HISD Container Home Charrette

The USGBC Texas Gulf Coast region is working with the Houston Independent School District on a project to build a LEED-Homes Certified Container House at Booker T Washington High School.  The main goal is to engage students in the building process, from permitting to construction to documentation.  The first meeting, called a Design Charrette, was held with stakeholders on May 10.  At the charrette, the entire team was exposed to the project and goals and priorities were established.  Future meetings will be held with teachers at the school to develop the program for student involvement.  Stay tuned for future updates!

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Houston Gets a Transit-Oriented Development Spark


In recent years, Houston has been straining against its reputation as a car-crazy city and rethinking neighborhood connectivity. The big Houston transportation story of 2014 was the opening of three new light-rail lines, expanding on the success of the original Red Line through downtown to reach out to the East End, Southeast and Near Northside. In 2015, the overnight overhaul of Houston’s entire bus system to better connect outer neighborhoods — without going through downtown — lapped upheadlines. This year, the completion of the Houston Bike Plan could start the process of making cycling safer and more complementary with bus and rail commutes.

Last week, 45 young urban leaders from around the world saw this evolution-in-progressfirsthand. They were selected to attend Next City’s annual Vanguard conference, which brings a new group of changemakers to a different city every year. What stays the same: the Big Idea Challenge. As at past conferences in Reno and Chattanooga, the Vanguards split into teams to create a winning proposal around a specific theme. In Houston, the 2016 Vanguard class looked at five underutilized properties (find full descriptions here) to consider ideas for making them useful to nearby residents. Each of the five teams talked with stakeholders to better understand the needs of the surrounding neighborhood. After a site visit and two days of brainstorming, the teams publicly presented their visions at Houston’s Discovery Green park on Friday night. Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, which hosted the Vanguard conference, and Next City will work together to implement their idea with the support of a $10,000 grant from Kinder.

Each of the five sites, located in neighborhoods across the city and in varying states of disuse or disrepair, presented its own problems. One team was tasked with activating the space around the historic Rufus Cage Elementary School in the East End neighborhood, a food desert with a dearth of green space and informal education opportunities. Another focused on a green space that has deep significance to the adjacent SHAPE Community Center but is in need of a more cohesive design and better connections to both the surrounding streets and the African-American cultural center next door.

After the presentations, the judges named the “Little Oasis” plan as the winner. That team had been charged with coming up with an idea for a 2,400-square-foot wedge of land on the Near Northside that had been used to store equipment during the light-rail expansion.

“We were actually skeptical going to such a small piece of land,” says Vanguard Rohit Malhotra, executive director of Atlanta’s Center for Civic Innovation and member of the winning team. But when the group met with City Council Member Karla Cisneros, who represents the district in which the plot is located, “her passion [for this small piece of land] was pretty contagious,” says Malhotra. “She talked about it as part of something so much bigger.”

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Kinder Institute roundup of the Next City Vanguard - Houston conference held in May

Visit the following website for a roundup of the Kinder Institute's coverage of the 2016 Next City Vanguard conference that took place in Houston in May 2016.

Greened-Up SEARCH Homeless Services Building Now Open By Cheek-Neal Building in East Downtown


THE NEW HOME OF HOMELESS services center SEARCH opened at 2015 Congress Ave. this morning, next to the Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen and across 59 from Minute Maid Park. The 27,105-sq.-ft. facility’s design has been greened up since last summer‘s pass-around of renderings for the space — in addition to the color on the exterior walls, renewable energy company and regular grocery-store-front proselytizers Green Mountain Energy footed the bill for some solar paneling and other energy-efficient upgrades. Operations at the organization’s fifties-mod space on McGowen St. (which got that unintentional contemporary update to its facade back in 2014) will end around June 24th. 

Below is a recent-but-still-mid-construction look at the new building from the corner of Franklin and St. Emanuel streets, showing the structure in place across Congress from the Cheek-Neal Coffee building, (which, unlike the homeless services building, appears to be explicitly spared by some of TxDOT’s potential future freeway expansion plans):

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