Gulf Coast Green Merges Art with Architecture for Sustainable Design

Gulf Coast Green header1

smART Design: the intersection of art, architecture and sustainability at Gulf Coast Green

Kirksey participated in the 2016 Gulf Coast Green conference, held Thursday, April 28, at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH). Hailed as the best one yet, this year’s conference explored how art and the principles of sustainable design can enrich the classic architectural qualities as described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius: firmitas, utilitas, and venustas (durability, utility and beauty). Founded by Kirksey 11 years ago, Gulf Coast Green features local and international speakers focused on sustainable design, bringing together like-minded green-building professionals to share creative concepts, knowledge and sustainable building solutions. This year’s keynote speakers were Kai-Uwe Bergmann of BIG Architects out of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Jimmy DiResta, a designer and master maker who has starred on several DIY shows on channels such as HGTV, FX Network and Discovery.  


BIG Architecture - Kai-Uwe Bergmann





This year’s outstanding lineup of session speakers included a member of Kirksey’s PK-12 Education Team. Nicola Springer, AIA, LEED AP, and Education PK-12 Team Leader at Kirksey, discussed Place Making by Painting: Art as a Catalyst for Change, a topic centered around a juvenile rehabilitation center and the painted mural that brought both the artist and students together, resulting in a beautiful group effort and focal point for the building.


Nicola talk1




Nicola talk2


Members of Kirksey’s EcoServices and Education teams heavily participated in this year’s conference:

  • Colley Hodges, AIA, LEED AP, WELL AP, was vice-chair of the conference and co-chair of the speaker committee.
  • Julie Hendricks, AIA, LEED AP, director of EcoServices at Kirksey served as speaker co-chair.
  • Katherine Ruiz, AIA, LEED AP, led the Artist Exhibition, a new component to compliment the art theme for this year, guiding and organizing the exhibition from the beginning. The open call for artists asked them to submit work for a pop-up exhibition that focused on recycled materials, energy efficiency, non-toxic materials and materials reuse.
  • Valeriya Bowker, LEED AP, led and organized the Green Product Showcase, the conference’s vendor exhibit that featured products and systems that turn design ideas into sustainable places to live, work and learn. She also co-organized a competition that awarded a prize to the person who visited the most vendor exhibits.
  • Alfonso Hernandez, LEED AP, co-chaired the Student Competition, a sustainable competition focused on the 5R’s (recycle/reuse/reclaim/restore/repurpose). The student competition had one of its best showings in recent years, with 12 teams competing representing three local schools: the University of Houston, Prairie View A&M, and the Art Institute.
  • Christina Miller, LEED AP, led the Green Event effort, helping to ensure that our event was abiding by zero-waste principles and co-organized the Green Product Expo competition.


Tiny houses

Plastic water bottle wall

Kirksey Wins “Best in Show” at IIDA Product Runway

Kirksey Wins “Best in Show” at Architectural Fashion Event That Gives Back to Community

Rubber flooring and seating textiles were carefully hand-stitched together to create this year’s winning dress for the annual IIDA Product Runway fashion show, held at the Revention Music Center on Friday, April 22.


PR_Kirksey_photo by Corvin Alstot_2


PR_Kirksey_photo by Corvin Alstot_3


Coming together to raise money for a good cause, Houston’s architecture and interior design professionals create fashion from everyday industry materials for artistic runway pieces that help raise funds for the Houston Furniture Bank, a non-profit organization that provides furniture and home goods for families in need.

First Place with an Artistic Interpretation
Kirksey Architecture took home Best in Show for their take on this year’s “Avant Art” theme. The Kirksey team was assigned Modernism with Georgia O’Keefe as the inspiration artist for their category, and created a colorful dress, reminiscent of the painter’s abstraction of flowers.

“We started with an original sketch and worked more than 150 man-hours around-the-clock in just three weeks to create the dress,” said Laura Vargas, a member of Kirksey’s Science & Technology team. “We are so proud of our entire team – it was definitely a group project.”

PR_Kirksey sketch


PR_Kirksey working on dress

The dress, weighing in at 50 pounds, was created using over 800 rubber tiles donated by Expanko rubber flooring that were individually hand-cut and hand-sewn. The fabric, provided by Humanscale, was originally white vinyl, but was hand-dyed to achieve the exact, desired color.

