Building in downtown may inspire energy efficiency

November 6, 2010 5:07:24 AM PDT
A new addition to the Houston skyline is turning a lot of heads because of what's on top of the building -- wind turbines. It's all part of a push to make the downtown area more eco-friendly. A gleaming tribute to a modern age, the Hess building rises in shades of silver contrasting with the earthy tones of Discovery Geen in downtown Houston. But it's what's on top that's turning heads; the swirly turbines have people talking.

"Every time I walk by, it catches my eye. It makes me look up," pedestrian Louis Collins said.

"When they spin around, that's pretty cool," pedestrian Kim Driesbach said. "We come to the park every day, so we like to see that."

There are 10 turbines, each 10 feet high, stacked in twos at the very top of the skyscraper. Each is designed to generate approximately 3.5 kilowatts per hour. Their combined output is expected to be enough to light the building at night or power two office floors. It's called the Hess building and will be the new home of Hess Energy.

Trammell Crow and their architect came up with the green idea, even though they'd never done anything like this before.

"So more and more buildings were being pushed toward the United States Green Counsel, LEED certification, and one of the things we saw an opportunity there was to take an architectural form and make it functional," said A.J. Restum with Trammel Crow.

The turbines will generate energy from the wind and will be the first known building in downtown to do so. It is also hoped to generate something else.

"It's particularly important from a recruiting standpoint so that the workforce wants to be in green buildings, and that's really helping to drive buildings like we're looking at right here and other projects as well," said Bob Eury with the Houston Downtown Management District.

Eury points to this new office building on Main Street as also being eye catching and energy efficient. At Main and Rusk, the new structure will have rooftop gardens, says Eury, with special sun-shading glass.

But it's the Hess building that is considered at the forefront of the mayor's green building initiative, a city wide plan to encourage energy efficiency.

"It's going to be a model for future buildings," said Laura Spanjain, the sustainability director with the mayor's office. "We're going to be able to take other building owners there and tour and show them that you can do this."

She sees it as a transformational moment for Houston, steering into a greener future while giving neighbors something to talk about.

"Yeah and from a distance, they're spinning and it gives the skyline a little bit of a different look," pedestrian Niazy Koronfel said. "It catches your eye."

The Hess building is expected to be competed and occupied by next summer.


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