05/04/16 12:45pm

3319 Virginia St., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

On the market as of 2 weeks ago: the home-slash-power-plant on the corner of Virginia and Colquitt streets, a block west of the now-rising Kirby Collection.  The listing claims the building is Houston’s first LEED-Platinum certified home (though others have since followed suit), and by Houston standards, Adams Architects took extreme measures to reduce the 1,900-sq.-ft. house’s dependence on city utilities networks.

Rooftop solar panels send excess energy to the power grid during the day, and a back-up battery system is in place in case the grid ever goes down. Tucked out of sight below the 3-bedroom structure are geothermal conduits which circulate water down to hotter strata 300 ft. deep, collecting energy to heat and cool the house. A 7,000-gallon cistern beneath the recycled-plastic deck also collects rainwater for use in the space.

Ready to peek inside?


Green Machine in Upper Kirby
09/15/14 3:45pm

734 E. 8th St., Houston Heights

734 E. 8th St., Houston HeightsIf you’re wondering what an expanse of fake grass is doing in the back yard of a $1.345 million home around the corner from Antidote, Premium Draught, and the Sonoma Wine Bar in the Heights, the architect of the 4-bedroom, 3,769-sq.-ft. structure has an answer for you: “The synthetic grass was the owner’s idea, which had my full support,” Cameron Armstrong tells Swamplot, after an email from a reader alerted us to the astroturfing issue. “It’s 100% recycled material, and significantly reduced our landscape irrigation needs,” the architect notes, “which gained the project some points during LEED certification (Silver).”

Ouch! Does learning that last bit give you a brain cramp? If so, you’re not alone:


No Mow

Shoppers on 19th St. will soon be able to pop in between stops for vintage cowboy boots and vinyl LPS for a few gallons of non-toxic paint, now that a second location of the Green Painter is opening Saturday. When the original store debuted in 2011 beside New Living in the Rice Village, the owners were claiming it was the country’s first non-toxic retail paint store. The new Heights location at 321 W. 19th St., shown here, will be in the 2,600-sq.-ft. suite that used to house Jubilee. You can’t miss it: Just look for the lamppost that’s been painted green.

Photos: Allyn West

01/22/13 3:30pm

Look familiar? Two weeks after its smaller look-alike housing unit appeared on the market, this bigger-by-a-bedroom version finishing up right next door listed for a bit more. And speaking of doors, this mini-mod’s entry is cool blue instead of the cheery yellow one marking its neighbor. Other differences include the roofline’s wider wingspan — to accommodate a broader, shorter driveway that bumps against that extra room downstairs.


Animal bones, mirror shards, scrap lumber destined for a landfill: Dan Phillips builds houses up in Walker County out of almost anything he can get his hands on. The former Sam Houston State dance instructor finished this one, known as the Charleston House, in 2004. It’s got a hallway floor composed of corks (at right) and a fence (above) detailed with the wine bottles from which those corks very well might have been popped. Phillips’s organization Phoenix Commotion tells Swamplot that he likes to sell to low-income families and hungry, if not starving, artists, who often help build the houses themselves. But the Charleston House is one that’s changed hands a few times. Now it’s ended up on the “regular market.” The 935-sq.-ft. 3-bedroom at 912 University was originally listed last fall at $899,900. Then it came down a bit to a rather more sober $89,900.

Photos: HAR

11/10/10 1:42pm

A small fleet of modified shipping containers outfitted with adjustable solar panels will soon serve as mobile emergency power supplies for the city of Houston. City officials are currently negotiating a contract to purchase 25 of the units, which are based on a prototype originally deployed as the green-themed sales office of a Montrose condo project. The solar-powered containers, called SPACE (“Solar Powered Adaptive Container for Everyone“), were created by a joint venture of local architecture firm Metalab, Joey Romano’s Harvest Moon Development, and design firm ttweak (best known for the popular “Houston. It’s Worth It.” marketing campaign). City sustainability director Laura Spanjian announced at the opening of the University of Houston’s Green Building Components Expo last month that SPACE and energy company Ameresco had been selected through a public-application process to supply the city with the mobile “solar generators.” Spanjian now tells Swamplot the contract should be complete “in a few weeks.”


11/16/09 1:03pm

A reader sends in photos of the new Hess Tower, formerly known as Discovery Tower, under construction adjacent to Discovery Green Downtown.

You can see the tower isn’t quite finished yet but it sure looks like that plaza in front of it already is! Though really, all those office workers look a little young, don’t you think?

More pics:


What fancy high-tech firm just moved into that shimmering new green building off 290 at 43rd St.?

It’s your FBI. And hiding behind those dark shades in the new Houston Field Office:

The building includes a crisis management operations center, room for several crime and gang task forces, an arrest processing area where suspects are brought in, polygraphed, interviewed, booked and fingerprinted.

There’s a “complaint duty” office where anyone can walk in and lodge their concern with an officer on duty.

It also features a heavily equipped exercise room, a clinic headed by fulltime occupational health nurse Tisha Millard and the annual Citizens Academy led by Ronnie Cutlip, outreach coordinator.

