What Sustainability Means to Tom Papadinoff: planning for the future through design

Colorado is susceptible to drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the longest consecutive period of recorded drought in the state took place between 2001 and 2009 when we experienced it for 395 straight weeks. For the second quarter of 2020 we are forecasted as having an equal chance of above or below average precipitation. How do you plan when the predictions are so vague?

In enters RTD’s Landscape Architect and Urban Design team. Led by Tom Papadinoff, the team takes a global view of sustainability at RTD and makes design selections that can withstand varying conditions found within RTD’s eight-county district. Papadinoff is joined by Ignacio Correa-Ortiz in architecture and urban design activities while team member Garrett Christnacht serves as the architect and Andrew Bates leading electrical and mechanical activities. They work to be good stewards of the land and resources by balancing environmental, social and fiscal sustainability in their projects.

You can see the team’s design work at the stations along the Southeast Rail Extension of the E, F and R lines. This work happens to be what Papadinoff is most proud of.

“I just love it—the smooth design, interesting design, low water landscape and the sustainable features implemented at SkyRide and RidgeGate Stations, as well as RidgeGate’s parking structure,” notes Papadinoff. His love of the design is evidenced through the way he smiles as he describes it.

He and the team are also heavily involved in transit-oriented development activities, which is part of the reason why he’s so excited to see how the area around SkyRidge Station develops.

Other projects that Papadinoff is most proud of include the 40th & Airport Park-n-Ride where the team resolved a situation where vegetation was declining. Plants had been suffocating due to compacted soils and a high water table. The team selected more appropriate plants for the area and placed them in raised beds to keep them out of harm’s way—they are now thriving. Another example are the canopies at Central Park Station that were specifically designed for solar arrays and the forthcoming North Metro maintenance facility which will contain sustainable elements and be a healthy building when completed.

Papadinoff has ideas of where sustainability is headed. To him, the future of sustainability in general involves technology and automation especially in regard to autonomous vehicles. He believes they can help passengers get to their first and last mile destinations. A start could be part of Elitch Gardens’ master plan which proposes inclusion of circulators from the park to RTD stations.

What he would like to see, as a landscape architect, is RTD to implement green roofs when structurally possible. Not only are green roofs aesthetic and improve quality, but the vegetation provides a lot of benefits from increased stormwater control to health benefits and increased comfort for building occupants. Buildings in Downtown Denver in particular contribute to the heat island effect during the summer and having a green roof helps mitigate and keep things cool. But for now, Papadinoff knows the work he and his team have done have made a difference and RTD  conserve resources, create community through urban design, as well as functional and comfortable stations and Park-n-Rides, no matter the weather.