HARC's New Headquarters Amplifies Legacy of Sustainability
HARC, the Houston Advanced Research Center, announces the opening of a new, high-performance headquarters building in The Woodlands. On track to achieve the first Platinum LEED-certified building in The Woodlands — the most environmentally stringent certification issued by the U.S Green Building Council — HARC’s green building, together with its mission to provide independent analysis on energy, air, and water issues, will continue to serve as a model for sustainability in Houston and beyond.
“Our new headquarters demonstrates that we are putting sustainability practices into action,” said HARC President & Chief Executive Officer Lisa Gonzalez. “We hope that HARC’s green facility will serve as a model of how commercial buildings on the Gulf Coast can be designed and operated. HARC’s green building has a reduced environmental footprint, can be operated cost-effectively, and enhances employee health and well-being.”
After moving into the new building in March, HARC celebrated the Ribbon Cutting and Building Dedication on Tuesday, May 16th. Local leaders and building partners in attendance at the event included: Christie Siedhoff (representing Texas State Senator Brandon Creighton), The Woodlands Township Board Director and Treasurer Dr. Ann Snyder, alongside J.J. Hollie and Cindy Alvarado of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, and Gil Staley of the Woodlands Economic Development Partnership. The HARC Board of Directors was represented by Board Chairman Todd Mitchell, Dr. Jim Lester, Bo Smith, Spiros Vassilakis, and Bruce Tough. Building and design partners from Gensler Architects, Brookstone Construction Managers, CMTA Consulting Engineers, Walter P. Moore, Vogt Engineering, and Applied Habitats were also there to mark the occasion.
“There is nothing like this place and this campus. The facility embodies the idea of sustainability science, living with limited resources, and maximizing efficiency. I can’t wait to see how this building performs through time and how lessons learned can be translated to others,” said Todd Mitchell, Chairman of the HARC Board of Directors. “This building is not only a testimony to the legacy of my parents, Cynthia and George Mitchell, but also to the HARC staff and the important research that is carried out every day.”
To embrace the site’s natural resources, research scientists on staff, as well as local ecologists, architects, and environmental engineers, began the project by integrating the best environmental and green building practices into HARC’s site plan and the building to minimize impact on the environment. Seventy percent of the 3.5-acre site — the most biodiverse areas of native vegetation — was protected and restored using carefully selected native and water smart species. In terms of the actual building, elements of the structure were purposefully exposed to allow for increased visibility into how the building works.
“We planned the new building so that much of the often-hidden equipment is visible, allowing visitors to observe and learn how the structure functions,” said Dr. Mustapha Beydoun, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of HARC. “As a research hub, HARC is a collaborative organization. We want to make this new building available for use as a compatible place for community partners to hold meetings and for visitors to learn about sustainability.”
The key sustainable elements in HARC’s new building revolve around energy efficiency, water stewardship and materials reduction.
- Water Stewardship: Rainfall runoff from the roof and parking lot of HARC is directed toward vegetated bioswales. The bioswales feature native and water smart plants and run adjacent to the preserved forest habitats. Natural and restored habitats facilitate landscape regeneration. Low-flow water fixtures in the building are calibrated to reduce potable water use.
- Energy Efficiency: The new facility features geothermal heat exchange, a high-performance building envelope and rain screen, appropriately sized mechanical and air distribution systems, and day lighting. A share of the building’s electricity needs will be generated from roof-mounted solar photovoltaics. Through these strategies, the campus will attain a very close to “net zero” operational status.
- Materials Reduction: Building design seeks to lessen the carbon footprint of the structural systems as well as minimize layers of finished materials where possible; exposed structure and polished concrete floors are examples of strategies employed. Thirty-one percent of materials used in the building were obtained from the local region. All building finishes were low in volatile organic compound (VOC) content. Building waste was minimized and 88 percent of waste generated during construction was recycled.
“In starting the design process with HARC, it was important that we began with the end in mind,” said Rives Taylor, Regional Sustainability Leader and Firm-wide Design Resilience Director within Gensler’s Houston office, which designed the space. “We began by setting clear end goals with HARC’s leadership on the layout, programming and sustainability outcomes desired for their new building, which allowed us to work efficiently and cost effectively throughout the design, engineering and construction process to deliver a productive workspace within the greenest building in the greenest community.”
For an interactive story map about the project from start to finish, please follow the link HERE. HARC’s new, high-performance headquarters building was funded through capital campaign donations from the Endowment for Regional Sustainability Science, Houston Endowment, and The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
HARC was founded in 1982 by George P. Mitchell and works as a nonprofit research hub providing independent analysis on energy, air, and water issues to people seeking scientific answers. HARC is focused on building a sustainable future that helps people thrive and nature flourish. Learn more at www.HARCresearch.org.
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