Big efficiency for small and medium buildings

Authors: Adam Sledd and Nicole Stika

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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Report Sheds Light on Walkability Momentum in Houston

Author: Leah Binkovitz

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.


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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The coolest house in the Museum District boasts LEED Platinum rating and over-the-top design

Author: Shelby Hodge

Editor's Note: Houston, the surrounding areas and beyond are loaded with must-have houses and properties for sale in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. In this continuing series, Shelby Hodge snoops through some of the best and gives you the lowdown on what's hot on the market.

One of Houston's seven LEED Platinum single-family homes, this unique dwelling was recently ranked 'House of the Week' by the Wall Street Journal.

At more than 4,000 square feet, the stunning three-level contemporary structure reinvents the American dream house with a focus on new methods of building and design in the pursuit of sustainability.

University of Houston College of Architecture graduate Karen Lantz designed the house for herself and her husband.

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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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