High performance facade design is on the rise in Houston, says Jorge Muñoz

Architecture Southwest Sustainability Technology
HOK's Sysco headquarters building in Houston. (Hequals2henry / Wikimedia Commons)

HOK’s Sysco headquarters building in Houston. (Whisper To Me / Wikimedia Commons)

As founding principal of Muñoz Albin, Jorge Muñoz has a unique global perspective on high performance facade design. Based in Houston, the firm’s earliest projects were located overseas. “In the last 20 plus years, we have worked and continue to work on projects in Western Europe, where there is a tradition of more generous budgets on building envelopes as well as more flexible user and developer demands on efficiency,” said Muñoz.

Over the course of his career, Muñoz—who will bring his comparative point of view to a panel on “Current Projects Pushing the Envelope” at next month’s Facades+AM Houston symposium—has observed the tendency of facade design and construction technologies to vary from one locale to the next. “There are many exceptions to this rule, but in general, a building envelope matches the market expectations and budget allocation of where the building is being built,” he explained. “Climate, program, environmental performance, and design challenges are different in different markets.”

In Houston, said Muñoz, building envelopes have evolved alongside the economy. “One can see double skin solutions built in the early 1960s, and advanced solutions in the 1970s,” he said. “While Houston has lived through many years of pragmatic envelopes, in the last few years architects have been pushing for more and more sophisticated solutions.” Houston has tended to be “timid” when it comes to adopting advancements in envelope design, explained Muñoz, but is beginning to consider cutting-edge performance solutions. “In time, we will have some of those buildings in our city,” he said.

Muñoz Albin's Diagonal Mar in Barcelona. (Courtesy Muñoz Albin)

Muñoz Albin’s Diagonal Mar in Barcelona. (Courtesy Muñoz Albin)

As for local projects, Muñoz expressed admiration for HOK‘s Sysco headquarters phase one building. The building is on the older side, but “the massing as well as the envelope design denotes a sophisticated understanding of performance and aesthetics,” he said. Like conference co-chair Kristopher Stuart, he also pointed to Pickard Chilton‘s Exxon complex in the Woodlands, as “another example of a complex and sophisticated envelope solution that is worth studying and understanding.” Muñoz and Stuart also agree that another Pickard Chilton project, the under-construction 609 Main Street, is worth a close look. “It will offer not only a double- or triple-layered skin that also envelopes an eroding and slightly more plastic building massing, the first in the city,” said Muñoz.

Muñoz looks forward to a productive dialogue among panelists and attendees at Facades+AM Houston. “I think that facade design is a fascinating subject, and one that elicits plurality of thought,” he said. “It will be most interesting to hear about the current trends in the city.”

Visit the Facades+AM website today to learn more or to register.

Downtown Houston. (eflon / Wikimedia Commons)

Downtown Houston. (eflon / Wikimedia Commons)

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