Melika Receives AIA Associate Member of the Year Award

Melika Mirzakhani, a member of Kirksey’s Hospitality team, was recently presented with the Associate Member of the Year Award from AIA Houston at the Annual AIA Houston Meeting & Affiliate Appreciation Party on October 14. The award honors service to the chapter by an intern on the path to architecture licensure. Melika was chosen by the AIA Houston Honor Awards Committee. Her work for the chapter includes volunteering and holding the position of past chair for the Michael G. Meyers Design & Scholarship Competition.


Melika receiving AIA award


The annual design competition honors the memory of Houston architect Michael G. Meyers and encourages students who value design to compete in different design events to better understand and develop basic architectural skills.

“Melika was one of a handful of associate members who were suggested by the AIA Houston staff for having done great work for the chapter,” said Rusty Bienvenue, Executive Director for AIA Houston.

“Kirksey is very proud of Melika for her years of service assisting AIA Houston and her past leadership of the Michael G. Meyers Design & Scholarship Competition,” said Doug Hammel, Kirksey’s hospitality team leader. “Her dedication to service is evident in her daily work with both clients and our team members. We look forward to her continued work with AIA Houston and here at Kirksey.”

“I’m honored to have received this award,” said Melika. “It’s a real pleasure to work with the high school students and quite amazing to see the committee’s contribution to future generations of architects.”

Kirksey to Present at Two National Conferences

Kirksey team members are jet-setting across the country to present at two separate national conferences on the topics of education and green design. First, they traveled to the Golden State for some San Diego sunshine to present at the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) National LearningSCAPES Conference.

On October 25, they’ll be in Minneapolis for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) National Conference. Check out their presentation overviews for each conference, and we wish them safe travels!

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San Diego | CEFPI National LearningSCAPE Presentations:

Oct 23 | “Demystifying Integrated Site Design”
Julie Hendricks, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President at Kirksey
Colley Hodges, AIA, LEED AP, Associate at Kirksey

Though integrated design is often discussed, it is implemented far more rarely.  The next version of LEED, called v4, aims to ensure integrated site design through the collection of comprehensive site information during early design. What difference will that make? In this presentation, Julie and Colley answer this question by presenting case studies, identifying helpful tools, and using iterative design charrettes.

Oct 24, “The Game of Lifecycle”
Nicola Springer, AIA, LEED AP, Vice President at Kirksey
Kapil Upadhyaya, LEED AP BD+C, ASHRAE BEMP, Senior Associate at Kirksey

A collaborative approach to design & decision-making is vital to integrating indoors with outdoors in schools. However, this is easier said than done. The Game of Lifecycle is one of many collaborative tools that Kirksey uses to question traditional solutions and “rules of thumb.” Through a creative role-playing exercise, ideas are brought forth in a holistic dialogue between project-teams, clients & stakeholders.

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Minneapolis | AASHE National Conference Presentations:

Oct 25, “POE: A Classic Detective Game”
Julie Hendricks, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President at Kirksey
Colley Hodges, AIA, LEED AP, Associate at Kirksey

Buildings everywhere are underperforming relative to the goals they were designed to meet. Post-occupancy evaluations (POEs) are an effective method to uncover performance problems through assessments of energy use, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, illuminance and acoustics. We’ve learned it isn’t always clear what secrets POE measurements reveal — interpreting the results requires deductive reasoning and synthesized knowledge of systems. Drawing on our experience of 8 completed POEs, we’ve developed a classic detective game to explain how to conduct one, evaluate the results, and understand their significance.

Oct 25, “Tools for Sustainability Master Plans: Key Performance Indicators & Campus Investments”
Kapil Upadhyaya, LEED AP BD+C, ASHRAE BEMP, Senior Associate at Kirksey

A rapid growth of STARS in last decade has established Sustainability Master Plans (SMPs) at over 300 universities nationwide. SMPs are using metrics like ‘Energy Use Intensity’, ‘% total expenditures’ and ‘Metric tons of CO2equivalents’ to benchmark sustainability performance. This presentation will share some such examples, like Texas A&M University, which saved $200 million by cumulative reduction in EUI over 12 years. However, these metrics fall short of informing decisions on new infrastructure.

