Articles

Report Sheds Light on Walkability Momentum in Houston

Author: Leah Binkovitz
urbanedge.blogs.rice.edu/

A new report from researchers at the George Washington University School of Business highlights what, anecdotally, many cities are already experiencing: automobile-focused suburbanism that dominated the late 20th century seems to be reversing, as walkable development in central cities and suburban downtowns enjoys a rise in market share.

In all of the 30 cities the researchers surveyed, walkable office and multi-family rental space gained ground, “probably for the first time in over 60 years,” they wrote.

Houston & Dallas

The researchers, Christopher Leinberger and Michael Rodriguez, called out Houston and Dallas particularly in the report. They remarked that the two Texas cities are generally “the great exception to the walkable urban trend” but also noted that “things are changing” in Texas. They write of the two cities:

Given their histories as oil- and gas-based metro economies, their moderate-to-low walkable urbanism rankings for both current and development momentum are fitting. The recent influx of major corporate headquarter locations and high-tech firms have helped Houston and Dallas generate the sixth- and seventh-highest real GDP per capita of the largest 30 metros in the country.

But as sprawling, car-based metros with top-ten levels of GDP per capita, Houston and Dallas should be considered exceptions that prove the rule. The oil and gas industries provide a unique foundation to their economies that will not be replicated in other metros. Yet, both metros are … indicating strong walkable urban market share capture, and significant rental rate premiums. Additionally, metro Dallas has been building one of the largest new light rail systems in the country, second only to metro Los Angeles — a solid effort toward future walkable urban development.

Rankings

The report focuses on what is calls “WalkUPs,” or walkable urban places, of which are are 619 in the country’s 30 largest metro areas. Researchers based their definition of a WalkUP as a place with a certain threshold of office or retail square footage, a high walk score, and great intersection density.

Houston, according to the report, has 16 WalkUPs. That’s vastly fewer than places like New York (67), San Francisco (56) and Boston (54) but considerably more than metros like Tampa (6), San Antonio (2) and Phoenix (4).

Overall, the report ranks the Houston metro area 20 for “walkable urbanism,” calculated as the share of occupied office, retail, and multi-family rental space within its WalkUPs.

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Big efficiency for small and medium buildings

Authors: Adam Sledd and Nicole Stika
Greenbiz.com

For those of us working in the green buildings field, it can appear on the surface that all the exciting work is happening in enormous buildings and portfolios in popular coastal cities.

Stories about net-zero renovations in Silicon Valley, innovative efficiency solutions for Fortune 500 headquarters in New York and big Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) achieving LEED or GRESB certifications dominate the majority of green building media coverage. 

While aggressive action to retrofit large existing buildings in mega cities such as New Yorkremains important, it’s also crucial that we don’t overlook smaller cities and companies with smaller portfolios that are often just as interested in lowering energy costs but lack resources to do so.

The majority of buildings in the U.S. aren’t owned by big-name REITS. They’re small and medium buildings occupied by retail stores, offices, restaurants, nonprofits and other small businesses. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) most recent Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), 88 percent of commercial buildings are smaller than 25,000 square feet, and account for over 25 percent of all commercial floor space in the country. For the industry to move forward as a whole, we need to prove the same value proposition of energy efficiency applies to buildings of all shapes and sizes and get beyond using a New York office tower as the primary case study for what’s possible.

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HARC Groundbreaking

Author: Maria Perez

On May 25th, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) broke ground on their new headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas. This non-profit organization located on the 3.5-acre mixed pine-hardwood forested site will house the new office building and lab. An in-depth feasibility study and a collaborative partnership with Gensler laid the groundwork for the first LEED Platinum building in The Woodlands. The new 18,000 sq. ft. office building and lab will not only provide a comfortable and productive work environment, but also embrace their mission and ultimately create a measurable, sustainable future that helps people thrive and nature flourish. The new headquarters is due to be completed in April 2017.

Letter from the Chair - May 2016

My daytime occupation affords me opportunities to participate in discussions and projects that parallel my sustainability passions.  For that I am truly thankful.  I realize that this is not the case for many people.  Yet every day I meet individuals, right here in Houston, who find a way to make a difference, even after completing a forty or fifty hour work week at a “job”.  It is humbling and inspiring to have the privilege to work alongside these talented, compassionate and dedicated citizens. 

At the end of the day, members of USGBC believe that the LEED Rating Systems provide a framework for quantifying and qualifying what Sustainability should look like in the Built Environment. Most would also agree that the LEED Checklists are tools that hopefully create avenues for discussion for broader conversations about environmental degradation, pollution impact, chemical sensitivity and bringing sustainability to under-resourced and underserved communities, to name a few.

Local individuals are working tirelessly to address these issues and great things are happening here in Houston.  It is one of my main goals that these successes be recognized and trumpeted from the rooftops.  To that end we have started a new section in our Newsletter and a corresponding link on our Webpage titled “People, Projects & Places”.  This section is a landing pad for recognizing individuals, organizations, non-LEED projects, etc. that would otherwise not be acknowledged within the LEED Certification section of our Newsletter.

Check out this month’s entry.  I welcome you to submit to me anything you feel should be recognized.  It is the only way we can celebrate and thank these dedicated members of our local community who give of themselves so that we might enjoy better lives.

Regards,
David MacLean