Work on Houston’s first new office building to rise in the upscale Galleria area in about 30 years – Skanska’s $45 million, 302,000-sq-ft, 20-story commercial office building located at 3009 Post Oak Blvd. – is finishing up.
“That’s just a remarkable thing, when you think about a city the size of Houston that’s grown as it has. The uptown market is number 14 in the country and the fact that yet hasn’t had a new development in such a long stretch is just remarkable,” says Michael Mair, executive vice president and manager for Skanska Commercial Development.
“For Skanska, part of our culture is both respect for the environment, health, safety and sustainability on projects,” Mair says. “On Post Oak, we were able to pre-certify the building as a LEED Platinum, and now that we’re finishing, we have to compete the post-certification.”
To achieve this level of energy savings, Skanska utilized an energy recovery well on the building, which answers the return of air from a space, rejects heat, and mixes cooler air with outdoor air to lessen the cost of removing humidity and lowering temperature, Mair explains.
“We also have water saving devices on all our fixtures, and we have occupancy sensors, which means when you enter into a space, lights will come on by measurement of movement, and if you vacate a space, it will shut off after a cycle,” he says.
Carbon monoxide sensors throughout the building also serve a similar purpose, sensing the presence of people by the carbon monoxide being exhaled, and adjusting heating and cooling to lessen wasted energy in vacant spaces.
These efforts have enabled the firm to achieve a greater than 25% energy savings against baseline models, according to Mair.
One of the most challenging aspects of the Post Oak site was that it was a very tight space. The 2.3-acre site is bordered on the east by IH-610, a major freeway circling Houston, on the north by a retirement community, and to the south by a City of Houston retention pond.
“We had to have very close site management on the project, working very close to two busy roadways, and all that entails,” says Ronnie Howe, senior vice president on the U.S. building side, who oversees operations in Houston for Skanska.
This meant observing traffic quantity and hired consultants to advise on traffic flow and the ingress/egress from the site. The team also negotiated with the city to have a traffic light installed to with traffic flow.
“Also, our next door neighbor was a retirement community – and they were right next to us, so that had its own challenges – but they were actually very good neighbors. They allowed us to do things such as taking pictures from the top of their building of the site, we held little gatherings with them and provided refreshments, it was actually bringing some excitement to their daily lives seeing a new building going up.”
Some residents were able to watch the building rise from their balconies, and even took part in the Skanska team’s morning ‘stretch and flex’ exercises.