This presentation proposes the use of Key Performance Indicators to serve this purpose.

Key Performance Indicators can earn the most bang for the buck in reducing carbon-emissions and in maximizing resource-utilization. With a focus on residence halls, three campuses will be discussed: University of Houston, Texas State University and Sam Houston State University.

Oct 25, “Rainwater Harvesting: Secrets of Success”
Julie Hendricks, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President at Kirksey
Katherine Ruiz, LEED GA, LEED AP BD+C, Kirksey

Design for resiliency is important for college campuses, as they have the potential to serve as community hubs for response and recovery during emergencies. This, combined with predictions that 1/3 of the US will experience water shortage by mid-century, creates a strong case for rainwater storage to reduce reliance on municipal water supplies. Rainwater storage also represents a powerful branding opportunity. Above-ground systems can create an iconic image while communicating a commitment to environmental stewardship. The cost savings and payback of rainwater systems are related to multiple design factors, including the method of storage, location, materials, and ultimate use of the collected water. This presentation discusses each of these considerations using data from three Kirksey projects: the Texas A&M University Agriculture & Life Sciences Complex, the Texas State University North Dormitory and the Texas Tech University Terry Fuller School of Petroleum Engineering.


The Youngest Architect in the Entire State of Texas…

…is our very own Megan Tegethoff, AIA, LEED AP!

Whoever said youth is wasted on the young obviously hasn’t met Megan. Kirksey is proud to announce that our very own Megan Tegethoff, AIA, earned those three meaningful letters behind her name at the ripe old age of 24 – currently garnering her a spot as the youngest licensed architect in the entire state of Texas.

After a few inquiries and email exchanges, AIA Houston ran a state-wide report to verify who holds that title.

“After running a state-wide membership query report, we believe Megan is the youngest AIA member and licensed architect in Texas,” said Rusty Bienvenue, Executive Director at AIA Houston.

Megan started as an intern here at Kirksey in 2013 while studying at University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture. After many late nights of hitting the books rather than hanging with friends, Megan graduated as salutatorian of her architecture class in May of 2014, immediately took her first exam that following August and passed her last exam in May of 2015. She finished her remaining IDP hours in July.



“By working at Kirksey the summer after fourth year and all during my fifth year of architecture school, I acquired the minimum hours needed to begin testing. After graduation, I laid out a game plan for the seven exams. I always planned on testing as soon as possible because after five years of architecture school, I was already used to having little freedom, and I thought continuing in that mindset would help me get through the exams quicker!” said Megan.

As architects everywhere know, the AREs are no cake walk.

“There is no easy way around these exams,” Megan said. “It just depends on if you want to endure it all at once and get done fast or spread it out and contain more of your sanity along the way.”

Her first couple of attempts weren’t successful. So, she readjusted her study process and gathered advice from fellow coworkers.

“For the next seven months, I took one exam every four Fridays and ended up passing seven in a row,” Megan said. “I would schedule ‘social time’ and plan ahead for it so my time was used efficiently. I studied about two hours every morning before work each day, another two hours each evening, and about four hours a day on the weekends. Having a rigorous study schedule can definitely take a toll on you, and I was very fortunate to have an extremely supportive family that encouraged me in the tough goals I set for myself,” Megan said.




Understanding what a difficult and lengthy task it can be for architects to pass all seven exams, Kirksey is committed to mentoring young designers to help them achieve licensure.

“I’m extremely fortunate to work for a firm so committed to helping young employees advance in their career,” Megan said. “Coworkers on my team continue to work closely with me to show me methods of good practice, introduce me to all aspects of the work field and present me with plenty of opportunities to grow. I could not have ended up at a better firm right after college. I love the work hard / play hard atmosphere. This is a spectacular environment for young architects to thrive!”

