Urban planning group recognizes Houston area’s standout projects

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Urban planning group recognizes Houston area's standout projects
Bethel Chapel Park is surrounded by the bones of a historic church in Houston’s Fourth Ward.

When Pennzoil Place pierced the downtown skyline in 1975, the office tower represented the height of innovation with its trapezoid-shaped structures, sharp angles, sloping glass roofs and mirrored exterior.

Forty years on, the building has evolved into an energy-efficient space for its upscale downtown tenants thanks to a major investment in a high-tech retrofit. The upgrades helped lower energy costs by 32 percent, and the technology is now emulated worldwide.

“Even buildings going up today have nowhere near the technology we have,” said Roger Vasquez, director of engineering at Trans­western, which manages the building. “Despite all the challenges that come with age, feature to feature we can compete with any project.”

The office tower’s ability to keep up with and even surpass the times is part of the reason it was a finalist in the Houston District Council of the Urban Land Institute’s 2015 Development of Distinction Awards.

The awards program, now in its ninth year, recognizes developments that exemplify best practices in design, construction, economic viability, community health, marketing and management, said Ann Taylor, executive director in Houston. ….