Since our story about Museum Tower came out, I’ve been asked a number of times whether the city of Dallas should have prevented the reflectivity problem during the permitting process. A couple of out-of-towners asked me this question at the David Dillon Symposium. The short answer: no. The long answer: no, but it could have if Museum Tower had been built on the other side of Woodall Rodgers.
I ran into an architect friend of mine over the weekend. He broke it down for me like this:
There’s a planned development district that encompasses Uptown. It’s called PD 193. It has zoning requirements that differ from the standard Dallas zoning laws. One of the requirements deals with glass reflectivity. If you build a tower in PD 193, right across Woodall from where Museum Tower now stands, your glass cannot exceed 27 percent reflectivity. Museum Tower’s glass is 44 percent reflective.
The regular Dallas zoning code just says: “A person shall not conduct a use that has a visible source of illumination that produces glare or direct illumination across a property line of an intensity that creates a nuisance or detracts from the use or enjoyment of adjacent property.” (I explored that nuisance issue here. At least one good lawyer thinks the Nasher wouldn’t have a solid claim.)
Know what’s curious? The city has adopted a green building code that encourages highly reflective glass. The more reflective the glass, the less heat is generated in the building. Less heat means less AC needed. The folks at Museum Tower stressed this to me repeatedly, that they are shooting for a high-level LEED certification. But while the building itself — any building — might be greener, its impact on neighboring buildings can be amplified.