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Houston Endowment Headquarters

Kevin Daly Architects

Houston, TX, United States

November 2022


Kevin Daly (Principal-in-Charge)


Wonne Ickx (Collaborating Architect), Luke Smith (Project Manager), Gretchen Stoecker (Project Architect), Phineas Taylor-Webb (Project Designer), John Hand (Structural Engineer


Houston Endowment


Iwan Baan


Houston Endowment is a private foundation that exists to serve the Houston community. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for everyone in Houston, and the Foundation believes in the power of bringing people together to solve problems at their very root. Thus a space to meet, convene, and collaborate with community groups was central to Houston Endowment’s public presence.

The Endowment initiated an international design competition, unanimously selecting kdA in collaboration with Productora of Mexico City as the project’s architectural team. This supported the Endowment’s goal of fostering collaborations across generations and cultures of practice, in an effort to better envision Houston’s future. The building would become a symbol of the city’s potential to adopt carbon-neutral, sustainable goals.

The objective was to create a headquarters embedded in the community it serves, moving the Endowment from an anonymous downtown tower to the edge of an active park: an ideal setting for a private organization with a mission to support public initiatives. The Endowment sought a building that would make the organization more accessible to the community groups it serves by using the simplest means, a new front door visible to the city. Meeting and education spaces are therefore located at ground level, engaging the park via multiple terraces, with workspaces located above.

In creating a headquarters that embodies the Endowment’s values, the design team established an informality and legibility to the building’s construction, made apparent to employees and visitors through its flexibly programmed spaces and warm interior finishes.


At the boundary of a popular park, the site has views of downtown Houston across Buffalo Bayou, a freshwater stream that has been transformed in the last two decades by one of the public space nonprofit groups supported by the Endowment. The site is also a cautionary tale: flooding in Buffalo Bayou during Hurricane Harvey turned the park into a lake. As the building is meant to bound the edge of the park without overwhelming it, gabions keep the building above flood levels and river birch trees are pushed close to the building on the park side, creating an impression that the park continues under and through the building.
One of the most characteristic experiences of Houston is living under the tree canopy that extends across the city. The Endowment similarly exists under a canopy, perforated aluminum trellis that extend almost to the limits of the site. Positioned to fully shade the south facing glazing throughout the year and alter the pattern of shadows cast on the façade, the metal canopy also supports an extensive photovoltaic array for the building.
The building is clad in a custom-made, painted aluminum rainscreen façade, an acknowledgement of the unrelenting summertime heat in Houston: the building needs to reflect heat while minimizing the mass of a façade system that would add to the cooling load of the building. The façade and trellis canopy were fabricated in Monterrey, Mexico while the cross laminated timber framing was prefabricated in Quebec, creating an all-North American building.


Performance of the Houston Endowment building is evaluated from three perspectives: first, does the building meet the objective of creating a workplace that enhances the Endowment’s mission? The staff report that working in the new building has “deepened the connection to community groups” and created a “welcoming and more accessible place to collaborate and solve problems” in an extension of a public park. They describe a “significant operational benefit” in no longer needing to rent space for offsite meetings.
Second, the Endowment sought a building with clearly identifiable sustainable characteristics that could be a template for sustainable practices to be used by the community groups they support. It is impressive that much of the staff is fluent in describing these strategies: limiting heat gain through shading while admitting light from all sides, carbon-capturing cross laminated timber framing visible as an interior finish, rejecting heat into the ground via geothermal wells, and the use of photovoltaics. In keeping with their education mission, staff routinely brief guests and visitors on the sustainability toolkit.
Third, actual energy performance in the building is monitored by a local energy analysis nonprofit. Over the inaugural year of operation, the building has operated at an average of 73% of net zero. The staff continues to optimize building performance, reaching 97% of net zero during the high cooling demand of last summer’s unprecedented 30-day period of over 100-degree temperatures. Energy performance has become an ongoing mission for the Endowment, with two staff members seeking LEED AP O+M certification.

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