And thrive she has. Megan gained extensive knowledge and experience on Kirksey’s commercial team with opportunities to work on office buildings and hotels.

“Kirksey is very proud to have Megan as a part of our team. This accomplishment not only recognizes her determined work ethic, but also serves as a testament to her ambition for a long and successful career,” said Scott Wilkinson, AIA, Executive Vice President and Commercial Team Leader at Kirksey.

In addition to covering the costs of study materials, passed exams and licensing fees, Kirksey places great value on employees maintaining a work/life balance, including carving out study time and paid time off for exam leave. Within the past year, Kirksey is proud to have 10 staff attain architectural licensure.

So… what will Megan be doing now that her exams are behind her?

“I plan to do absolutely nothing for a few months!” she said. “I’m looking forward to learning what this crazy thing called ‘leisure time’ is all about, and I look forward to spending more time with my family and friends. I’m sure I will eventually get my mind set on some other fun challenge but for now I am enjoying working out again, going to the movies, crocheting, and taking trips with my family!”

Congratulations, Megan! We are very proud of you, and this is an accomplishment that is well deserved!

Custom Mural Provides Art for Underprivileged Youth

The hand-painted custom mural is a welcome burst of energy and excitement – interweaving colorful strokes on an open wall for one of Kirksey’s most inspiring projects. This project, a confidential rehabilitation center for underprivileged Houston-area youth, meant a great deal for those involved, including a well-known Houston artist who provided his talent for this special project.



Known in the social media world as Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau, the French artist relocated to Texas in 1998. Working with architects, designers, schools and fortune 500 companies, Boileau creates custom artwork that reflects its surrounding environment.

“As a former graffiti artist when I was a teenager, I can relate with having legal issues and doubting myself,” Boileau said. “But I also know that anyone can turn things around and change.”

Boileau, now a celebrated artist, knew the importance of sharing his story and creating a work of art that would positively impact the students walking the halls.


The Kirksey team worked with Boileau to find the right nuance and feel for the art – and, not stopping there – they asked the teens to provide their own opinions and thoughts in order to contribute to the project, too. The students wrote down inspirational words, quotes and phrases that are painted throughout the building in various recreational areas – from the basketball court to the hallways.



“The mural represents ‘change’ – first from a simple wall – then with the writing of the words they chose,” Boileau said. “I then turned their words into a more abstract art piece, conveying energy and hope.”

Several hundred colorful strokes later, the large indoor mural and inspirational quotes have found a permanent home inside the building, a daily reminder that design and art can have a positive impact on anyone in the community.

Photography by Ruben Serrano.




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Julie Hendricks Presents at the FacadesPlus AM Conference in Houston

Kirksey’s EcoServices team leader and vice president, Julie Hendricks, presented at the sold out Facades+AM Conference this morning in Houston, discussing how she and the Kirksey team meet the challenges to build sustainably in Houston’s hot and humid climate. Her panel topic focused on solar heat and wind mitigation, offering sustainable solutions for today’s environment.

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Kirksey Wins Golden Bucket at AIA Sandcastle Competition!

We did it, folks. Kirksey took home the prized “Golden Bucket” — 1st place award — at the AIA Sandcastle Competition in Galveston! This is a first-ever, best-in-show win for Kirksey, and a well-deserved one at that. Armed with buckets, shovels, sheer determination and creativity, the Kirksey and Metzger Construction team took to the sand to create “Jurassic Seuss,” a fictional land where Sneetches live on beaches and some were caught in the jaws of a T-Rex.

Congratulations to our entire Kirksey sandcastle team!

Check out the Houston Chronicle article and more photos here.


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_AIA Sandcastle Meghan


Kirksey Presents at AIA National Convention in Atlanta

Julie Hendricks, Director of EcoServices at Kirksey, traveled to Atlanta for the AIA National Convention to present on Post Occupancy Evaluations (POEs) on May 14, 2015. The session, titled “Post Occupancy Evaluation: What, Why and How?” was geared toward architects just getting started with POEs.

