Hess Tower Earns Platinum with Help from High-Performance Glazing

Designed by Gensler, Houston’s Hess Tower was the first LEED NC Platinum building in downtown Houston—and one of only a handful to reach that rating in the state. The 29-story, Class A office building, formerly Discovery Tower until Hess Corp. leased the entire 844,763 square feet, features a façade of glass and metal, which played a significant part in its LEED rating.

“We got the assignment in late 2006 with a previous developer and began serious design work in early 2007 when Trammel Crow acquired the site,” says Gensler designer Kristopher Stuart. “We designed the building so it could be brought to market quickly (36 months). During construction, a full-building tenant was identified and we made modifications to the tower to respond to their needs as well as designed their space throughout.”

Stuart says Trammel Crow not only wanted a dramatic presence to frame the north side of Discovery Green, but also wanted a highly efficient floor plan and a highly sustainable building. “The building was originally developed on a speculative basis in a highly competitive market. Our design satisfied both these requirements and allowed the developer to attract a full-building tenant (Hess) prior to building completion.”

The tower features a high-performance glass curtainwall system that helps filter ultraviolet rays, while allowing abundant daylighting in the interior.

“The south side of the tower’s curtainwall is entirely glass with external solar shading, while the north side is clad with a combination of insulating metal panels and glass. This high performance skin, in combination with a number of other energy-efficient features, dramatically reduces the building’s energy usage resulting in a significant savings in operating costs,” says Stuart.

The tower features insulating low-E glass with high visible light transmittance, while the lower lobby features clear low-iron glazing.

Quality Metalcrafts manufactured 40,000 square feet of 1/8-inch Americlad aluminum panels, which Linetec finished in meteor gray Tri-Escent II, a high-performance 70 percent polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) coating.

“The project required extensive scheduling to accommodate the various releases per floor. [Our company] worked very closely with Linetec to achieve the desired results. As a result, the project was right on time, if not early for each release eliminating any delays in the installation process,” says Mike Wallace, president of Quality Metalcrafts.

“The building envelope bears rigorous, daily durability challenges. Selecting an exterior architectural finish with the longest possible lifespan can be overwhelming,” adds Tammy Schroeder, Linetec’s senior marketing specialist and LEED green associate. “Along with the finish’s environmental and performance qualities, it needs to meet aesthetic requirements. For Hess Tower, the panels’ finish accentuates the glass curtainwall as it the surrounding landscaping and neighboring buildings,” she adds.

The finished manufactured panels were assembled into a unitized wall system, shipped to Houston and installed on-site by Vetro Strutture.

Stuart says the main challenge imposed by the developer was bringing the building to market as quickly as possible to gain leasing momentum over competing buildings.

“The building was delivered within 36 months,” he says.

One way they overcame this challenge was by working closely with the curtainwall contractor.

“To reduce the delivery time of the tower, we collaborated with the curtainwall contractor to design a unitized curtainwall system that was shop-fabricated prior to its delivery on site,” says Stuart. “The benefits of this approach included better quality control and faster on site erection, resulting in a quicker completion schedule.”

The high-rise broke ground in early 2008 and was the fifth U.S. project built under the national office development program established by Trammell Crow Co. and Principal Real Estate Investors. Hess Corp. leased the tower in 2009 and took occupancy in 2011.

Photos courtesy of Quality Metalcrafts