly for this purpose. OSCAR, the other machine, is located beneath the central lawn adjacent to the new conference center, can collect 40,000 gallons of rainwater and air conditioning condensate. Stored in tanks, this collection irrigates PDC’s landscaping and provides water for the water features, producing a calming soundscape. It also saves energy by minimizing the need for extensive water treatment typically required for drinking water, as the collected water is already clean upon collection.

The creative combination of water reclamation technology contributes to a resilient landscape and infrastructural ecosystem that the city can use as an exemplary design for years to come.

Unified by a fit-for-purpose strategy, both OSCAR and CLARA undergo water treatment only to the extent necessary for their specific functions. This smart approach significantly minimizes energy consumption during the treatment phase by eliminating unnecessary processes. Together, OSCAR and CLARA represent a powerful synergy, contributing to the conservation of over one million gallons of drinking water annually and reducing the site’s dependence on potable water by an impressive 84%. The success of implementing Texas’ first blackwater reuse system serves as a beacon for future sustainable initiatives, showcasing a model that can be adopted by new buildings across the city, as new projects also want to promote the capture and onsite reuse of water resources.

The facility stands as the first city structure built and operated to WELL Building Standards and WELL Gold certification—the first commercial building in Austin to do so. Of the 5.1-acre site, 43% is dedicated to beneficial open space, fostering outdoor gathering and a connection to nature. Little pockets of gathering spaces welcome staff to enjoy lunch outdoors, create breakout places for visitors and allow for moments of solitude in nature just outside the building doors.