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GREEN Austin City Hall

The GREEN City Hall of Austin Texas


Austin TX City Hall Planning

When planning for the City Hall building, the City of Austin wanted it to be both very open and transparent as well as GREEN, green enough to obtain a LEED Certification. Architects were invited to submit proposals and these were displayed for the public’s input. New Mexican architect Antoine Predock was chosen for the project. He came to Austin and spent two weeks learning about the culture, people and the landscape of the Hill Country, Austin and the prairie land east of Austin.  The building is designed to look like two hills with a valley in between.

Austin TX City Hall Build 

Lead and asbestos were carefully handled during the demolition of the old building.  About 60-65% of the steel, glass and concrete in the old building were recycled.  Our Tour Guide indicated that this recycling effort was the biggest piece of what led to the Austin City Hall obtaining the highly coveted LEED Gold certification*.  Austin’s City Hall was built in 2 phases. The first phase was the excavation of the hole for the garage in 2001. During the digging an underground stream was found which flowed into Ladybird Lake.  Some of this water was redirected for irrigation at City Hall.

Austin TX City Hall Features

Pollution Sensors 

A series of sensors measure the amount of pollutants from automobile traffic in the underground garage. As pollutants build up fans are activated to evacuate the air. Since the fans do not run all the time, such as when there is no traffic in the parking garage, this feature saves the city about $200,000. a year.

 Rooftop Gardens: 

The plaza is at street level, but since the parking garage is underneath it, the Plaza is actually a roof. So the trees and other plantings on the Plaza are a green roof feature. The trees and plantings bring a sense of nature to the building as well as serve the purpose of mitigation of the heat island effect.  There is a Treaty Oak sapling, raised by a local nursery from an acorn of the Treaty Oak. The Treaty Oak offspring serves as the sun around which the 9 planets orbit around in an artist’s rendition of the solar system on the plaza.   

 Waterfall Wall: 

City Hall’s HVAC system collects about 485 gallons of water a day from conditioning the inside air. This water is used in both the garage waterfall wall and the whirlpool on the plaza at street level. The waterfall wall was designed to look like the cliffs of sheer rock in the Hill Country that show the layers of sedimentation. Water seeps through these walls and trickles down.  One place to see rock walls like this is on 360 (aka Capital of Texas Highway).


About 82% of the copper used in the building is recycled. Limestone from Leuders, Texas (near Amarillo) was used. Locally milled pecan was used as a veneer over compressed straw on most furnishings for the building. On the seating side of the 9 seat dias there is a strip of oak milled from the part of the Treaty Oak removed in saving the tree when it was poisoned years ago.  About a third of the tree had to be removed and now serves as a way city officials can have their hand on the past as well as the present. There are seats for all City Council as well as the City Manager and City Attorney.  Also in the City Council Chambers are copper batwing clouds hanging from the ceiling. These have acoustic material on top and help absorb sound, this improving the acoustics of the chamber. 99% of the structural steel used in the Hall’s construction is recycled, 90% of the wallboard is recycled, 45% of the concrete masonry is recycled. Low VOC paint was used. The carpet used is made from recycled milk jugs and is squares instead of wide rolls. In this way, if one area is damaged, a square or two can be replaced and there is no need to replace a whole room.    


Natural day lighting is used as much as possible. Most lights are on motion sensors.  All hallways lead to a window. The buildings occupants can see nature outside as much as possible.

 Solar Panels: 

The solar panels on the plaza provide shade for the amphitheatre. They generate about 9 kilowatts per day, electricity that goes back into the grid.

 Mayor’s Ceremonial Room: 

This room was created so the Mayor of Austin would have a room to meet with dignitaries in. There is a window that was created in this room with a view to the Congress Avenue Bridge where the bats hang and fly from.

 A new Channel 6 Studio was created for the entity that films all city council meetings for the public. There are recycling containers in each room.  City Hall is an accessible building. Tours are given to people of all ages. Free wireless internet service is available throughout.

Ongoing at City Hall: 

Live Music Performances: 

Live from the plaza every Friday is live music. If you can’t make it down to experience it in person, the performances stream live on Channel 6. 

Art Exhibits: 

There are ongoing art exhibits at City Hall. The public is invited to come and enjoy the work of local artists.  Self guided tour books are available to see and learn about the art at your own pace. Among the current collections being exhibited are the “Phrophecy of Peace” prints by the late artist Geoffrey Graham of Bastrop.  There is no charge to exhibit at The People’s Gallery at City Hall. Around the 5th of January or so is the deadline for art exibitors.

Notes taken from 3-25-09 The Austin City Hall Green Tour given by City Hall employee Melodye Foust as well as the booklet “City Hall”. Melodye is extremely knowledgeable & proud of the building she works in. 

*The U.S. Green Building Council quantifies green buildings by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED sustainability rating system.

Austin’s City Hall is located at 301 W. Second St. in Austin, TX 78701 Across from the W and the Moody Theatre where Austin City Limits live concerts are held.  


Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed, reader must verify.

Betty Saenz is a licensed REALTOR® in the state of Texas.

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