Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC)


Houston Advanced Research Center


Construction Cost:
$7.5 million
Project Size: 
20,000 SF

- LEED Platinum
- Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment performed as part of LEED Pilot Credit

- International Living Future Institute Zero Energy Certified

Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC)

The Woodlands

The Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) is a “not-for-profit research hub providing independent analysis on energy, air, and water issues.” HARC collaborates with universities, private organizations, governmental agencies, and community groups to develop solutions to environmental issues and affect policy related to sustainability.

In 2014, HARC’s original campus no longer supported their mission and they sought to build a new headquarters that directly reflected its mission and served as a living example for regionally appropriate sustainable design in the Gulf Coast region. It was also essential that the design respect the financial realities of a not-for-profit research institution.

Whole Building Lifecycle Assessment

Early integrated design sessions illuminated HARC’s project goals and their focus not only on operational energy efficiency, but also on minimizing environmental impacts due to the materials used within the building, including embodied carbon. As part of the schematic design, and to establish a benchmark, the design team first considered what would constitute a “typical” structural system for this type of building located in this region.

In suburban Houston, a building of this size is frequently constructed of site-cast concrete perimeter bearing walls and interior steel framing. The preliminary WBLCA run of a single bay of the building indicated that a significant amount of the global warming potential, or embodied carbon, was attributed to the concrete panels and the concrete foundations. Walter P Moore then developed an alternate steel framed scheme.

WBLCA allowed the team to understand the full impact of the building and push as close to a zero-carbon building as possible. In fact, in 2018 HARC received a grant to place additional photovoltaic panels on the roof, an added capacity that exceeds the building’s annual electrical demand. The surplus renewable energy will be fed back into the grid and allow the project to begin to offset the emissions associated with the materials used to construct the building—bringing the zero-carbon goal closer than ever.

Embodied Carbon: A Clearer View of Carbon Emissions