The master-planned community of Jacobs Reserve in Conroe, Texas, is an exclusive gated subdivision being developed by D.R. Horton, Inc. that radiates luxury both inside and out. The development is about 40 miles due north of Houston minutes away from I-45. The area's commercial market is booming, the crown jewel of which is ExxonMobil's state-of-the-art campus that will house over 10,000 employees. The campus is within a short drive of Jacobs Reserve, which offers an ideal commute for executives looking to spend less time driving to and from the office.

D.R. Horton, Inc., which in 2014 was ranked as the largest homebuilding company in the United States, began the retaining wall master plans for Jacobs Reserve in 2013. Due to the rolling topography of the land and the soil mix, the incorporation of retaining walls was paramount to construction of the development.

"Our civil engineering consultants studied the area and determined that through the strategic use of retaining walls, we would be able to maximize the amount of developable land," stated Mark Hardy, D.R. Horton, Inc. Land Development Manager. "After the plans were completed, we entertained a number of alternative products, then made our choice to move forward with the construction of the walls."

The Challenge

Jamie Rodriguez, Belgard Commercial Hardscapes Consultant reviewed the Jacobs Reserve site map and specifications, and proposed several options for Mark Hardy. "I was able to provide several Belgard product choices for D.R. Horton, Inc. to select along with different color palettes for specific locations based on cost and wall height," stated Rodriguez. "There were several sections within the development where enhanced wall exposure was not a design consideration, such as an adjacent forest and therefore, we saw that as a cost savings opportunity."

The Resolution

Rodriguez knew that an upscale development like Jacobs Reserve needed walls with a consistent and compatible look throughout the grounds. She was able to offer D.R. Horton, Inc. Belgard Celtik Pro® segmental retaining wall, which is offered in various facial textures and patterns. This product offered D.R. Horton, Inc. both a high-end, residential look as well as a simple and traditional feel. Portions of the wall facing the forest used the traditional version of Celtik Pro while the side facing the neighborhood utilized the more aesthetically creative product. D.R. Horton, Inc. was extremely pleased that this proposed strategy offered the company a cost savings.

"To show D.R. Horton, Inc. how they could significantly decrease wall cost, I created a budget for them using a number of our products as examples," said Rodriguez. "I used a spreadsheet that outlined a range of available products I felt would match the needs of the development. Some of the products recommended were the same price as our competitors and the others were less expensive. By looking at all of these alternatives, Mark Hardy determined he could use a SRW block that is more aesthetically pleasing in areas that are exposed to the residents and the less expensive block in areas that are not exposed, and still save money overall."

The Celtik Pro® that was chosen for the residential side of the development showcases a rough-hewn texture and natural hues that give the wall a time-honed appearance recalling classic European gardens. It is perfect for the aesthetic that the D.R. Horton, Inc. team sought to create and adds a level of charm to the entire development.

"The Belgard segmental retaining walls allowed us to not only save money, but also enhance the beauty of Jacobs Reserve on multiple levels," explained Hardy. "Through the use of the walls, we were able to take advantage of the land's natural elevation to create a neighborhood that is built into the region's rolling hills. At the same time, the old world look of the product itself added to the overall attractiveness of the development, and the homebuyers absolutely love it."

Hardy went on to say that it still comes back to structural integrity, and Belgard's walls certainly fit the bill in this unique terrain. The walls in the development range from three feet up the thirteen feet and D.R. Horton, Inc. had to find a product that would not be compromised.

In addition to developing a strategic plan to drive down D.R. Horton, Inc. costs, Belgard worked to provide turnkey materials and engineering services, as well.

"I can't say enough about Jamie Rodriguez and the Belgard team's proactive approach to solving the challenges D.R. Horton, Inc. faced with the retaining walls at this development," said Hardy. "They found ways to reduce our cost and meet our schedules, while still providing us with an incredible product that really adds to the beauty of the neighborhood."

The first truck went to D.R. Horton, Inc. in November 2013, and Belgard continued delivering throughout 2014 and 2015. As of January 2015, D.R. Horton, Inc. had installed over 100,000 SF of retaining walls in the Houston market.

Project Credits:
Builder: D.R. Horton, Inc.
Engineer: Rosch Engineering