02/15/13 4:08pm

Ah, Friday: Why not take a stroll down Binz St. in the Museum District and have a look at what’s going on? Let’s head east from here: the corner of La Branch and Binz, near the Children’s Museum.

Our guide, Swamplot reader David Hollas, provides the photos and the observations:


02/13/13 1:00pm

Thieves made off with copper wiring from UH’s University Center late Saturday night, a UH public safety department bulletin reports: A contractor noticed early Sunday morning that the wiring had gone missing; a reader tells Swamplot that this knocked out the building’s power and is delaying renovations. The Barnes & Noble and Cougar Byte stores inside the UC have been scrambling to set up temporary locations elsewhere on campus.


01/24/13 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: STICKING UP FOR STUCCO “What’s with all of this unfounded hate for stucco? It’s actually a very good construction material, well suited for wet climates (if installed properly). One can have just as much water penetration and mold on a brick facade if flashings are not installed properly or weep holes are clogged. And unlike brick, stucco actually ‘ties’ the structure together by making the frame more rigid, whereas brick just sits there almost unconnected from the structure.” [commonsense, commenting on A Preview of a $110K Modest Mod]

10/17/12 4:26pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT IT TAKES TO BUILD AT THE UPPER END “You are right that you can build a very nice house for $150/sq. ft., but when you are in this stratospheric range, $150 is your starting point and you jump off from there. . . . Your roof will be slate and not composition. Goodness knows how much that costs, and how it impacts your structural engineering. Your floors will be stone and/or wide plank salvaged wood and not 2 1/2″ plain sawn oak. Your facade will be brick, not hardi plank, and bricks will cost $2-$3 each and not 50 cents. And on an 8,000 sq. ft. structure you may get 50,000, 100,000 bricks. Then you pay the mason. Your trim and doors will be custom manufactured and not stock. Your window package will be custom manufactured and not stock. Saw one house where custom fabricated metal windows cost $250,000. For the windows. Your light cans will cost 10x the cost of the cans you get in a builder spec house. You will have paid a lighting designer a fortune to tell you how to position those lights. Your HVAC, security, A/V systems will be state of the art, each of which will run tens and tens of thousands, if not more. You will insulate your house to an extreme level. And so on and so on. It all adds up . . . But yes, you can build a nice house for $150/sq. ft., but if you are building on a 50,000 sq. ft. lot on the corner of Kirby and Inwood, you just won’t.” [KG, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Out of the Closet]

10/15/12 1:26pm

For the home she’s building for her family on Banks St., on the former site of a carefully disassembled Ranch house in Ranch Estates, architect Karen Lantz tried to make sure every product was made in the United States. But the breaking point came with cabinet hardware, Mimi Swartz writes: “‘This one?’ Lantz said, picking up the pull on the left and turning it over for my inspection. ‘From Italy. Nine dollars.’ She picked up the one on her right. ‘This one?’ She paused. ‘China. Four dollars.’ The U.S.-made pull that was closest to what she wanted cost $72. She called company after company trying to do better. When she asked why the American pulls cost so much more than those made overseas, the answers ranged from ‘We make them here’ to ‘It’s a classic.’”


09/21/12 5:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY WE REALLY NEED THE EARLY MORNING CONCRETE CURE “It’s partly due to traffic, but the main reason you pour concrete in the extreme early hours is due to temperature. Concrete is actually a substance undergoing a chemical reaction and continues to get warmer. In the south, it’s not uncommon to pour concrete in the early morning hours before it gets too hot. If the concrete gets too warm it becomes brittle really fast. There are ways of dealing with heat such as adding ice to the mix, but it is not the preferred way to go. This is also the reason why in west Texas you don’t see to many concrete roads. It’s really hard to maintain the temperature during a large placement. So yes, there is some concern with traffic, but it has to do more with heat. Now, some of you may say that the slab of your house was placed in the heat of the day. Yes, but the strength lost in the heat for your house is not enough to effect the overall structure. Bridges, highways, highrises, and large placements where high loads are experienced can get susceptible to the heat and weaken the overall structure. . . .” [kjb434, commenting on About Those “Early Morning” Concrete Pours]