Presenting in conjunction with Julie Hiromoto from SOM and Shawn Preau of EDR, the speakers explored a range of topics, including:

  • Various levels and types of POEs
  • How to define the POE approach that best suits your firm or project
  • Benefits of a POE

Julie finished the session by conducting a real-time “flash” POE survey on the session room with a big helping hand from Russell Wooten, who managed the equipment and trained the audience how to use it. Some of the techniques shown included administering a thermal comfort and indoor air quality survey, and taking measurements of conditions in the room, revealing some rather interesting surprises.

“Before the session started, we had taken some thermal camera images of the room while it was empty,” Julie said.

The thermal images revealed that earlier in the day, someone had spilled a large amount of water on one of the tables, registering a cooler thermal image.

“No one would have discovered this little ‘crime scene’ had it not been for us pesky people and our thermal camera,” Julie laughed.

Whoever spilled the water ultimately got away with it. No further investigation was conducted, most likely due to fear of embarrassing the alleged water-spiller.


Julie has managed the LEED process for more than 60 projects and 7 million sf of space. She has led Kirksey’s effort to conduct POE studies on 11 projects over the last 1.5 years. In 2012, Julie was awarded the Young Architect of the Year by AIA Houston. She frequently speaks and writes on green building topics.


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Join Kirksey at Gulf Coast Green 2015


Join us in celebrating the 10th anniversary of Gulf Coast Green on Friday March 27.

This is a great way for fellow architects to fulfill your CEUs and hear top notch educational sessions that can impact our industry. With a focus on building healthy communities, you won’t want to miss this one day event!

WHEN: Friday, March 27
WHERE: Norris Conference Center (at City Centre)
KEYNOTES: Jeff Speck & Mike Lydon, both national leaders in the design of Healthy Communities

The event consists of three components:
1. The symposium, which will address urban design solutions.
2. The 2015 Green Products Expo, which will feature sustainable products and systems.
3. The Student Competition design charrette led by aspiring designers from the Gulf Coast.

Go to to register now, and make sure to check out what’s new this year – including an After Party at Hotel Sorella and a Cycling Scavenger Hunt downtown on Saturday morning, March 28. Prizes go to the winning cyclists!

We’ll see you there!

Kirksey Presents at Annual CEFPI Conference

Several Kirksey employees recently had the honor of presenting at the Council of Educational Facility Planners International’s annual conference, held in Portland, Oregon. Julie Hendricks and Colley Hodges presented Post Occupancy – a Classic Detective Game and Nicola Springer, Michael La Nasa, and Gary Machicek presented The Butterfly Effect – Sustainable Design for Our Youngest Learners. Below is a brief summary of both presentations.

Post Occupancy – a Classic Detective Game
Buildings across the country are underperforming relative to the goals they were designed to meet. Problems can result from a host of causes including unexpected occupant usage, untrained maintenance staff, malfunctioning technology, and design errors. Post-occupancy evaluations (POEs) are an effective and increasingly popular method used to uncover performance problems and help owners understand and address any issues. Parameters including energy performance, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, illuminance, and acoustical performance are measured and evaluated over time. However, it isn’t always immediately clear what secrets those POE measurements have revealed—interpreting the results requires deductive reasoning and synthesized knowledge of building systems.

Drawing on their experience with post-occupancy evaluations of eight completed buildings, Juile and Colley developed a classic detective game designed to walk attendees through how to conduct a POE study, evaluate the results, and understand the significance of acting on those results. In this game, teams of participants are assigned to a school case study that has a known problem. Teams are given clues collected from a POE study of the school, and they collaborate to discuss the data and uncover the hidden cause of their school’s problem.

Butterfly Effect – Sustainable Design for Our Youngest Learners
The Downtown Houston Childcare Center functions as a teaching tool for young learners. The project features a variety of sustainable features 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 and radiant flooring. Nicola, Gary, and Michael presented unique, sustainable design solutions they used to create an oasis in a bustling urban center. To learn more about this topic please see our previous blog post.

Designing For Our Youngest Learners

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.