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MetroNational Shows Off Sustainable Treehouse in Memorial City

Memorial City development group MetroNational revealed it’s brand-new eco-friendly office building — an aptly named structure called “The Treehouse” — Wednesday, July 23, at the corner of Bunker Hill Road and Gaylord Drive. Sustainability efforts for The Treehouse have earned MetroNational points for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Desaign (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council, according to Glenn Fuhrman, MetroNational vice president of development. Fuhrman said the building is currently sitting between 92 and 96 LEED points, which makes The Treehouse a platinum certified project — the highest LEED qualification.

“We wanted to be an example — something that we could use as an educational tool,” Fuhrman said. He said The Treehouse would be a model for future MetroNational projects, as its LEED rating is among the highest for sustainable buildings in Houston. The two-story, 14,700 square-foot facility features a geothermal cooling and heating system, solar panels, rainwater cisterns, and a wind turbine. Located in a rooftop garden, the solar panels produce 10-percent of The Treehouse’s energy. MetroNational’s daylight harvesting lights are also designed to acclimate with changing levels of natural light. Collected rainwater from the cisterns works to irrigate plants incorporated into The Treehouse, as well as supply greywater inside restrooms.

Indoor wood flooring was reclaimed from Old Cotton Concentration Company warehouses in Galveston. Located on a wrap-around balcony, outdoor furniture is made of recycled plastic bottles, while an indoor bar countertop comes from recycled glass bottles. To encourage bike commuting, The Treehouse offers bike hutches and shower facilities as well. Fuhrman said MetroNational decided to model the building in the form of a tree house to foster creativity in the architects, engineers and scientists who will occupy the building.

“(The combination of) ‘tree’ and ‘house’ marries green with architecture,” he said. In keeping with the theme, 16-foot interior columns were designed to resemble trees. Besides sustainability aspects, The Treehouse boasts several other luxuries. Among them, an open living room area called “The Camp”, that links to the wrap-around balcony via glass garage entries and sliding doors. This room is complete with a kitchen area for breakfast in the mornings, or happy hour-style events in the afternoons. Throughout the complex, “Nest” conference rooms and “Pod” offices offer large windows for natural lighting, on-demand wireless connectivity, wireless screen sharing, interactive whiteboards, and charging stations for electronic devices. Monitors in the lobby display weather, traffic and energy-saving metrics. Fuhrman said a symbolic suspension “monkey” bridge connects The Treehouse with corporate offices for MetroNational, where “the suits live next door, but the creativity lives here.”

The Treehouse is also set to include an exhibit showcasing a history of Memorial City. MetroNational plans to use this new example of green efficiency for sponsored community events, such as tours with local schools. “We think this is going to be a great catalyst for the future development of Memorial City,” said MetroNational President Loc McNew.