Greenroads Certifies First Project in Texas

Bagby Street reconstruction project is first certified in Houston as part of its new Complete Streets policy

Jeralee Anderson (right) presented the Silver Certification award to Mayor Parker (second from right), representatives from her office, Councilwoman Ellen Cohen (third from left) and Board members and staff for Midtown Redevelopment Authority.
Jeralee Anderson (right) presented the Silver Certification award to Mayor Parker (second from right), representatives from her office, Councilwoman Ellen Cohen (third from left) and Board members and staff for Midtown Redevelopment Authority.

The Greenroads Foundation announced that the Bagby Street Reconstruction Project in Houston, Texas has become the first project to achieve Greenroads Certification in the State of Texas, receiving a Silver Rating for its design and construction sustainability efforts.

Bagby Street is a one-way major collector located in the heart of Houston, and is one of the main corridors in the Midtown neighborhood. “Midtown Redevelopment Authority strives to be a leader in the Houston community, and Greenroads certification provided us the opportunity to display our commitment to leadership in sustainable development and increase awareness of sustainability efforts in the region,” said Midtown’s Executive Director Matt Thibodeaux.

A key project goal of the Bagby Street Reconstruction Project was to establish a vibrant corridor that accommodates traffic needs while improving pedestrian and bicycle accessibility. It is one of Houston’s first  projects that exemplify the goals of its new Complete Streets policy, which was recently signed as an Executive Order by Mayor Annise Parker.

“As we work to build a healthier community, it is more important than ever to reimagine our approach to streets, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, public transit, bike trails and lanes,” said Mayor Parker. The Project’s Silver Certification award was presented to Mayor Parker and her staff, Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, and representatives of Midtown Houston’s Board of Directors and staff by Jeralee Anderson, Executive Director of the Greenroads Foundation.

The Greenroads Rating System is a collection of sustainable roadway design and construction best practices that address water, environment, access, community impact, construction practices and materials. There are 11 "Project Requirements” that must be completed in order for a roadway to be considered a Greenroad, as well as 37 "Voluntary Credits" that a project team can choose to pursue. After a rigorous review process, the Greenroads Foundation then assigns a project score based on the number of points earned by meeting the requirements and achieving credits. This score translates to one of four certification levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Evergreen.

The project team included the Project Owner, Midtown Redevelopment Authority and their design and  construction team: Walter P Moore, Design Workshop, SER Construction and ESPA Corp. The team experienced great challenges from the start: the existing asphalt surface was is in poor condition with severe cracking, potholes, and patching evident throughout. Raul Ramirez from SER stated that some of the most complex and difficult construction work involved what cannot even be seen after the project is completed. The Project was kept open to traffic while a new 60-inch stormwater conveyance line was installed 28 feet below the surface, serving the drainage needs of the local watershed.

The completed project has transformed the downtown landscape into a vibrant, aesthetically unique pedestrian corridor, providing safer access and connectivity to local businesses and Midtown’s cultural arts and entertainment district. Some environmentally-friendly features include:

  • The installation of rain gardens that treat and capture 33% of the stormwater that falls within the right-of-way
  • LED street lighting
  • Cool pavement materials with recycled content made from fly ash
  • Native and adapted vegetation that provides additional shading for sidewalks, and
  • Locally sourced construction materials.

 Steven Spears of Design Workshop notes that, “When we truly began to measure the way the street was performing it made us realize what an exceptional place has been created. From human comfort and heat island, to the kinetic aspect of the planting and night lighting, each piece of the design has elevated Midtown to a higher quality.”

The Bagby Street Reconstruction Project is currently the highest scoring project that has been certified by the Greenroads Project Rating Program, and is the 8th project in the world to earn certification. “It’s great to see a big city like Houston taking the leadership position as a frontrunner in Greenroads.” Midtown is already planning a strategy for the certification of Bagby’s sister street in the two-way couple, Brazos Street, to perform even better.

“Greenroads has provided many new ideas which will allow our team to make more informed design and construction decisions regarding sustainability. In addition to the many environmental benefits, Midtown’s investment in sustainable roadway projects contributes to long term cost savings for operations and maintenance,” said Marlon Marshall, Manager of Capital Projects for Midtown Redevelopment Authority.

 For the Project Team, Greenroads Certification offered a great learning experience. As noted by Lee Anne Dixon of Walter P Moore, “we’ve learned a lot and … we plan to integrate Greenroads thinking and process throughout design and construction meetings going forward. Greenroads staff was extremely helpful throughout the process.” Zachery Martin from ESPA Corp noted that participating in the Greenroads Certification process has raised his awareness of ”how we can be better stewards over the built environment.” Spears also described his experience with the Greenroads Certification process as enjoyable. “As designers, it challenged us to think about and resolve complex sustainability elements of the corridor in a more comprehensive way.”

Currently, there are over 40 registered Greenroads Projects pursuing certification and 8 completed and certified projects in the world. Several other registered projects around the U.S. are slated to finish certification in 2013, located in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver and in the Seattle metro area.