Event Review: West Houston Sustainability Stars Forum – February 21st

The West Houston Association seeks to recognize and encourage innovative and sustainable approaches to development that underpin quality growth. WHA’s new Sustainability Star Program provides applicants with recognition and WHA members with information on which sustainability programs are most effective and how to make future projects more effective.  At the Sustainability Stars Forum held on February 21st at the Westin Memorial City, WHA showcased four projects that illustrate what the Sustainability Stars program seeks to promote:  MetroNational Treehouse (LEED Platinum), Stonebrook Estates (LID), and Kendall Library (LEED Silver).
Jason Tedrick, MetroNational’s Director of Construction, talked about the company’s treehouse project.  The Treehouse was designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, boasts a geothermal cooling and heating system, harvests daylight and features both solar photovoltaics and a wind turbine for renewable energy generation.  The Treehouse is the second highest rated LEED certified building in the United States and the first LEED Platinum project in Houston.  Tedrick mentioned the key sustainability elements of the project that core, shell, & interiors consist of a green roof, rainwater collection system, geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, bike and shower facilities, and daylight harvesting lights.  The Treehouse is brownfield redevelopment that uses reclaimed materials, FSC wood, and locally sourced materials.  Thanks to creative design and construction, the Treehouse’s geothermal heating and cooling system should never need replacing.  Tedrick said that, on this project, cost mattered less than demonstrating MetroNational’s commitment to sustainability and innovation.  The Treehouse serves as MetroNational’s corporate headquarters and boasts an amazing restaurant, Liberty Kitchen, on the first floor.  MetroNational is a WHA member; Jim Jard serves on WHA’s Board.

The Harris County Flood Control District’s Jersey Meadows Stormwater Detention Project was presented by Ataul Hannan, HCFCD Director of Planning Division and Jonathan W. Holley, HCFCD Regulatory Compliance Department Manager. Jersey Meadows was conceived as a flood damage reduction projects.  HCFCD strived to achieve appropriate regard for community and natural values. Hannan said that the team used the Flood Damage Reduction Tools to widen and deepen bayous and creeks, taking residences off of the floodplain and excavating large stormwater detention basins, which is a traditional role for such projects. Holley said that this project incorporated new Sustainability initiatives, including wetlands preservation.  Inclusion of wetlands preserves natural habitat, avoids the need for wetlands mitigation, and improves water quality.  The project also incorporates tree and vegetation planting and park trail features through a partnership with the City of Jersey Village. The Houston Area Urban Forestry Council awarded Jersey Meadows as 2014 Project of the Year for the project’s tree planting initiative.  HCFCD is not a WHA member.

Michael Bloom and Randy Jones presented the Stonebrook Estates. Mr. Bloom, Sustainability Director, for R.G. Miller was the part of the engineering team on the Stonebrook estates project. Randy Jones serves as the CEO of the Terra Visions, LLC since 1999. Mr. Jones has also been a part of developing Stonebrook Estates, along Spring Cypress Road east of State Highway 249.  Stonebrook Estates is a Terra Visions residential neighborhood development with 135 LID & Traditional lots and infrastructure fully constructed and 55% of homes completed. The key sustainability elements of the project are low impact development techniques, stormwater quality treatment using bioretention systems, and reduced use of concrete storm sewers. The $11.4 million project covers 51.4 acres of land. Jones discussed few of the techniques that could be improved in the future projects such as removing fence separation between bioswales with the residential areas.  Terra Visions is not a WHA member; R.G. Miller is a WHA member.

City of Houston Council Member David Robinson spoke on Kendall Library at the Sustainability Star Forum.   A council member since 2013, Mr. Robinson is vice-chair of the Quality of Life Committee and sits as Council’s representative on the Houston First Board.  The City of Houston’s  Kendall Library includes a community center, with a half-court gym and space for community programs on the first floor within the 19,000 square-foot facility. Robinson said that the construction of Kendall Library & Community Center replaced an aging facility and achieved LEED New Construction with 45% water use reduction, 85% construction waste diverted from landfill, and 36% recycled content. Councilmember Robinson stressed the importance of sustainability to the Houston Region and how the City seeks to lead by example.  He pointed to his colleagues, councilmembers Amanda Edwards & Brenda Stardig, who were also in attendance, and Steve Stelzer, the City of Houston’s Green Building Director and said that it was easy to see that the City of Houston was committed to sustainable infrastructure.

The West Houston Association is very fortunate to have many dedicated members on its Sustainable Infrastructure Committee, which is chaired by Jim Russ.  Vice chair Travis Sellers and committee member Maurice Mullaly moderated the event.  Committee members Natalie Weierhausen, Edwin Fredreichs, and Michael Bloom were integral in planning and executing the event.  The Sustainable Infrastructure Committee meets every second Tuesday at 7:30 am at the offices of EHRA.  We appreciate our headline sponsor, Dannenbaum, event sponsors, and our attendees.  For a Sustainability Stars Program application or to get involved on the committee, please contact Carmen Kumpula.