Downtown Houston boasts a skyline of epic proportions, but amidst all the grandeur sits a small, but influential, project in the heart of the city. The 10,000-square-foot Downtown Houston Childcare Center is located at the intersection of Bell, Clay, Main, and Fannin and provides a cozy oasis in the midst of a bustling metropolis. The compact building is carefully sited and natural landscape is utilized, requiring minimal water.
Engaged learning was the primary design goal, thus the building functions as a teaching tool. A rain chain provides drainage, but also illustrates the properties of water and surface tension in a way that is palatable for children. The reception desk showcases a unique wrap-around fish tank, located at eye level to immediately engage young students. Corridors are not to just vessels for accessing various parts of the building, but function as activity space containing marker boards and encouraging impromptu, interactive learning. Moveable furniture allows for flexibility and floor rugs differentiate spaces and provide a variety of learning experiences.
The building also boasts numerous sustainable elements including a chilled beam HVAC system that requires much less energy to provide the same heating and cooling effects as a traditional air HVAC system. Radiant floors are used throughout classroom areas where the intended users spend most of their time, on the floor. Natural materials are incorporated throughout the building. The sloping shed roof and floor-to-ceiling wood window frames take full advantage of the northern light and provide sweeping views. Natural light is prevalent throughout the building and an outdoor playground provides yet another breathtaking view of downtown. The result is a sustainable, modern, urban building that provides all of the comforts of home.
Kirksey has long been a supporter of the Michael G. Meyers Design & Scholarship Competition, sponsored by the Architecture Houston Foundation, the Houston Chapter of AIA and local affiliates. We’ve hosted several events at our office including the Teacher Workshop, Student Workshop/Competition Kick-Off and the Interim Review held last month. These sessions helped students learn basic architectural design skills and understand the competition requirements.
This year students were challenged to design an academic building for the Rice University Campus and projects were due Friday, April 25th. Winners will be announced today at an awards ceremony at Architecture Center Houston. All Houston area high school students were eligible to participate regardless of class affiliation or age and students were requested to enter only once per year as either a member of a team or as an individual.
The annual design competition honors the memory of Houston architect Michael G. Meyers and encourages students who value design. The program provides an informal setting where students, teachers, and parents can interact with industry professionals and learn more about architecture.
To learn more about the unique competition see AIA Houston’s website: https://aiahouston.org/v/site-home/Michael-G-Meyers-Design-Competition/3k/
Our own Julie Hendricks recently spoke at the Scenic America conference about the correlation between urban design and health. Below is an overview of what she discussed.
Earliest city planners, a profession that came into existence at the beginning of the 20th century, were architects and landscape architects. They meant well, but made some decisions regarding city infrastructures that have negatively impacted the health of many Americans over the last century. Initially, planners were concerned that cities were too congested and dirty and were a haven for criminals, vice and temptations. They concluded that the best solution was to decrease density, encourage Americans to live in single-family houses, and separate commerce and residences.
The early planners were right to believe that cities were dangerous. While these illnesses are no longer big sources of mortality, early city planning has contributed to other issues related to the obesity epidemic. In fact, if the city planners at the turn of the 20th century said they were going to design future cities so that all Americans within 100 years would be overweight, diabetic, and depressed, they could hardly have done a better job.
The obesity epidemic is party a result of occupants living in the suburbs and commuting to work, spending extended periods of time in a car. Over the course of the century, cars have become the predominant mode of transportation. In 1969 about 50% of children walked to school; now only about 13% do. Between 1950 and the year 2000, the amount of vehicle miles driven per person has nearly quadrupled. Research indicates that driving can elevate blood pressure, blood sugar, adrenaline, and cortisol, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Americans have become more sedentary in other ways as well. There’s been a large increase in service jobs over the last century, and a corresponding decrease in agricultural goods-producing jobs. In the 1960s more than half of all jobs required physical activity; today, less than 20% do. Most people in service jobs spend significant periods of time sitting, which has been shown to be quite unhealthy even for people who are otherwise physically active. Americans spend more time than ever in front of a computer, phone, and television screens and less time completing household tasks. Envision the difference in physical exertion between chopping wood for the stove, and turning the dial on a thermostat, both methods of warming up a house.
One interesting note is that the amount of time Americans spend doing active outdoor activities, likes sports, has increased slightly over the same recent decades that obesity has increased. So, we can conclude that our reduction in physical activity comes from exerting ourselves less getting from place to place, working, and completing housework. In order to counter this, we must introduce more incidental sources of physical activity into our lives and work.
