Coming Soon: ‘The Most Sustainable Building in Houston’

HOUSTON – By Cynthia Lescalleet – (Realty News Report) – Skanska’s substantially complete Class A building adjacent to Discovery Green, 1550 on the Green, has joined the downtown office market.

The 28-story building with panoramic views both fits into its parkside mixed-use neighborhood and stands out within it, as a recent preview tour by Architecture Center Houston showcased.

For its latest Houston project, Skanska worked with the New York office of Bjarke Ingels Group – also called BIG, based in Copenhagen. The project, which began in 2021, is BIG’s first tower in Texas.

The 387,000-square-foot building rises distinctly in a curved array of six linked towers that stack back to accommodate landscaped terraces on three levels.

Clad in a mix of glass and warm-toned materials, the project includes eight levels of garage parking and 7,200 square feet of ground floor retail space, likely for restaurant and coffee ventures with patio seating on the extra-wide pedestrian areas across from the park.

Austin-based Michael Hsu Office of Architecture designed the interior and amenity spaces, which include the posh rooftop event space for tenants and a spa-like fitness center overlooking the park.

Given the project’s proximity to a premiere and active downtown greenspace, the building’s concept, design and execution made every effort to integrate indoor-outdoor experiences and to boost sustainability in construction and operations, project sources said.

Among the building’s messages: come back to work.

ON THE CURVE

The unusual crescent-shaped footprint of the building was defined by two site challenges: the curve of the street and the presence of an existing high-rise hotel, Embassy Suites Downtown, which shares the block, said BIG architect Martin Voelke, the project’s partner-in-charge, in a follow up interview.

In response, he said, the building’s volume fans toward the park. The connecting wedges set back slightly between the towers created more space in or for corner office space. While the towers themselves provide contiguous space, they can help define smaller interior spaces if so needed.

The “side core” placement of the building’s operating systems, staircases and elevators pushed those functions toward the back. This helped open up the floor plates for more efficient, flexible use and, paired with oversized windows (even in the restrooms), increased natural daylight.

Having a project in the works during Covid and its aftermath was an opportunity to rethink what it means to build an environment that brings workers back into an office setting, Voelke said. One outcome was incorporating smaller spaces within the larger ones.

Meanwhile, the shared and private terraces literally bring the park into the workplace. Each features different terrain and native plants, grasses and small trees. One includes a deep, recessed patio on the west side of the building dubbed “The Porch.”

ON THE GREEN

In the lobby, finishes like fluted natural-tone wood and tiers of planters that ring the ground and mezzanine levels join an abundance of natural light through a double-height wall of windows.

Several of the lobby’s interior finishes, from plantings to pavers, extend through the building exterior to extend the indoor-outdoor connection, said Andrew Gressett, an associate at SWA Group, which handled the landscape architecture for the project.

At the time of the preview, the building had just received its certificate of substantial completion. Lead tenant Norton Rose Fulbright is currently finishing out their space and is expect to relocate in May, leaving behind its downtown offices in Brookfield Properties’ Houston Center complex. At one time, the law firm’s 51-story Houston Center building, 1301 McKinney St., was called the “Fulbright Tower.”

1550 on the Green is the first phase of Skanska’s plan for Discovery West, a three-building campus on 3.5 acres of land purchased in 2019.

Skanska executives have not made themselves available recently to discuss future phases of Discovery West. However, in January, Skanska Executive Vice President Claes Larsson said on a company webcast that Skanska will be “extremely cautious” in the near future about starting new office developments in the U.S., leading to postponement of plans to break ground on new skyscrapers, Bloomberg reported.

IT’S GREENER BY THE GREEN

Project marketing materials call 1550 on the Green “the most sustainable building in Houston” and also showcase its health and wellness elements.

A few examples include its all-concrete structure that used less carbon-intensive cement than typical office buildings; 48,000-gallon rainwater collection tank; air exchange capacity of 100 percent in an hour, with 30 percent more fresh air; and air filtration to reduce airborne pathogens.

Energy use is expected to be 32 percent less than in traditional office buildings.

The project is seeking LEED Platinum, Energy Star, Well Building and Fitwel certifications.

Among Skanska’s previous projects in Houston are the Bank of America Tower and West Memorial I and II.

While its three-acre parcel at the pivotal corner of Westheimer and Montrose was cleared of the existing shopping center for a potential future Skanska mixed-use project, it remains empty, used for food trucks and the like, on occasion.


Feb. 6, 2024 Realty News Report Copyright 2024

Photo credit: Skanska

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File: Coming Soon: ‘The Most Sustainable Building in Houston’ . Skanska. Coming Soon: ‘The Most Sustainable Building in Houston’

 

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1 comment

Sergio Grado February 7, 2024 at 12:57 pm

A reason, not mentioned, why Skanska is able to reach this sustainable building status is because it took advantage of a service that has been available in downtown Houston for 25 years that most people don’t realize. 1550 Lamar, just like the Bank of American building, is connected to district cooling. This is a service where chilled water is produced off-site at a central utility plant, them pumped through underground pipes to the building which then receives it and circulates it throughout its interior to cool the space. The water that has now picked up the interior heat is then circulated back to the central utility plant where it is chilled once again and the process repeats. Connecting to district cooling has its benefits which are evident in both buildings. There is no need to allocate large interior space to place chillers. There is also no need to place evaporators on the roof. This realizes the opportunity for the building to offer more rentable interior space and provide landscaped terraces. In addition, there is significant reduction in electrical and water use. It is why one, and soon to be two buildings achieved LEED Platinum status. The central utility plant that serves this building also serves 30 other buildings simultaneously as well as the Minute Maid ballpark. Economies of scale make this a very efficient system that is uniquely available in downtown Houston. This year this central utility plant celebrates its 25th year in service. It is owned by CenTrio and is located at 1401 Rusk St.

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