Holistic Home Building In Houston

Economic developments during the last year have caused us to refocus somewhat in

this Home Issue . Rather than highlight a collection of developers or projects as we

have done in previous years, we wanted to report on the significant "green" trend

in home building that is occurring across the country and in Houston.

There are a number of green initiatives being employed by a number

of home developers.


lntexure Architects


LEED is a standardized national rating system that promotes the design

and construction of high-performance green homes. Intexure Architects was

one of the first companies to build LEED certified homes in Houston and

participated in the LEED residential pilot program. Southmore Terrace

(Phase I) and Palm Terrace (Phase 2) are located in the heart of the museum

district and offer an exciting glimpse into the future. Green homes use less

energy, water an d natural resources, create less waste, and offer occupants

healthi er   Because Green homes and LEED certified homes are gaining traction we interviewed Russell Hruska and Rame Hruska husband and wife architects of Intexure Architects in Houston


Much of what constitutes "green " design is simply good design such a,

Property sited building, insulation and natural light. In that respect, we have been green for many years but only

recently with programs such as LEED certified homes is there a quantifiable

standard to measure green design.

You focus on creating open space around each of the homes you bruild. In order

to not consume too much expensive land for open and common spaces, don't you

have to build higher? Palm Terrace homes are three stories. Are there elevators?

We have worked to balance density and open space. Because of increasing

land costs and the urban environment, it makes sense to go vertical to some

degree but we want to create homes that fit within the existing neighborhood

fabric and scale. It is also important to us to have green space and natural

light. Southmore Terrace could have been a 10 unit development; instead,

we have allowed for only 5 homes to maintain a sense of openness . In some

of the homes we have designed and built the elevator shaft, which currently

serves as storage but could be adapted with equipment in the future. In

another project under design an elevator is an important initial feature of

the home. Plans for Palm Terrace range from two to four stories, depending

on the size of the home.

Multiple balconies and terraces provide access to outdoor spaces at every

South more Terrace

level. Phases 1 and 2 are linked by a dynamic community space which includes

a community garden, outdoor seating, and water features. The idea of bringing

people together and knowing one's neighbors is central to the design.

Do your layouts follow a certain plan such as having master bedrooms on the

top floor and kitchens on a middle floor?

We have worked with clients individually to customize floor plans to

suit their lifestyles. Most have a guest bedroom on the first floor, living/ kitchen

on the second, and master with either one or two secondary bedrooms on

the third floor. While we do have several plans already designed, we are

open to working with people individually to create a floor plan that is

specific to their desires, its basically hiring your own architect

but within the development price point.

LEED is currently the most

holistic and rigorous review process which helps ensure an apples-to-apples

comparison between different homes . The certification process also includes

3rd party tests to verify that the way systems (e.g., air cond.itio11ing or insulation)

are installed properly and functioning at maximum efficiency.

How does rain water harvesting work as a practical matter?

There are many degrees of complexity with rainwater harvesting. The

simplest method which we are implementing is to install an above ground

or below grade tank to harvest rainwater for re-use in landscape irrigation.

ln addition, we are also using many permeable surfaces and limiting concrete

which reduces water runoff to the city storm sewers.

How do your geothermal air conditioning systems work?

We have implemented geothermal air conditioning in half of the houses

on Southmore. Wells are drilled into the ground and circulate water within

a closed loop system. Rather than cooling air to 72 degrees with a traditional

compressor outside in Houston's extreme summer heat, you are cooling to

72 degrees from a starting temperature deep underground which is much

cooler that the outside air. In

winter, instead of heating air from

the outside cold, the earth is much

warmer, again improving

efficiency. In addition, you don 't

have the traditional noisy outdoor

compressor that takes up valuable

space and also requires additional

maintenance as a result of being

exposed to the elements.

Green homes use less energy, water and

natural resources, create less waste,

and offer occupants healthier and more

comfortable living environments.