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.

David MacLean

Houston, Kinder Institute to Host Next City Vanguard Conference in 2016


What happens when you bring dozens of the country’s most promising young urbanists to a city and set them loose to solve its biggest challenges?

Houston is about to find out.

This spring, Houston will welcome the Next City Vanguard conference. Forty young professionals from disciplines such as architecture, urban planning and public policy will come to Houston to learn about the city and develop ways to solve its problems.

Next City, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, is a widely-read publisher of news about cities. It also runs the Next City Vanguard conference, now in its seventh year.

The Kinder Institute for Urban Research, based in Houston’s Rice University, submitted the winning application to host the conference, which will run May 10-13, 2016.

“The Next City Vanguard conference is the leading event for the country’s top young urbanists, and Houston is the country’s hottest urban location,” said Bill Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute. “We’re looking forward to bringing the Vanguards to town and having them apply their skills to Houston’s urban problems.”

The conference convenes in Houston at a time when the region is experiencing unprecedented growth. Greater Houston’s population has increased from 4.5 million to 6 million people since 2000 and is expected to grow to 10 million by 2040.

Vanguard fellows will be tasked with figuring out how the region can capitalize on that growth while avoiding traffic congestion and ensuring equitable and inclusive development, among other priorities.

As part of its application, the Kinder Institute assembled a host committee charges with helping to introduce the Vanguard fellows to Houston. That host committee includes representatives of the city of Houston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Houston Hackathon; the University of Texas School of Public Health, the Houston Parks Board and many others.

“Next City Vanguard conference brings together the best and brightest urban thinkers from across the country,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker in a statement. “As a place known for being on the cutting edge of innovation, the city of Houston and Rice University cast an ideal setting for these young innovators to explore and create solutions that will inspire the next generation of advancements.”

Past Vanguards have worked for the Obama administration, founded successful city-focused startups such as Ioby and Fundrise, held municipal office and climbed the ranks of influential organizations such as the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute, Citigroup, Code for America, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Transportation Alternatives, Smart Growth America and the University of Chicago. Many of the more than 250 Vanguard alumni have come back to participate in subsequent conferences.

This year’s three-day conference will include workshops, tours and conversations about the newest innovations and most pressing questions in urban development, infrastructure and public policy.

“Next City is thrilled to select Houston as the site for our Vanguard 2016 conference,” said Tom Dallessio, president, CEO and publisher Next City, in a statement. “We look forward to bringing brilliant and committed young urban leaders to Houston to inspire change in this amazing city and cities around the world.”

Click here to view the original article and to view the accompanying video.

Local Architect Named Finalist in Architecture Business Plan Competition

Charrette Venture Group                                      For Immediate Release: 05/05/16
(515) 207-2422
CONTACT: Todd Reding, COO
[email protected]

Local Architect Named Finalist in Architecture Business Plan Competition

Courtney Brinegar plans to use power of design to fight food deserts

HOUSTON – May 5, 2016: Courtney Brinegar is a Houston, Texas based architect and a finalist in Charrette Venture Group’s Architecture Business Plan Competition. She is proposing a non-profit architect-as-developer practice in hopes of using the power of design to address issues that might otherwise be overlooked. Her mission is to demonstrate the power of design and encourage architects to inform the public how well-designed buildings and sites can have huge impact on communities and promote healthy, positive behaviors.

Brinegar has a degree in Environmental Design from Texas A&M, and later received her Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Michigan. Much of her course work related to social sustainability, development in underserved areas in the US and in underdeveloped countries.

Through study abroad trips to Senegal and Brazil, Brinegar has seen firsthand how vital community development and social sustainability are. After graduating, she began working at a large corporate firm and did volunteer work on the side; but that wasn't enough. "Still my passions for community development and social sustainability weren’t really incorporated into my day-to-day job, so I feel the best way to kind of find your niche in the world is to create it."

So she did exactly that and ADD+Venture was born. "I’m learning that [a] career isn’t necessarily what you’re doing in your day-to-day job, it can be what you build up on the side. That’s something I’ve really learned more in the past year or two. I thought a career was just climbing the ladder at work, but it can be beyond that. Being creative with your career path should really be emphasized in schools."

Participating in the Charrette Venture Group’s Architecture Business Plan Competition has pushed Brinegar out of her comfort zone and helped her grow as an entrepreneur, "As a trained architect, in my education we had professional planning classes, so I know the basics but never custom to what I wanted to do. Working through that and starting to think about financials… forces you to focus on the realities of putting together a business plan. She continued, "It's helping me grow."

According to Matt Ostanik, Founder of Charrette Venture Group and organizer of the Architecture Business Plan Competition: “In the technology world, there is an overwhelming supply of resources to help new and growing companies. There are constant business plan competitions, pitch sessions, incubator programs, mentor circles, research, etc. etc. However, in the design space there is very little to aid for these entrepreneurs. The ultimate goal of Charrette Venture Group is to serve as an investment firm that helps growing design firms.”

Brinegar plans to use her personal growth to build, grow, and repair communities through ADD+Venture.

About Architecture Business Plan Competition: The Architecture Business Plan Competition is an annual event organized by Charrette Venture Group that recognizes entrepreneurial architects that have developed a thoughtful plan for fulfilling their dreams. The competition is open to registered Architects in the United States and Canada who are considering starting a design firm, or who have started a firm in the past ten years. In 2016, the winners of the 3rd annual event will receive more than $15,000 in cash and prizes. Final presentations and judging for the 2016 Architecture Business Plan Competition will take place May 18th and 19th in Philadelphia.

About ADD+Venture: ADD+Venture is the Houston, Texas-base non-profit, architect-as-developer practice that Courtney Brinegar, AIA is developing to provide creative services focused on sustainable and socially-responsible development in Houston’s urban, food desert environments.

ADD+Venture will serve the market where underserved communities are in need of development. Areas that for-profit entities avoid for lack of immediate financial benefit and the need to reach high levels of profit to grow as a sustainable business.
ADD+Venture’s mission is to purchase existing properties to create developments that unify neighborhoods, celebrate local talents and businesses, and bring needed resources to turn dilapidated areas into thriving communities without gentrification.
You can watch ADD+Venture’s progress on Instagram by following @_ADDVenture

About Charrette Venture Group: Charrette Venture Group is a global venture firm based in Des Moines, Iowa, whose ultimate goal is to serve as an investment firm that helps growing design firms. Investments can be in the form of capital, or they can be technology, mentoring and business advice, marketing and business development support, or other expertise and resources. They seek to be a long-term partner who takes a stake in both the risk and the reward of the firm’s success. Charrette Venture Group seeks to positively impact the way new and growing design firms operate throughout the world.