The collar of the dress was made entirely of rubber flooring and lined with 6-gauge copper wire to provide structure and form. More than 120 triangles had to be cut and sewn to create the blue cone shapes on the skirt of the dress.

“We are so lucky that Kirksey is committed to design in such a way that we’re able to give back to the community and contribute our design efforts for a good cause,” said Michelle Old, a member of Kirksey’s design team.

Fun Facts About the Dress
• Over 800 rubber tiles were individually hand-cut and hand-sewn to the dress.
• The fabric was originally white vinyl and was hand-dyed to the exact, desired color.
• The collar is made entirely of rubber flooring and lined with 6-gauge copper wire to give it structure and form.
• 120 triangles had to be cut and sewn to create the blue cone shapes on the skirt of the dress.
• It took approximately 7 minutes to sew on each tile.
• The dress weighs 50 pounds.
• Over 150 man-hours working around-the-clock in just three weeks were spent making the dress.

PR_Kirksey group photo 2016


PR_Kirksey_photo by Corvin Alstot_1

Colley Hodges Among Nation’s First WELL Accredited Professionals

We are proud to announce that Colley Hodges, AIA and LEED AP, is the firm’s first WELL Accredited Professional and one of the first in the country to be awarded the credential through the Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI).

Colley_WELL AP

What is WELL?

WELL is a performance-based standard focused on features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being. The WELL Building Standard consists of designing toward, measuring, and monitoring performance thresholds in seven categories of wellness: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.



A Long, But Dedicated Road

Becoming a WELL Accredited Professional involves passing the WELL AP exam and “signifies extensive knowledge of human health and wellness in the built environment,” according to the GBCI. Candidates must be well-versed in the WELL Building Standard v1, the WELL Certification Guidebook, and other resources.

But what made the achievement even more impressive is that Colley passed the exam with a newborn daughter (his second) born only 10 weeks before the exam date.

“It was a detail-oriented exam. I had a decent base of knowledge going into studying because I have been working on this topic at Kirksey for some time, but there was still a lot of material to cover” Colley said. “Work and family makes it tough to find time to study – especially with a newborn and a toddler at home – but I knew this would be an important step for our firm.”

Colley’s interest in becoming a WELL AP was no surprise, given that Kirksey has been dedicated to healthy building since the firm was founded. Kirksey’s EcoServices team has always been at the forefront of major trends in sustainable design, having established the Houston chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and is responsible for a number of LEED firsts, including Houston’s first LEED Certified building.

Hopes are high that with a WELL AP on staff, Kirksey will soon have its first WELL certified project. According to the International Well Building Institute, there are currently five projects pursuing WELL in Texas, only one of which is in Houston.

“Colley’s achievement is a key milestone in our development of health and wellness expertise,” said Julie Hendricks, AIA and LEED AP, vice president and director of Kirksey’s EcoServices team. “It has the potential to open some doors in this growing trend in sustainable design and architecture in general.”


Kirksey Presents at A4LE IMPACT Southern Regional Conference

Kirksey is proud to present at the recently re-named A4LE (formerly CEFPI) regional conference in Houston on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) holds a regional conference every year. The non-profit organization strives to improve the places where children learn and serves as a resource for effective educational facilities. This year’s conference, IMPACT: Great Schools | Successful Students | Strong Communities, will be held at the JW Marriot in Houston and features four Kirksey speakers who are passionate about designing 21st century PK-12 learning environments.

Kirksey’s speakers include:

P_131126_N80_photopageNicola Springer, AIA, LEED AP
Vice President at Kirksey
PK-12 Education Team Leader

Nicola is passionate about education design and has made it the focus of her career for the past 15 years. Committed to designing schools that create healthy, positive environments, Nicola is a resource to Kirksey for 21st century learning and on the forefront of educational design. She has received several AIA Houston Chapter Design awards for her education projects and was the 2009 recipient of the AIA Houston Ben Brewer Young Architect of the Year Award.