09/12/12 5:41pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: YOU PAY, WE SALVAGE “. . . Under the new business model, which is consistent with national models used by various non-profits involved in deconstruction and restores involved in reselling reclaimed materials, the donor of the house will now pay to have the materials reclaimed because they are the ones benefitting from the charitable contribution for the gift of the materials. As an example . . . a property owner could simply demolish a house . . . send everything to the landfill and they will have a cost associated with that for about $8,000.00 with no tax benefit. OR . . . the donor can donate the house to Historic Houston, pay for us to deconstruct/salvage the house, which may cost an additional 3,500-5,000.00, so a total cost of let’s say 13,000.00 to demolish the house. In every instance I have ever dealt with, the charitable contribution for the gift of the materials FAR EXCEEDS the total cost of the demolition and salvage sometimes multiple times over. . . . If doing deconstruction and reclaiming building materials was such a HUGE profit center and money making proposition . . . there would be all kinds of competition out there in this growing market . . . but in fact there’s not . . . because it’s really hard work getting the material out, and storing the material until someone (hopefully) buys it is really expensive and the profit margin is incredibly low . . . thrift store value. . . .” [Lynn Edmundson, commenting on Fundraising To Reopen Historic Houston’s Salvage Warehouse]

09/11/12 5:56pm

FUNDRAISING TO REOPEN HISTORIC HOUSTON’S SALVAGE WAREHOUSE Historic Houston is kicking off a fundraising campaign with an event 2 Sundays from now in a Woodland Heights home in the process of being restored. According to executive director Lynn Edmundson, the afternoon fundraiser will be “the first of many” targeting the $350K needed before the organization can lease a location for a new salvage warehouse. Historic Houston’s salvage warehouse on Clay St. was shut down last year. Edmundson reports the business model for the salvage program has changed in the meantime: Salvaging salable parts from older homes is now “a fee-based service that is paid by the person that donates the house to Historic Houston,” she tells Swamplot. [Historic Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Historic Houston

09/06/12 12:51pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DEMOLITION IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER “. . . I see lots to be salvaged and given to Habitat for Humanity. All that wood flooring, everything in the kitchen, especially the stainless countertop and appliances, french doors, louvered closet doors, balcony railings inside and out, granite bar top and light fixture, bathroom cabinets and granite countertop, tub. Not sure if the tile flooring can be taken up, and the plate glass windows would be tough to pull without breaking. I would love to plan and build a house around items from Habitat. I have seen some very unique things there. For now, I just have a greenhouse with a door, leaded glass sidelight, and jalousie windows from Habitat. And some really neat ceramic tiles that I plan on putting on the potting bench. I’m going to go back and get reclaimed brick for the patio.” [Lynn, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Passing the Red Baton]

06/29/12 2:22pm

A team of researchers at Rice University have created a lithium-ion battery that can be spray-painted on to any surface. The first surface they tested the 5-layer power-storing combo on was a set of bathroom tiles. Since then, flexible, glass, and steel surfaces — as well as a beer stein emblazoned with the Rice insignia — have been tested and used successfully to store small amounts of electricity. Graduate student and lead author of the team’s report Neelam Singh imagines buildings sheathed with battery-sprayed ceramic tiles that are then covered by solar cells, integrating energy gathering and storage functions on a structure’s exterior skin.


05/04/12 11:50pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE’RE FROM STUCCO, AND WE’VE COME TO TAKE YOUR HOME “Just an obervation: almost every teardown pictured lately has an italianate townhome or house behind it. Is stucco the new grim reaper for Houston real estate? I mean, it’s not as bad of an omen as the angry french fry, but seems to be more prominent as of late.” [Stating the Obvious, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Beverlyhill Bullies]

04/17/12 3:31pm

Looking down onto the roof of the couple-month-old Scott Gertner’s venue downtown, you can see the steel parts of the new rooftop bar soon to be made into a pavilion . . . atop Houston Pavilions. A reader sends this photo of the scene, taken from the Pavilions office tower. At the top left of the photo is the intersection of Fannin and Dallas:

The blue box area located in the middle of the set beams has been there since they started construction for roof access (It used to have the words “No Step” on it). We’ve seen construction workers go in and out of it since then. Most of this work was done last Friday and over the weekend. I’m guessing because of the steel beams they had to close off part of the street to crane it up there.

That’s a good guess, judging from this photo posted on the bar’s Facebook page on Sunday:


02/01/12 4:22pm

REPAIRS DONE, WEDGE AS IT WAS The Swamplot reader who noted a color change in the panels at the top of the WEDGE International Tower at Louisiana and Bell St. downtown last week informs us that they’ve since been returned to their original appearance, and submits this pic from a perch at the Tellepsen YMCA a couple of blocks away to prove it: “Presumably, as one of the commenters surmised, they were just running through some routine maintenance.” We now return to our regularly scheduled Swamplot programming. Photo: Swamplot inbox

01/26/12 1:44pm

Is some sort of paint job underway on the WEDGE International Tower at Louisiana and Bell St. downtown? Or is some new material being installed on the building exterior? A reader who wants to know sends in these spandrel surveillance pics from a perch at the new Tellepsen YMCA.