Just four miles west of St Louis’ downtown core sits Cortex Innovation Community, a vibrant innovation hub and technology district. Created to address globalization’s export of local jobs, the hub has been a business catalyst for 20 years and became a globally relevant model as a community-oriented district with some 400 employers and 6,000 employees. The 200-acre site is anchored by leading universities, medical centers and companies whose collective intent is to accelerate inclusive, sustainable economic growth.
In 2020 Cortex engaged CannonDesign to develop a district-wide Sustainability Action Plan to refresh its vision and reorient its roadmap for sustainability, community and economic impact. Our firm had previously designed several facilities within Cortex and worked with the district’s anchor tenants, bringing a more tangible understanding of local communities and stakeholders. Cortex has implemented numerous sustainability projects and activities since its inception, ranging from lighting retrofits, installing EV-charging stations, achieving LEED designation for various buildings and converting a vacant lot to a sunflower field. Its new Sustainability Action Plan lays the foundation for doing even more.
We co-developed a framework spanning 12 categories providing for a holistic, balanced, phased and motivational set of targets. These include energy and emissions; diversity, equity and inclusion; mobility and resilience. We then dove deeper into each category, identifying measurable targets, establishing an ideal future state, inventorying challenges, scanning for potential partners, and generating immediate, short- and long-term steps.
Beyond the initial project brief, our work with Cortex continues. We developed a survey and an associated carbon dashboard to quantify and track greenhouse gas emissions associated with living, working and commuting to and from the district. We collect and report building-related energy and emissions. This information monitors progress toward district-wide carbon neutrality goals, and alignment with the local building energy performance ordinance compliance.
Strong stakeholder collaboration ensures our plan is both ambitious and aligned with community interests and needs, paving the way for Cortex to achieve bold targets for carbon, health, community and equity through 2050.
Cortex is committed to building a greater St. Louis, ensuring everyone, especially those in under-represented communities, can access and contribute to regional talent needs. Leveraging local partnerships, the district serves as a staging and proving ground for bold ideas–a living laboratory–for knowledge generation and sharing innovative solutions. The district continues to grow and impact communities at scale: as a local hub, as a regional driver of growth, and as a reference model for innovation inspiring action across the globe.