P_131213_N17_photopageJulie Hendricks, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Vice President at Kirksey
EcoServices Team Leader

As Kirksey’s EcoServices Team Leader, Julie is on the forefront of sustainable design. She has managed the LEED process for over 50 projects, totaling more than 5 million square feet. In 2012, she was the recipient of the AIA Houston Ben Brewer Young Architect of the Year Award. She has worked on indoor air quality and sustainable site-related issues for more than ten years. She currently serves on the USGBC Sustainable Sites Technical Advisory Committee.



P_131126_N20_photopageColley Hodges, AIA, LEED AP, WELL AP
EcoServices Team Member

Colley has administered the LEED certification of more than 2.5 million square feet for Kirksey’s diverse portfolio. He is a co-facilitator of Kirksey’s post-occupancy evaluations, a survey process Kirksey uses to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of a building once it’s finished and occupied. Colley regularly publishes and delivers presentations on topics such as climate-responsive design, building performance, and material health. His work in achieving Pilot Credit 45: Site Assessment is featured on the USGBC’s website as a guide to assist teams in achieving the LEED v4 Site Assessment credit, and most notably, he recently became one of the first WELL Accredited Professionals in the country.



P_131126_N45_photopageJody Henry, LEED AP
PK-12 Education Team Member

Jody brings more than 15 years of experience to Kirksey’s PK-12 education design, and has assisted on over 1 million square feet of education design in the greater Houston area. In 2011, she was named a Houston Green Hero by the USGBC and has spoken nationally on the benefits of “green” schools. Her passion for education design and 21st century learning is evident in the projects she manages – she is inspired to design facilities so that every child has a healthy and sustainable learning environment.


The topics Kirksey will present on include:

Better Than Platinum – The Healing Power of Play


  • Nicola Springer, PK-12 Education Team Leader
  • Jody Henry, PK-12 Education Team Associate

Summary: The Construction of a gymnasium building brings together a diversity of groups with a shared focus, with a mission to provide a building that teaches, inspires, one that is smart, that is healthy and has the potential to transform. This presentation will review the process of designing and building a multipurpose gym for a juvenile probation department. It shows the process and the importance of engaging the stakeholders at the early stages of design, and illustrates how these ideas were incorporated into the design solution. The building is seeking LEED platinum, and it will show the elements and the strategies incorporated to achieve that rating. The presentation will also show how volunteer programs are incorporated into the design as a part of the therapy for the young men, and how maximum security does not have to mean minimum design.

Demystifying Integrated Site Design


  • Julie Hendricks, EcoServices Team Leader
  • Nicola Springer, PK-12 Education Team Leader
  • Colley Hodges, EcoServices Team Member

Summary: Though integrated design is often discussed, it is implemented far more rarely. LEED v4, the green building rating system’s newest version, aims to ensure integrated site design through the collection of comprehensive site information during early design. What difference will that make? In this presentation, Kirksey will answer this question by presenting case studies, identifying helpful tools, and using iterative design charrettes.

Michelle Old is Named YAF Emerging Voices Architect

Michelle Old, AIA, a member of Kirksey’s design team, has been named a YAF Emerging Voices Architect and attended the opening reception exhibit last Thursday night at the Architecture Center of Houston. Young Architects Forum, an organization through AIA Houston, hosts the Emerging Voices Exhibition which features the work of young architects in Houston who have received licensure within the last ten years. This event allows the opportunity for young professionals to showcase their work (both architectural and non-architectural) to be on display for the Houston design community.

“I feel honored to showcase what I consider personal and professional art,” said Michelle.

Through an extensive application process, architects are invited to submit a variety of creative works — everything from photography to artwork, sketches, working drawings and renderings. The exhibit is juried and curated by leading Houston architects.

YAF Emerging Voices Website

Architecture Center Houston
315 Capitol, Ste 120
Houston, TX 77002

Exhibit Dates
March 3, 2016 – April 29, 2016

Gallery Hours

Monday – Thursday, 9a – 5:30p
Friday, 9a – 3p

YAF Exhibition Photo



Queensbury Theater 3



Product Runway 2015




At Home in Barbados with the Rice Design Alliance

Barbados beachWhat’s better than taking an architectural tour? Taking one where sandy beaches warm your feet and crystal blue water washes ashore. Nicola Springer, Vice President at Kirksey, hosted a “home island” tour of her home country of Barbados organized through the Rice Design Alliance (RDA).

