Design in a Time of Uncertainty
By Rives Taylor, Principal, Global Resilience Research Lead
HARC is a nonprofit organization focused on sustainability, and our mission of independent research on issues relating to air, energy and water is more relevant and needed in 2018 than at any other time in our history. With a dedicated team and along with numerous partners, we continue to develop applied research and build a future in which people thrive and nature flourishes.
As HARC recognizes its 36-year span of leadership in independent analysis, research, and study, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and invite you to reflect upon a year of great accomplishment.
In March, HARC marked the one-year anniversary of the completion of our new headquarters building, the first LEED Platinum Building Design and Construction (BD+C) project in Montgomery County. Achieving “net zero” has been our goal from day one, and we accomplished the next step this year. With generous support from the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, HARC is in the process of adding an additional 77kW of solar capacity to the roof, making HARC’s headquarters one of the first net zero operational energy commercial buildings in Texas. The project will be completed this month and marks the start of our next phase: making passive survivability a reality with the addition of onsite battery storage and other distributed energy technologies. HARC’s building seeks to be a model of what is achievable in the Greater Houston Region and we look forward to documenting the building’s performance and sharing our journey.
This summer, HARC was fortunate to host four talented local high school student interns interested in learning about the science and business of sustainability research. Amy Le, Beatrice Portela, Hudson Nash and Mia Vassilakis joined our researchers and staff for a glimpse of what a career in the sciences is like. These rising-seniors worked on projects involving energy, air quality, water quality, and non-profit community outreach and communications. In 2019, HARC plans to expand our internship program to university students as well.
Our Geospatial and Analytics team continues to provide cutting edge analyses and data management services, underpinning our research work. HARC is excited to involve them in our day-to-day work with partners to seek scientific answers and build a sustainable future. To view HARC’s GIS applications and learn more about our capabilities, visit GIS.HARCresearch.org, or e-mail us at HARCGIS@HARCresearch.org.
HARC’s Air Quality Research Program and its mobile lab returned to the streets again in November to monitor for air toxins and other pollutants and to assess the potential public health impacts of the planned expansion and realignment of I-45 on neighboring schools in Houston. Soon, our team hopes to be able to share news on the efforts to more effectively and accurately inform the public about air quality issues and solutions at the neighborhood level.
HARC’s Clean Energy Program team has been busy with the launch of the Southcentral and Upper West Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Technical Assistance Partnership in association with the U.S. Department of Energy. Over the next five years, HARC will provide technical assistance to deploy CHP across eleven states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. We are also working with the Texas PACE Authority to determine the environmental and economic benefits of implementing Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs across Texas and share best practices and lessons learned from other PACE programs across the state. To date, 17 regions have been developed and over $36 million has been invested in clean energy projects across Texas.
HARC’s Water Program continues to combine community engagement with the development of new data technologies. We continue to work with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and stakeholders in Chambers and Liberty counties to implement the Double Bayou Watershed Protection Plan to restore and protect water quality. In 2018, we collaborated with local nonprofit and government partners to draft the region’s first waterway trash and marine debris action plan to be launched in 2019.
In partnership with the Galveston Bay Foundation, we released the third annual Galveston Bay Report Card communicating the status of Galveston Bay across six categories of indicators. We are also partnering with the TCEQ Galveston Bay Estuary Program to update the 4th Edition of the State of the Bay: A Characterization of the Galveston Bay Ecosystem.
Climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience have become a large component of our work over the last year. Hurricane Harvey was a game changer for the region in many ways, but climate change and resilience is much larger than the issue of flooding alone. This moment in time represents an opportunity for our region to envision a future in which the three pillars of sustainability: the economy, communities and the environment are considered equally as we grapple with a changing climate. In September, our People and Nature Speaker Series featured a conversation with six national experts on innovative resilience financing. We look forward to welcoming our next speaker, Jigar Shah, who will speak on April 3rd on the topic of climate and energy policy and the opportunities for investment and workforce development.
As a thought leader on scientific research in sustainability and resilience, HARC is proud to continue our work as a member organization of the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Research Consortium. We are leveraging our expertise with two very important projects. HARC is assisting the City of Houston with the development of the Climate Action Plan – set to be adopted in 2019. Perhaps most notably, HARC launched the Upper Texas Gulf Coast Community Adaptation & Resilience Alliance (CARA) in partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Cities. HARC is also working collaboratively with the TCEQ Galveston Bay Estuary Program on a resilience assessment for the Galveston Bay Plan. The work has just begun, and we look forward to collaborating with many communities and key stakeholders on these initiatives through 2019 and beyond.
And finally, HARC’s headquarters continue to garner praise from design, construction and community organizations. This fall, HARC’s headquarters received the a Gold Level (highest level) APEX Award from the Houston Chapter of the AGC. The 2018 AGC awards recognize the top commercial construction projects in the region. In October, HARC also received its first Energy Star Certification. Energy Star certified buildings are verified to perform in the top 25 percent of buildings nationwide, based on weather-normalized source energy use that considers occupancy, hours of operation, and other key metrics. Energy Star is the only energy efficiency certification in the United States that is based on actual, verified energy performance. Our headquarters has also been named as a finalist for ULI Houston’s Development of Distinction.
2018 was a big year for HARC and we look forward to 2019, with the unique challenges our current times provide. We at HARC thank our Board of Directors, funders and partners for the ability to further the vision of our founder, George P. Mitchell. Thank you all for the support and for being an integral part in our most recent milestones.