We can create new opportunities for exercise in both the workplace and in transit. Transportation should be safe, convenient, and even inviting for people to walk or bike from place to place if they so choose. In addition, streets should be designed to accommodate public transit, allowing more people to live without cars. Streets that are designed to accommodate all modes of travel are called “Complete Streets.” Houston recently passed a Complete Streets ordinance that will require new street developments to consider accommodations for pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit, in addition to cars.
As architects, we have a responsibility to design buildings that make walking and climbing stairs not just possible, but desirable and wonderful. Stairs should be wide, beautiful, day lit, and prominently placed so people at the bottom long to see what’s at the top. The same should be done for walkways and corridors, so they become places that people want to traverse. We have the unique opportunity to positively impact the health of our nation through developing a built environment that encourages activity and exercise.
Today we enjoyed attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for the City of Houston’s new Traffic Maintenance Facility. Located minutes from downtown the facility boasts several unique design elements and provides the Public Works & Engineering Department with much-needed warehouse and office space. The 40,000-sf facility includes 15,000 sf of office space for traffic signal operations and central dispatch, 25,000 sf of warehouse space, a shop area for manufacturing traffic signs, street marking equipment, a paint shop, and material storage. Parking is also provided for 125 fleet vehicles and 150 staff visitors.
The building embodies a theme of energy and movement and directly reflects the responsibilities of the occupants. Salvaged street sign poles create a vertical sun screen and are used for all guardrails, traffic lights and recycled traffic signs accent various spaces, wayfinding plaques represent signal colors, and a decorative yellow strip on the exterior of the building matches the color used to stripe roadways. A patio adjacent to the break room provides direct views of the downtown skyline to the east and skylights throughout the building flood the space with natural light. Another unique element is that windows are set to provide panoramic views to employees sitting at their desk. The new facility is pursuing LEED Silver.
The Oil & Gas industry is the world’s largest in terms of value, and universities across the nation are updating their existing infrastructure to compete for top-tier talent. Texas Tech University has proven they are committed to attracting and retaining elite recruits by partnering with Kirksey to design and build the new Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Research Building. The recently completed $22.8 million facility boasts progressive technology and unique teaching environments that provide students the opportunity to learn kinesthetically.
The new building includes classrooms, state-of-the-art integrated research and teaching laboratories, collaborative areas for students to interact and study, administrative offices, conference rooms, and a library. The laboratories are uniquely clustered, allowing a systems approach to instructional teaching that covers the entire spectrum of exploration and production. Additionally, a glass-walled laboratory allows students to be part of the research and instruction that is constantly occurring. The building is seeking LEED certification and matches the unique architectural style of the Texas Tech campus.
Embedded into the design is an opportunity for private industry to engage in the Petroleum Department’s programs, from a sponsorship level to actual participation in R+D activities. A simulated rock wall greets building entrants as they enter the lobby, and serves as more than an art installation. Like other components of the building, the wall is a teaching tool, representing the history of drilling from straight bore downhole strategies to horizontal perforations and fracking.
The Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering is one of the largest petroleum engineering departments in the United States. This new facility helps solidify Texas Tech as a premier destination for engineering students and provides undergraduates and faculty with an environment that encourages learning, collaboration, and innovation.
For more information please visit: http://today.ttu.edu/2014/02/petroleum-engineering-celebrates-new-research-facility/
Spring is (almost) in the air and we know just how to spend it, tending our own on-campus fruit and vegetable garden, orchard, and herb garden. Kirksey employees are committed to creating a more sustainable planet and volunteer their time to tend the garden by watering, weeding, planting, and harvesting. After a less than successful first harvest, due to troublesome topsoil, the garden is now prospering. Employees have harvested cucumbers, watermelon, beans, squash, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, and other tasty treats that we use at company-wide happy hours and other events. Our most recent harvest includes delicious kale, cauliflower, chard and greens.
The Texas State University System, along with the Kirksey team, celebrated a significant milestone yesterday, the system’s first LEED Gold certified building. The recently completed Residence Life North Housing dormitory was awarded 43 points, surpassing the 39 needed to achieve Gold in the LEED for New Construction V2.2 rating system.
In accordance with the campus master plan guidelines, the Kirksey team designed a Spanish Colonial style building housing 612 beds in two identical wings. Of the construction materials used, more than 30 percent contain recycled content and more than 27 percent are from regional sources. In addition, 80 percent of construction waste was recycled.
