03/03/15 1:00pm


As site prep starts on the long-awaited renovation of Main Street Theater’s signature building at 2540 Times Blvd. in Rice Village (top), a recent donation by a renewable energy retailer has enabled the local theater company to add a rooftop solar array to the work scope. Although not intended to power the spotlight on stage, the installation is expected to handle a good chunk of daytime electrical use, theater sources say. Descriptions of the future solar installation mention a 64-panel array on the roof and this sun-seeking companion:


Panel Discussion
03/31/14 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: GETTING RID OF WASTEFULNESS Trashing Old Building Materials“It amazes me that we’ve become so rich as a society that we can collectively afford to have fashions of home improvements that will go in and out of style (although remain perfectly functional) the same way clothes do. The funniest to me is when you see on one of these HGTV shows someone espousing all the right ‘green’ mantras, but the first thing they do when they get the house it tear out all the perfectly functioning appliances, cabinets, counters and carpet…etc to be thrown in a dumpster. All the while feeling smug about how sustainable the place is because they are putting in bamboo flooring . . .” [longcat, commenting on Comment of the Day: Your ‘Updates’ Are Dating You] Illustration: Lulu

07/19/13 4:00pm

Some of the green that goes with this early player in energy-conscious home building in Bellaire could be the $200,000 price increase over its sale last July, when it went for $1.35 million. The ca. 2002 limestone-and-stucco property with Texas Hill Country stylin’ — designed back then for her own family by architect Kathleen Reardon — popped back up on the market earlier this week with a $1.55 million asking price. Some of the enviro-sensitive elements are visible from the get-go, such as the deep overhangs on the eaves. Others are buried deep in the lot — where a network of caverns 250-ft. deep use underground temperatures to regulate the air conditioning and heating. Solar panels and low-water landscaping also play the green card.


03/13/13 2:00pm

GARBAGE PROGRAM STILL ‘ABSOLUTELY DOABLE,’ SAYS MAYOR PARKER So Houston’s “One Bin for All” idea didn’t win the $5 million grand prize in Mayor Bloomberg’s philanthrophic challenge — but it did tie for second. And that means $1 million will be coming Houston’s way, along with $50,000 extra for being so darn lovable and winning the “fan favorite” vote online. And what’s the city going to do with all this dough? The Houston Chronicle’s Carol Christian reports that the consolation prizes might be just enough to get the program off the ground: Though the idea to combine garbage, recycling, and yard waste into one big bin for mechanized sorting later has been around for awhile, Mayor Parker says, “This award will allow us the seed money to begin the process . . . We have thoroughly researched the technology. It’s absolutely doable.” Construction on a new sorting facility could begin as early as 2014, reports Christian. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of recycling bin in the Heights: Charles Kuffner

06/21/11 5:47pm

Hanging out on the roof of Houston’s new Central Permitting and Green Resource Center at 1002 Washington Ave.: Solar panels, anchored by the first-ever commercial installation of Metalab Studio’s new PV-Pod. The local architecture firm developed the hollow high-density polyethylene pods with support from a UH Green Building Components grant. There’s one pod for each panel, and each is filled up with just enough water to resist required wind forces. This kind of assembly is much simpler to install than a typical photovoltaic-panel rack system with concrete ballast blocks, claims Metalab’s Andrew Vrana. It also allows for a more flexible layout. The new permit building opened for business yesterday.


04/18/11 10:53am

Opened over the weekend: a 1,500-sq.-ft. space at 6115 Kirby in the Rice Village that its owners are claiming is the country’s first non-toxic retail paint store. The Green Painter, a project of green-building supply house and organic-mattress showroom New Living, takes over a former tile store next door to its parent company. Partner Jeff Kaplan says most of the paint and coatings sold at the Green Painter — including its own NOVOC brand and a lower-priced line of contractor-grade paints — won’t have any volatile organic compounds at all, but the store does carry one line of paints for cabinets, trim, and exteriors that qualifies as a low-VOC product.

Photo: Adam Brackman

01/14/11 1:32pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: CLEAR PROOF THAT THEY WERE ONTO SOMETHING BIG, BEFORE IT ALL CAME CRASHING DOWN “well it would appear there’s lots of wind up there for harvesting!” [movocelot, commenting on Pieces of Wind Turbine Fall Onto Street from Top of Hess Tower Downtown; Blades on “Lockdown”]

01/13/11 2:26pm

Sometime before
the Christmas holiday last year, “high winds” caused a part of one of the wind turbines mounted to the top of downtown Houston’s Hess Tower to “detach” from its mounting point. “Two pieces of the debris fell to the street. Nobody was injured,” Hess Corporation spokesperson Mari Pat Sexton tells Swamplot today. Sexton had no comment on circulating rumors that one or more of the the pieces struck a car on the street.

The incident helps explain why the whirling turbines, installed as a featured element at the top of the new 29-story tower last summer, have been silent since mid-December. In the photo above, taken by a HAIF commenter shortly before Christmas, the turbines appear to be missing. “After the event occurred, (the turbines) were locked down,” Sexton says, adding she is unaware of the turbines’ current status or whether there are plans to replace them. “The building is still under construction.”

