Houston, TX Road Trip: Innovation in Homebuilding + Placemaking

Right-sized housing unlocks new value!

Our first road trip of 2024 took us to Houston, Texas.  Co-hosted in partnership with the Urban Land Institute Houston District Council, we curated this experience targeting the intersection of attainability, innovation, and sustainability.  

Houston provided the perfect backdrop to explore these concepts, with several teams and projects we showcased exemplifying how thoughtful design can achieve significant results with scaled right-sized housing solutions. What emerged was a core theme of “smaller [done right] is smarter,” as demonstrated by the teams highlighted below.

  • Indigo: Where the sprawling Texas landscape meets the modern skyline of Houston, a beacon of innovation in community development is under construction. Crafted by Meristem Communities, Indigo is a 235-acre master planned community in Richmond, Texas anchored by a “Places for People” philosophy celebrating human well-being as the guiding principle of design. Indigo is an interconnected ecosystem committed to environmental stewardship. Dedicating more than 60% of its expanse to open space including a 42-acre working farm and pedestrian parks weaving together 750 diverse residences. The walkable town center harkens back to small town Main Streets with a contemporary twist. Multiple car free zones and 70,000+ square feet of mixed-use commercial development nurture the safety and prosperity of residents, visitors and small businesses.
  • Empire Communities: One of the primary builders at Indigo, the Empire team is proud to create inspiring places to live. One of North America’s largest family-owned and operated new home builders, the team is delivering a unique portfolio of housing solutions spanning a spectrum of price points for local households.
  • CoHousing Houston: A multi-generational community of people from all sorts of backgrounds who have come together to develop the first ever cohousing community in Houston. Created by Concept Neighborhood, at the heart of their strategy is walkable urbanism. The concept is rooted in hyper-proximity in which residents are located within a 15-minute walk, bike or transit ride of daily needs like grocery stores, cafes, schools, parks, workspaces, healthcare and other essential services. When done correctly and with intentionality, walkable urbanism has the potential to lower crime rates and greenhouse gas emissions while improving quality of life and community wealth in a socially equitable manner.
  • UNITi Montrose: Houston’s early adopter in co-living, created by Shelter Companies to offer unique attainable housing units in a sought-after location.

Here are a few additional highlights from the sessions, tours, and collaborative conversations:

  • We explored the spectrum of benefits provided through systems-built housing solutions including fully integrated turnkey structural solutions from Future Frame and prefabricated, prefinished volumetric modules by Aura Prefab.
  • Participants received a close-up look at the Incentifind technology platform aimed at demystifying the process to identify and capture sustainability incentives, empowering developers to make informed decisions that not only benefit the environment but also drive economic value and enhance community resilience.
  • Advanced robotics team Rugged Robotics demonstrated how they are revolutionizing construction practices in terms of precision in floor plan layouts. Their ingenuity and expertise are solving complex challenges in the field, paving the way for more informed and more efficient building processes.

The theme that tied it all together was attainability, a strong consumer desire for urban living, and a sense of community. There are some interesting business models that satisfy this demand at approachable price points while unlocking significant business opportunities for production builders and developers in both a suburban and urban context.

Houston is undoubtedly at the forefront of innovation in the built environment. I’m excited to see how these advancements will continue to shape the future.

Additional Resources

Click here to view a PDF of the presentations shared by our local hosts.

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