Inside the building, green technology is utilized to ensure that little is wasted or produced in excess. Occupancy sensors are used in study rooms and lounges to control lighting output, low-flow showerheads reduce water use to only 1.5 gallons per minute, and all toilets are low-flush, using just 1.3 gallons per flush. Outside, rainwater and air conditioning condensation are collected in an underground cistern, reducing potable water usage for irrigation by 100 percent. Additionally, native plants were chosen for landscaping purposes, further reducing the demand for potable water.
Complementing the building’s ongoing energy efficiency and water conservation, low emitting materials were specified for use during construction, thereby reducing the volatile off-gassing chemicals found in newer projects. Air quality improvement is achieved through the use of walk-off mats at the front and rear entrances, reducing the amount of dirt tracked inside the building.
Today’s students are more environmentally aware than ever before and this housing complex provides them an interactive opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable future.
We are excited that one of the galleria’s newest commercial office buildings, located at 3009 Post Oak, is now LEED Platinum Certified. The 20-story, 302,000-sf building employs numerous sustainable building strategies that have helped transform a derelict parking lot into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban site. 3009 Post Oak is the first LEED Platinum office building in the Galleria area and one of only a handful of LEED Platinum buildings in the city.
Some key metrics include:
• 100% of the site’s irrigation is provided from rainwater stored in an underground tank
• The side of the site facing Interstate 610 was planted with dozens of native grasses intended to attract birds and butterflies
• Indoor water use was reduced by 46% over a typical existing building
• 70% of power for the project comes from renewable sources
• 87% of construction waste was recycled
• 38% of all materials used were local– both manufactured and harvested within 500 miles of Houston
• The building was designed to provide daylight access to 83% of interior spaces, and views to 99% of spaces
• The exterior site lighting was designed for zero light trespass off the property boundary and zero light projected upwards. This contributes to a dark night sky and respects the surrounding residential neighbors
• Energy savings are 26% better than code requirements
• The building includes a dashboard that monitors building and tenant energy use levels
• The high performance curtainwall uses low emitting, double pane glazing with thermally improved mullions
Kirksey’s own Nicola Springer, Kapil Upadhyaya, Colley Hodges and Alfonso Hernandez are speaking today at the 2013 CATEE (Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency) Conference. Nicola and Kapil will be presenting on “Aggressively Passive Designing with CFD” and will be discussing two Kirksey-designed naturally ventilated pools, the Fort Bend ISD Aquatic Facility and the Euless Indoor Aquatic Center. Using the pools as case studies they will analyze the viability of naturally ventilated natatoriums in Texas and present the related economic benefits.
Colley and Alfonso’s presentation is entitled “Residence Hall ROI: The Benefits of Energy Modeling for University Dormitories” and they will analyze the University of Houston’s Calhoun Lofts, Texas State University’s North Campus Housing Complex, and Stephen F. Austin University’s Freshman Residence Hall. Through these case studies they will emphasize the value of performing an energy simulation during programming to optimize the energy efficiency strategies and incur significant cost savings.
This year’s CATEE Conference is being held in San Antonio, Texas December 16-18, at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio River Walk. For more information on the conference see http://catee.tamu.edu.
This week our own Kapil Upadhyaya and Jody Henry spoke at the USGBC’s GREENNC 2013 Symposium on the topic of post occupancy evaluations of sports and education spaces. Their presentation, “Connecting Clo and Flow – You won’t believe what was accomplished!” detailed what a “clo” factor is and how to convince a school district to accept a passively ventilated athletic space. They presented Kirksey’s recently completed Fort Bend Aquatic Practice Facility as an example of a successful passively ventilated space. The facility uses garage doors that double as shading devices and focus the path of air through the structure. The results of the Post Occupancy Evaluation performed on the space confirm that the unique passive ventilation techniques utilized throughout the building were successful.
Kapil and Jody focused their presentation into several learning objectives that are detailed below.
Objective #1: Identify six parameters that affect human thermal comfort.
Objective #2: Discuss specific application and variation of ‘clo’ value and air flow in school environments.
Objective #3: Analyze problems associated with closed and conditioned pool buildings: ventilation, thermal distribution, condensation and energy wastage.
Objective #4: Identify Inter-dependent design solutions for aquatic facilities that avoid the above problems and their dependence on climate.