Green builder aims to transform Houston housing with kit homes

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The new wave in Houston home design is a lot like a bento box. There are compartments of ingredients that combine to create a delectable, customizable bite.

Rice University School of Architecture graduate Brett Zamore has translated this idea into custom home design with Zamore Home's home kits. Each kit consists of a different set of materials, sizes and layouts. Home shoppers are welcome to mold the design to their own liking, depending on individual aesthetics and budgets.

"We have had over 20 kit homes built in Houston and beyond," Zamore explains. "Each has been customized by the individual owner in their own way from lighting, plumbing fixtures, trim work, colors, slight changes to the layout, cabinetry, tile, countertops and etcetera."

At about $90 to $150 per square foot and ranging in size from about 400- to 2,200-square-foot buildings, the attractive homes are also affordable. Zamore explains, "The kit home process is more affordable as the homes are already designed and my clients are purchasing the plans and paying for any changes to the plans."

Shot-Trot houses in Houston

Affordability and style aside, these structures are also smart.

By combining a shotgun house with a dogtrot -- known as a Shot-Trot-- Zamore's designs are naturally energy efficient. Shotgun homes are narrow. This design propels air from front to back at a more rapid pace.

A dogtrot is a style of house that boasts a covered breezeway, allowing the space to breathe, which is essential during an oppressive Houston summer.

That means a lower utility bill and an environmentally-friendly living space. It's important to note that the green building aspect of Zamore's homes begin at the design's inception, not just once the house has been built.

"Lots of builders are calling themselves green but the reality is anyone can call themselves a color of their choice," Zamore says. "Just like anything, people need to be informed and educated about what green building is and how it can impact one's life."

The architect, who is LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) accredited, has been known to use wood reclaimed from Houston tear-down structures. His home kit strategy makes the construction cost effective too, since he can build two or three homes at a time, thereby increasing labor during a window of time to reduce overall construction costs.

Tiny home problem in Houston

As for the "tiny home" dilemma in Houston -- each of Zamore's kits are usually under 1,000 square feet -- the architect believes he has found a solution.

"Most of my clients who build the tiny homes take on their own risk and get equity loans and or build the homes outside of Houston and or in their back yards as secondary structures for living and or working," he explains. "There are deeds that we need to follow depending on neighborhood which may prohibit a tiny home."

What's next for the local designer who is making headlines around the country?

"We have developed a new co. called Zfabhousing which we will be selling a 330-square-foot efficiency and also a 504-square-foot little house that is prefabbed and shipped to site," Zamore says. "We will be building our first Zfab in the Houston Heights this coming year."


City of Houston Celebrates Sustainable Business Leaders

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The City of Houston, in partnership with the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), announced the winners of the City’s 2015 Houston Green Office Challenge.

Over the course of the 2015 Challenge, the City of Houston provided over 15 training workshops, webinars, networking opportunities and other resources to help office building owners, property managers, facility managers, and tenants increase their environmental and economic performance.  The training was focused energy and water efficiency, waste reduction and cleaner transportation as well as property management and employee engagement. Nearly 37.5 million square feet of office buildings and tenant spaces participated in the program and real estate industry leaders actively showcased their sustainability efforts. There was an average source energy use intensity (EUI) reduction of 17% by the end of the Challenge year.

“Houston Green Office Challenge is a great opportunity for Lincoln Property Company to monumentalize our environmentally friendly practices. It has also facilitated the engagement of tenants, encouraging them to benchmark efforts in reducing their environmental impact while saving money and driving positive business results,” said Maria L. Flores, V.P. of Property Management. “We’re proud of what the Houston team has accomplished and are thrilled with the achievements of Energy Crossing and all the LPC properties who ranked among the top in the city.”

Businesses and non-profit organizations were able to share leading practices and their experiences through the Challenge, which emphasized the program’s focus on peer learning and peer exchange. Participants’ milestones and successes were measured at the end of the challenge year culminating in recognition and the following awards:

Top Property Management Winner:
Lincoln Property Company

Top Property Winner:
Lincoln Property Company - Energy Crossing I

Tenant Winners:
1st Place: Walter P Moore

2nd Place: Accenture

3rd Place: WHR Architects

Non-Profit Organization Winner:
Air Alliance Houston

Top recognition went to those companies with active and engaged green teams who strategized to socialize the success of internal environmental efforts and create excitement around employee campaigns. Of all the challenge activities in the program, participating companies focused on implementing education and outreach programs in the challenge year.

“As a sustainability leader within the engineering industry, Walter P Moore strives to educate themselves, clients, and peers on innovative and elegant solutions that reduce their environmental impact. “The Houston Green Office Challenge was part of a collaborative effort between all engineering groups at Walter P Moore to further our sustainable initiatives across the city,” said Joe Fong, Senior Associate at Walter P Moore. “This program has allowed us to continue with our sustainability efforts, but also challenge the company as a whole to seek out new ways to be a green office!”

