Urban Development

Kensington Tower Architects Explain How Tower Presents a Vision of a More Resilient Salt Lake City


Published in Urban Development

In an era of urban renaissance, rapid growth, and climate change, residential high-rise buildings are not only additions to a glittering skyline; they are symbols of the way that we hope to live tomorrow. That’s exactly why the developers behind Kensington Tower, the Kensington Investment Company, and HKS, the tower’s architects, have presented a vision for a development that will tackle one of Salt Lake City’s most pressing environmental threats: air quality.

Emir Tursic, one of the lead architects at HKS who designed the tower, sat down with us to discuss how Kensington Tower is a sign of times to come, and a step toward Salt Lake City becoming an even more sophisticated, international city.

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How did this project begin?

When Kensington Investment Company approached HKS to design a high-rise apartment building in Utah, they shared common aspirations to create a building that goes beyond standard sustainable practices and features. Kensington wanted to design a unique urban community that will have an impact on the well-being of its residents and its city. The team envisioned a building design that would improve the indoor air quality for the residents, raise community awareness of outdoor air quality and set a unique example of environmental stewardship.

You’ve set some lofty sustainability goals for the project. Why? How will this one building present a better future for Salt Lake City?

Global buildings create 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions, finding ways to create more sustainable, resilient ways of building are key to creating a more healthy and equitable future. So, while the design of the tower presents an innovative vision of how people can live in Salt Lake City, it’s also tackling one of our greatest shared concerns: the quality of the air we breathe and environment we live in.

How will Kensington Tower be different? How will it change the way people live?

Many people don’t realize that they can make a difference in our air quality through the daily decisions they make. We’re addressing that in our design. The project plans to provide air quality monitors in each residence to inform and educate residents about how everyday activities, such as cooking or cleaning, affect their indoor air quality and contaminate the air. Units will have operable windows so tenants can simply open them to ventilate their residences from air contaminants. Natural ventilation will significantly improve the energy efficiency of the building, and consuming less energy directly translates to reduced emissions. In the lobby, sensors will prominently display outdoor air quality and encourage residents to ride public transportation during inversion days. Located less than a block away from a light rail stop, Kensington Tower residents will be a short ride away from the airport, the regional intermodal hub and the University of Utah. In addition to the light rail system, Kensington Tower is located on the major bus transit line on 200 South that provides access to areas not covered by the light rail system. Residents traveling to destinations not accessible by public transit will have access to electric shared vehicles and bicycles available at no charge.

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What are some of the unique design components being proposed?

The design team is taking a holistic, integrated design and construction approach. We’re drawing from the latest strategies identified in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and WELL building standards to measure, certify and monitor features of the building that will impact human health and well-being. We’re looking at air, water, light, fitness, comfort and mind. One of our most important goals is to improve not only Kensington Tower’s indoor air quality for residents, but also to maintain high air quality before exhausting it back into our city. In this sense, the building will act as city’s air filtration system. We want to set an example for other buildings to follow.

The Kensington will evaluate a variety of energy saving measures that will reduce its carbon footprint and emissions year around. We’re exploring feasibility of photovoltaic glass with the goal to produce enough electricity to power the tower’s public and amenity areas. This is one of many ways we’ve designed the building to reduce consumption of non-renewable energy.

What’s next in the process?

The project is in the early design phase and currently going through the City entitlement process. Over the next year, the design team will further explore energy and air quality strategies to optimize both their feasibility and effectiveness. Construction start is scheduled for 2021 with an estimated completion in 2024.