Attendees enjoyed a four-day educational (and – let’s be honest – jealousy-inducing) trip to Barbados in February where they toured famous structures of the history-rich country and enjoyed a few local customs. Located off the coast of Venezuela, Barbardos is a small, but not insignificant island, with a current population of almost 270,000. Settled by the English in 1627, much of the architecture reflects British style and grandeur.

 Beach photo taken by Kirksey’s Linda Camacho. All other photographs provided by Nicola Springer. 



DAY ONE ———————————————————————

Barbados_Bush Hill House
The Bush Hill House, Historic Bridgetown

On the first day, the group visited Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, a part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and a World Heritage Site. Dating back to the 17th century, this old town represents the growth and success of Great Britain’s Atlantic colonial empire.

The Bush Hill House, famous for having a certain George Washington stay as a guest, still reflects the early colonial style architecture and has been recently restored. While caring for his ill brother in 1751, George Washington rented the house (which he felt was too expensive at ₤15 a month) from Captain Crofton, the commander of James Fort in Bridgetown. His six weeks in Barbados exposed him to the military prowess of the Brits as well as built up his immunity to certain diseases.


Barbados_Parliament (2)

Barbados was settled by the British in 1627.  The first meeting of the assembly was held in 1639 these meetings would take places in local taverns and other such buildings before an official Parliament building was established.  Many visitors often mistake these buildings for a church, the buildings are made from local limestone (coral stone) and were designed in the neo-gothic style. The east and West Wings of the Houses of Parliament were completed between 1870-1874. Slate floors and ironwork came from England, while local mahogany was the finish used for the wall paneling and furnishings of the chambers. With this long history, Barbados is the second oldest in the hemisphere.


DAY TWO ———————————————————————


Barbados_Cordrington College1Cordrington College, St. John, Barbados
Day two took the group to Cordrington College, located in St. John. Now a theological seminary, Cordrington was founded by funds and donated land from Christopher Codrington after his death in 1710. The college opened in 1745. In 1830, the college was then bequeathed to be a seminary and train students for ordination.

Sir Henry Fraser, the leading architectural historian of Barbados, led the tour. A bit overcast with occasional showers and a strong, cool breeze, the weather was almost more reminiscent of the English countryside, and an interesting way to observe the college with its strong classical and Palladian references.

Barbados_Chattel House

Traditional Chattel House, Barbados Heritage Village

The group toured several different examples of a traditional “chattel house,” a small vernacular building type that is slowly fading from the scene as more people prefer their current homes to be made of concrete. There are several styles of a chattel house, ranging from a decorated Victorian-esque style to a more humble version of wood-weathered planks and shingles.


Barbados_Chattel House_humble

Humble Chattel House

One example of a humble chattel house.











DAY THREE ———————————————————————


Barbados_White House

Barbados’ Own “White House”

This “White House” serves as the official residence of the Governor General Sir Elliot Belgrave. With the help of Captain Lovell, his Aide de Camp, along with a Ms. Watson, the official Secretary and under the guidance of Sir Henry Fraser again, the tour group was able to see and tour this splendid house built in 1702 by a Quaker.


Barbados_Pelican Village Music

Pelican Village Craft Centre & Local Music

Making their way into Pelican Village, a local shopping center and hub for artisans and craft designers, the group was able to test their musical chops at the steel pan. This melodic instrument gains its reputation as being one of the few instruments to come to being in the 20th century and provides a wonderful story of how wit and innovation helped find a replacement for the traditional drum.







DAY FOUR ———————————————————————


Barbados_St Nicholas Abbey


St. Nicholas Abbey

After a good breakfast accompanied by a rousing gospel music group, the tour traveled up the East coast one last time and stopped in the parish of St. Peter. Built in 1658, the St. Nicholas Abbey was designed in the Jacobean style and is one of only three homes of that particular style in the hemisphere. The grounds are beautiful, with a plethora of tropical plants and birds. Nicola captured a photo of a flowering buttercup tree.


The 2016 Michael G. Meyers Student Workshop Kicks Off!

Kirksey had a very successful turnout for this year’s Michael G. Meyers student workshop with more than 90 high school students in attendance from all around the greater Houston area. We sat down with Natasha Shamshiri, one of Kirksey’s Commercial team members and this year’s chair for the AIA MGMC event to get all the details.