The Gold LEED certified skyscraper, named Discovery Tower until Hess signed on to lease the whole thing 2 years ago, sits at the northern edge of Discovery Green, a short walk from Minute Maid Park. It was developed by Trammell Crow, designed by Gensler, is the thirtieth-tallest building in Houston, and was the first in town to feature — and draw some power from — wind turbines. Here’s how they looked (and sounded) last year, before the incident:


10/05/10 12:19pm

A New York land development firm called Coventry Development has just announced grand plans to establish a giant eco-friendly, mixed-use development modeled heavily on the ecological principles first demonstrated decades ago by The Woodlands — on an 1,800-acre site just south of that community. It’s now a pine forest near the intersections of I-45 North, the Hardy Toll Road, and the projected path of the Grand Parkway, about 30 miles north of Downtown Houston. Some portions of that forest will remain: Plans call for a 150-acre nature preserve along one section of the community’s northern reaches, which stretch to Spring Creek. South of that, and along the northern border of the Grand Parkway, the developers are planning a town center with the hallmarks of major mixed-use employment centers: office space and retail, a medical district, townhouses and apartments, and single-family homes. But they’ve gone ahead and given the place a formula-tested suburban-housing name: Springwoods Village.

Springwoods Realty Company has owned most of this land since the 1960s. Why develop it now? Because it’s now pretty clear that the Grand Parkway will actually be built right at the property’s southern border, the developers say. Plus, there’s development on all sides now.


06/14/10 8:26am

The ambitious mixed-use “eco urban” project shown here — intended for the site of the former AstroWorld — was the idea of a south Florida developer who had the property under contract for an extended period of time, a source tells Swamplot. Called Epicentre Houston, Vantage Plus Corp.’s gargantuan development was meant to be a “city within a city” — combining typical mixed-use elements (1.6 million sq. ft. of shops, 5.2 million sq. ft. of offices, 1500 hotel rooms, and 1840 residences) with 1.9 million sq. ft. of medical space, all within walking distance of Reliant Park, the light-rail line, and the South Loop Sam’s Club.

The developer was scheduled to close on the property approximately 5 months ago, but was unable to, says the source. The 104-acre lot just south of the South Loop has since been sold to Fort Worth developer Michael Mallick, who doesn’t appear to be hiding any fancy renderings of transparent banana-shaped multipurpose buildings up his sleeve.

Oh, but what might have been! More zoomy images of the theme-park redo:


04/19/10 4:26pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON HOMEBUILDING TALES, ABBREVIATED “Once upon a time we knew how to build homes to take advantage of [things] like prevailing winds, natural shade, the position of the sun at different times of the day and year. Then we started just smacking them down in a line after clear cutting the entire sub-development and relying on being able to chuck in a bigger AC unit to take the load.” [Jimbo, commenting on Factory-Built Green Homes for Houston]

Opened yesterday across from the Taco Cabana drive-thru at 2502 Algerian Way, just north of the intersection of Kirby and 59: Randy Evans’s Haven. Evans, who last ran the kitchen at Brennan’s, teamed up with investors Debbie Jaramillo and Rhea Wheeler to produce a certified green restaurant, allowing fans of fine local food to dine on seasonal “farm-to-market” cuisine without having to visit either.

The 5,200-sq.-ft. restaurant was designed by Jim Herd, Geoffrey Brune, and Melanie Pereira of Collaborative Projects, who employed their own menu of environmentally conscious building strategies, including open ceilings, minimal finishes, and refurbished scratch-and-dent kitchen equipment. There’s a raised-bed chef’s garden on site, as well as a parking lot on a raised surface of concrete.


10/06/09 5:54pm

Meanwhile in Ranch Estates, architect Karen Lantz is deconstructing this 1950 Rancher, piece by piece. Her goal: building a new home on the site — but only after finding new homes for most of the materials that are already there.

This type of disassembly is almost unheard of in Houston, where relatively low local landfill tipping fees make crushing and dumping a much cheaper alternative. After 5 local demo companies turned down the work, Lantz decided to contract it all herself. She says she expects to be able to recover and donate 90 percent of the materials in the Banks St. home. Working with an appraiser, she’s been sending materials to the city’s new Reuse Warehouse, Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Harris County, the Houston Habitat Restore, Century Asphalt Materials, and Lone Star Disposal.

“The house going up will absolutely be going for LEED, hopefully the highest rating,” Lantz tells Swamplot. It’s intended for her and her husband. Lantz, the founding president of Houston Mod, says it’s been difficult to convince clients to commit time, energy, or funds toward this sort of attention to materials. Since she’s now preaching the benefits of building deconstruction, she sees this project as an opportunity to practice it.

How much will it cost to strip the place this way?


09/14/09 10:33am

What’s happening to this brick office building on West Dallas, just east of Dunlavy? The Houston Business Journal‘s Jennifer Dawson reports it’s getting an energy-conscious renovation — overseen by Bailey Architects, designer of the original building in the early eighties.

The West Dallas building used to house local advertising firm Sachnowitz & Co. The vacant site of the former Aquarium Lounge is next door.

Early next year, the Royal Norwegian Consulate General will be moving in. The consulate general currently occupies offices in a tower on Allen Parkway.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

06/26/09 5:15pm

Hey, what’s happening to those fancy solar-powered recycled shipping containers on the corner of Hyde Park and Waugh, meant to attract eco-minded buyers to the $400K+ condo units in the Mirabeau B.?

Up and away they go! Did the Mirabeau B. meet its sales target? Nope . . . but it’s time for construction anyway, developer Joey Romano tells Swamplot:

Our financing is in place and we have signed our contract with Mission Constructors who have commenced work on the site. If all goes to plan at the City, the building work will begin in the next few weeks.

How’d that happen? With a little switch: to rental. But Romano says none of the project’s “green” features will be changed:

We’ll still plant our green roof; our 15 KW solar PV system will still power all common areas; and our rainwater retention system will still irrigate our native Gulf Coast plants. Our units will be large, open, and spacious, offering unique, high-grade finishes, high-end energy efficient appliances, and natural light in every bedroom.

So where are the shipping containers headed?