“We are delighted to be recognized by the City of Houston for our contribution to the Houston Green Office Challenge,” said Blake Pounds, Accenture Houston Office Managing Director. “It is a terrific initiative that mobilized our team to think outside the box about reducing our environmental footprint and improving our overall working environment. For example, our team reached out to the property manager and encouraged collaboration with other occupants to promote sustainable practices within the entire building, not just our offices.”

The City of Houston is dedicated to promoting initiatives that improve air, land and water quality; and support and expand renewable energy, energy efficiency, green buildings, recycling and composting, active and clean transportation options, local food production and more livable and vibrant neighborhoods.

The City of Houston is one of the nation’s largest municipal purchasers of green power, with half of the City’s electricity coming from renewable sources. To increase its renewable energy portfolio, the City has approved a 30 megawatt solar power purchase agreement in November 2015. The City has also retrofitted all traffic lights and is in the process of retrofitting 165,000 street lights with LED technology. Additionally, the City passed an anti-idling ordinance to improve air quality in the community and a commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program to enable water and energy-saving retrofits and distributed generation.

The 2015 Houston Green Office Challenge is sponsored by Shell, Office Depot, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, and Central Houston.

For more information about Houston’s Green Office Challenge, please visit or

LEED Signage Installed at Berry Elementary

Author: Rebecca Luman

The children coming back to HISD's Berry Elementary after the winter holiday break had a surprise waiting for them.  Designed by Gensler, the school achieved LEED Silver certification in 2014.  Unfortunately, due to budget concerns, it was not possible at the time of construction to install signage describing all of the great LEED features of the building.  Through a partnership with the USGBC Green Schools Committee and with assistance from Gensler, the school can now tell its story more easily.  

HISD has a partnership with the USGBC and has committed to LEED certifying all of its bond-approved schools. In 2013, the Green Schools committee decided to work with the existing LEED schools to provide any resources or assistance they may need to get the most out of these great schools.  As the Environmental Magnet Elementary school, Berry Elementary was a great place to start.  When the committee reached out to the principal of Berry, the administration had just changed hands and the new principal was busy getting her hands around the new school she had just taken on.  She knew that the school was LEED-Certified but hadn't had a chance to dig deep into what that meant. The Green Schools committee was able to explain the importance of a LEED certification, point out features in their school and put her in contact with the architect to answer some of her questions.  A contingent of educators from China was coming to tour the school in just a few weeks to learn about Green Building and she had a lot on her plate besides learning about green building.  The timing was perfect to provide her with a crash course that allowed for a fantastic tour.  The Green Schools committee was later able to provide inservice training to the school's teachers to explain the features of the building, and the signs will now be a permanent way for the story of the building to live on.

"It is important for the green-ness of the building to become part of the culture of the school.  With these signs, the teachers will be able to use the building as a teaching tool to further students' understanding of buildings and their environmental implications," said Green Schools Chair, Caroline Kostak. She continued, "It has been great working with the team at Berry. They are very passionate about providing the safest and healthiest environment for their students."

The goal of the Green Schools committee is to work with all of the LEED schools within HISD and other districts that would like help understanding the features of the building and how to maximize the benefits of their LEED Certifications. To contact the Green Schools committee, email [email protected].

Green Building Economic Impact Study

Prepared By Booz Allen Hamilton

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) presents the Green Building Economic Impact Study, prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton (Booz Allen). The study explores the multifaceted economic contribution of green construction to the U.S. market. Building from the 2009 Green Jobs Study1 that Booz Allen compiled for USGBC, we have refined the methodology and data to account for the evolving market environment. In this study we have quantified the economic value creation from green construction and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building construction in gross domestic product (GDP), jobs, labor earnings, individual states’ tax contributions, and environmental indicators at the national and state levels. The increase in green construction spending is notable, however the direct, indirect, and induced economic impact of this growth is yet to be reported in detail. This study elucidates these direct, indirect, and induced economic impacts.

The future for the green industry is projected to see positive growth for years to come, with its influence reaching across the U.S. economy with significant environmental and social benefits being generated to protect the people and the planet. Our findings show that green building construction growth currently outpaces general construction and will continue to do so through 2018. Annual green construction spending is expected to grow 15.1% year over year (YoY) for 2015-­?2018, with annual spending projected to increase from $150.6 billion in 2015 to $224.4 billion in 2018. LEED construction spending is forecast to have a year-­?over-­?year growth rate of 12.3%, increasing from a $61.8 billion spending in 2015, to $78.6 billion spending in 2018. LEED residential is forecasted at a high YoY growth rate of 31.1% during the period of 2015 to 2018, reflecting its potential given the historically small market penetration. The LEED commercial forecast demonstrates a steady YoY growth rate of 8.5% for 2015-­?2018. Estimates of the economic impact of green building construction for 2015-­?18 show a significant increase in impact on GDP, jobs, and labor earnings as compared to 2011-­?14.

Read the full study.