What is the Michael G. Meyers Student Workshop?
Every year, the AIA organizes the Michael G. Meyers Design & Scholarship Competition for high school students to engage in architectural design through the use of an ideas based project. Before the competition, AIA sponsors a student workshop to kick off the event. The past few years, Kirksey has hosted the student workshop to give students a quick lesson on the basics of architecture and work in teams with volunteers to discuss and further develop those skills through the use of precedent/case studies. At the end of the workshop, each team presents their case study along with their sketches and models. Finally, the program and guidelines for the year’s competition is revealed.


MGMC - 2016 - Fast 17 (8 of 17)


What is this year’s competition?
Animal House! An Animal Shelter for Dogs and Cats in EaDo (East Downtown Houston).

How long do the students get to work on the project?
Students work on their projects for almost two months. This year’s deadline is April 29.


MGMC - 2016 - Fast 17 (9 of 17)


What’s it like working with the students?
Working with the students is always an exciting opportunity. It’s always really fun to see their ideas and creativity come to life.

What surprises you year after year?
While many of the competition entries are surprising, I would say what most surprises me is the impact that this competition seems to have on the students. I have met several professionals in the industry who participated in this competition when they were in high school and have now returned as volunteers for the committee.

Stay tuned for more MGMC updates as this year’s competition is off to the great start!

For more information about the competition, visit the AIA Houston website.

All photography by Shau Lin / Slyworks Photography


MGMC - 2016 - Fast 17 (3 of 17)

MGMC - 2016 - Fast 17 (5 of 17)

MGMC - 2016 - Fast 17 (10 of 17)

MGMC - 2016 - Fast 17 (11 of 17)


Kirksey Ships Care Packages to Soldiers for the Holidays

Over the holidays, Kirksey rounded up volunteers to help spread good cheer for U.S. soldiers stationed overseas.

Spearheaded by Tammy Spencer, part of Kirksey’s Operations department, a group of Kirksey volunteers chipped in to purchase non-perishable goods, snacks and food to box up and send to 25 soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Combat Brigade 3-15 Infantry Battalion Alpha Company 1st Platoon Savages stationed in Djibouti, Africa.




Tammy’s son-in-law, Kyle York, was among the recipients, so the volunteer effort had special meaning for her. Kyle is married to Tammy’s daughter, Ashley, and they have a three-year-old daughter together. This was Kyle’s first Christmas away from them, so Tammy wanted to do something special. While Kyle was receiving many boxes from home, some of his fellow soldiers weren’t.

“It broke my heart,” Tammy said. “He told me that this was the first deployment for some of the men in his unit, and some of them didn’t have the support like he did.”

Once people at the office heard what Tammy was doing, a group of volunteers got on board to purchase supplies and fill enough boxes for the entire platoon.

“It makes me proud to be a part of such a great group of people. The boxes were a great surprise for the men,” said Tammy.



The boxes contained popular items from the States that the soldiers have a hard time finding or simply cannot get overseas. With a team of volunteers, Kirksey was able to deliver 25 boxes full of goodies to remind the soldiers of home and spread a little cheer halfway across the world, even if they arrived shortly after the holidays.

“We were very surprised and happy to receive something all the way over here. It reminded us of home and we’re very grateful,” said Kyle.

Kirksey Plants Trees to Honor Clients

On a beautiful Saturday morning, Kirksey employees, family and friends took part in the tradition of planting trees in honor of Kirksey’s clients. For the 29th year in a row, Kirksey planted 300 trees here locally in Houston as a way of giving back to the community in a sustainable way.



The tree planting for this year took place within Memorial Park to kick off the park’s ecological and habitat restoration. In addition to Kirksey employees and hundreds of volunteers, Mayor Sylvester Turner, members of City Council, Houston Parks and Recreation, Uptown Houston TIRZ and Trees for Houston were in attendance.

For Kirksey, this marks more than 9,700 trees planted throughout the Houston area.


DSC00080 DSC00143

“Our commitment to sustainability and our clients is a priority for us,” said Janis Brackett, Kirksey’s Community Team Leader. “Planting these trees will help restore Memorial Park to its full beauty, and we are very happy to give back to our community in this way.”

For more information, click here for the press release.




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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.”