The building includes the requisite extra-long-walkway anti-porte-cochere, specially designed to thwart vehicular attacks. But its real innovation is the external green-glass skin, hung away from the building on a lightweight metal frame, and specially formulated so the agents inside will be able to keep their cool when that Texas heat is on:


09/14/09 10:58am

A REALTOR’S TANKLESS JOB HAR’s consumer site won’t let you search for data in new fields that indicate whether a home has LEED or NAHB Green certification, AC with a high SEER rating, or other energy-related features yet, but listing agents have at least begun filling in the blanks: “For now, the word is still getting out – I doubt that all homes with Green features are being noted as such. There is also evidence that some of the homes are tagged incorrectly -Not even 90 days in to having these fields available there is not enough data yet to state whether or not homes with certain features definitely sell for more money than those without . . . Personally I have been amazed at the number of homes in the Houston area that have Solar PV or Solar Hot Water. The other trend that appears to grow by the week in MLS is the number of homes with Tankless Hot Water Heaters and Older homes with Low-E windows.” [Turning Houston Green, via Swamplot inbox]

09/04/09 12:26pm

SECRET POWERS OF THE CORDELL ST. SHIPPING-CONTAINER HOUSE The Brookesmith home of Kevin Freeman and Jen Feldmann — fashioned from shipping containers by Numen Development’s John Walker and Katie Nichols — meets a national audience in the pages of the latest issue of Dwell: “The meat distributor [across Cordell St.] begins loading trucks as early as 5:30 a.m., but the couple imagines themselves as hipsters living in New York City’s meatpacking district, and that makes it okay. . . . The corrugated steel of the container that houses the master suite becomes a textured wall for writing messages in the home’s entrance. ‘When we were furnishing the house, I thought, “Oh no! Our fridge isn’t magnetic for Eli’s artwork,” but then I realized the whole house is magnetic,’ Feldmann says. ‘We’ve become magnet connoisseurs,’ Freeman adds.” [Dwell; previously in Swamplot]

08/05/09 5:28pm

Fresh from a first visit to the new butterfly-roofed, design-pedigreed H-E-B Market on Buffalo Speedway at Bissonnet — which opened to the public bright and early at 6 o’clock this morning — a reader writes in with a report:

There were uniformed traffic directing cops with loud whistles herding eager shoppers into the parking lot. In the entry way, I was greeted by HEB Buddy, some kind of a brown bag cartoon character. The store was packed and had a carnival-like atmosphere. HEB was well-prepared with quadruple staff greeting and answering questions. The buffalo speedway side seems to be more of the Central Market stuff, like Cafe On the Run, bakery, fish market, etc. And the rest of the store feels more like an HEB with Central Market products integrated throughout. As a regular shopper at Central Market, I think having some cheaper alternatives nearby will save me money.

More photos, plus . . . the downside:


07/02/09 9:17am

Two new buildings designed by regional architecture stars Lake/Flato Architects will open in Houston in the next couple of months: Rice University’s new swimming-pool and palm-tree festooned Wellness Center . . . and this sleek new H-E-B on Buffalo Speedway and Bissonnet.

Strangely, the San Antonio architecture firm didn’t get the late-nineties memo that specified an Alamo flavored Mission Revival strip and shopping center style for the inner Westpark corridor, and opted instead for a modern-looking hangar with a reflective butterfly roof, lots of glass, and a bunch of eco-features. Plus, fancy foods:

Buffalo Market will feature a Central Market Cafe on the Run, offering gourmet to-go items; a cheese shop with, for example, 54 varieties of bleu cheese; 2,000 varieties of wine; and a sushi and cooking demo station.

Half of the 68,000-square-foot H-E-B store will be devoted to perishables. Typically, supermarkets give perishables about one-third of the store space, [H-E-B and Central Market President Scott] McClelland said. There will be less general merchandise.

Buffalo Market will be similar to the H-E-B/Central Market hybrid in The Woodlands, only it will be an updated version, he said.

A few more photos sent in by a reader:


03/02/09 4:00pm

Denver’s JG Johnson
Architects describes its entry in the $99K House Competition using 4 terms:

MODULAR: three modules, numerous configurations, structural insulated panels allow flexible opening installation, mass production

ADAPTABLE: responsive to different site orientations, ratios, topographies

INDIVIDUAL: different users, multifunctional spaces, architectural style variations, pride in ownership supports demographically diverse neighborhoods

ECOLOGICAL (AND ECONOMICAL): ductless climate control system, inclusion of surplus materials, highly insulated, well sealed envelope, minimal built space through inclusion of exterior spaces, glazing orientation, solar shading


02/26/09 10:57am

The solar-powered portable building fashioned from recycled shipping containers that’s been waiting patiently at the corner of Hyde Park and Waugh since last September isn’t just the sales office for the Mirabeau B. condo. It’s also a prototype.

Designers Joe Meppelink and Andrew Vrana of Metalab have teamed up with ttweak Renewables (creators of the Mirabeau B.’s sales graphics) and Harvest Moon (the condo’s developer) to market the structures, which they call SPACE. That stands for Solar Powered Attractive Container for Everyone — though more likely it’ll be for companies that want a sales center that also works as a big green sign.


02/19/09 12:07pm

WHERE’S A STINKIN’ FEMA TRAILER WHEN YOU NEED ONE? Trailer sculptor Paul Villinski, on the difficulty of procuring the raw material for his Emergency Response Studio, now on display at the Rice Art Gallery: “I thought, OK I’m going to go get a FEMA trailer, because they’re selling them online through the government – you know, the GAO Web site – at that very moment, it seemed, FEMA basically stopped releasing the trailers into the marketplace. And not only did they do that, they bought back all the ones that they had already sold. . . . And the back story with that is basically that the plaintiffs in this class-action suit need a couple of FEMA trailers so they can really study the indoor air quality and FEMA and the manufacturers do not want them to have them. So they’ve been ordered by the judge in the case to release the trailers, and they haven’t done it yet. So that made it impossible for me to actually get a FEMA trailer, which is why I wound up finding a 30-foot Gulfstream Cavalier, but it was built a couple of years before the FEMA trailers were.” [Arts in Houston; previously in Swamplot]