Austin Parks and Recreation Department
Texan by Nature is excited to recognize Overland Partners Architects as a 2022 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in conservation and sustainability. Overland Partners’ commitment to conservation, their projects, programs, best practices, and lessons learned are an example and inspiration for us all.
Honoree Industry and Size: Architecture – Small
The Binational River Conservation Project champions river restoration while also celebrating shared culture and history.
Company Overview: Overland Partners Architects, founded in 1987, is an internationally acclaimed, creative community of problem-solvers. We create human-centered architecture, master planning, and urban design in places of cultural and natural significance around the globe. Through a rigorous, collaborative approach, we bring our clients’ wisdom to center stage and unlock their embedded potential to create innovative, equitable, sustainable design solutions tailored to each client’s unique mission and focused on well-being and human transformation. Sensitive to environmental and aesthetic contexts, we integrate technology, materials, art, and craft to make places worthy of affection. A Texas Society of Architects Firm of the Year and an Architect Top 50 Firm, Overland has received more than 200 international, national, regional, and local design awards and has been widely published at home and abroad.
What is Overland Partners’ conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your culture?
Thirty-five years ago, Overland was founded with the mission to positively influence and change the world through the practice of architecture by caring for the Earth and creating places where people and communities flourish. A values-based firm, we aim to exercise and hold true to each of our core values in all our projects, as well as in our day-to-day lives. Stewardship, one of our core values, serves as a reminder for the firm, corporately and individually, that we are committed to being good stewards of the Earth, its resources, and its people.
One way Overland implements Stewardship into each and every project is through the methodology we pioneered to define, guide, and measure actual positive change called The Human Handprint™. This methodology is our framework for unlocking the embedded potential of each project, person and place it touches and strives to actuate positive transformations through our practice of architecture, master planning and urban design. The five different impact categories of The Human Handprint are Aspiration, Inspiration, Relationships, Stewardship, and Well-Being. Each category culminates with the positive, measurable, qualitative, and quantitative aspects our projects have on the human experience and the environment.
How is conservation and sustainability a part of Overland Partners’ business strategy?
Since the firm’s creation in 1987, conservation and sustainability have served as the pillars of our philosophy and are integrated across our business practices at all levels. Our belief that we cannot improve upon things we cannot measure has propelled us forward as an industry leader in conservation best practices. Overland was instrumental in creating prototypes that became the frameworks for LEED and the Sustainable SITES® Initiative and has earned dozens of LEED certifications over the years. Our ongoing commitment to raising the bar of sustainable design and measurable human outcomes has led to investment in Overland’s Design Performance team; supporting Overland staff through continuing education and accreditations; working with leading-edge organizations such as the International Living Future Institute and International WELL Building Institute; and collaborating with world-class consultants, research partners and experts to solve complex problems and continuously innovate.
We strive to be a model for actionable climate strategies, educating our clients and stakeholders about green building strategies that reduce carbon emissions and advocating for designs that promote well-being and stand the test of time. Overland has committed to the AIA 2030 Commitment – American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) challenge to transition to Net Zero Carbon on all of our projects by the year 2030. With The Human Handprint, we have a framework to guide, organize, inform, and measure building performance and holistic sustainability, continually empowering design that fulfills the promises we make to each other, our clients, and the Earth.
Follow these links to discover how Overland has applied The Human Handprint to three of our transformative projects: Laity Lodge, Baylor University Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation, and ChildSafe Harvey E. Najim Children & Family Center.
What are Overland Partners short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
Overland requires all studio team members to attain at least one sustainability accreditation within six months of their hire date and provides study materials for those accreditations. Currently, 65% of our staff are registered as Sustainability Accredited Professionals within LEED AP, WELL AP, and Living Future Accreditation. We employ more Living Future Accredited Professionals than any other architecture firm in the United States. Having employees that are certified with respected sustainability certification emboldens the firm with the knowledge to innovate, educate and guide clients and our consultant partners about sustainable strategies and choices for optimal design outcomes.
In line with our commitment to transparency, we are in the final phase of earning JUST certification. JUST is a third-party certification program through the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) which requires organizations to disclose information surrounding Diversity & Inclusion, Equity, Stewardship, Employee Health, and Purchasing & Supply Chain. JUST serves as a transparent platform for organizations to disclose how they address their operations and employees and how they make financial and community investments.
A community-led conservation effort between Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, The Binational River Conservation Project will become an international prototype for border communities globally.
As part of our commitment to sustainability, Overland has pledged to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2030 Commitment. Our Sustainability Action Plan has laid the foundation for our commitment as a firm to reduce carbon from buildings through sustainable design and operations. Every three years, we reevaluate our commitment to sustainability and reevaluate and retool our processes.
In addition to firm-wide initiatives relating to conservation and sustainability, we are currently leading a mission-critical binational initiative with public and private stakeholders from the United States and Mexico to develop the Binational River Conservation Project – a restoration and conservation project to clean up a 6.2-mile stretch of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo that spans the riparian ecosystem between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and provides drinking water and irrigation for over 6 million people in the region. The project, which began as a series of community-led conservation efforts between the two neighboring cities, has received public endorsements at the state and federal levels of both countries and funding commitments from the U.S. and Mexican governments to begin addressing invasive species and water quality. The Binational River Conservation Project aims to strengthen the historic relationship between two nations around a unified vision for the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo that champions collaboration for river restoration and economic revitalization while celebrating a shared heritage and culture. The first of its kind, the Binational River Conservation Project would become an international prototype for border communities around the world. Primary goals include:
“We are so honored to be selected once again as a TxN 20 firm. It affirms the work Overland is doing to conserve the beauty of Texas and empowers us to realize an even more vibrant and equitable future for our state.”
– Rick Archer, FAIA, Founding Principal & CEO
Who at Overland Partners is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at your company?
John Byrd, AIA, LEED AP, LFA, Director of Design Performance, Associate Principal
John leads Design Performance at Overland. An advocate for integrating leading-edge sustainability strategies into projects, John collaborates with Overland’s design teams, contributing expertise and technical acumen to optimize high-performance principles throughout the design process and identify opportunities for certifications. John, along with Sandra Montalbo and Overland’s technology team, is developing a Human Handprint app for real-time sustainability tracking and reporting.
Sandra Montalbo, Assoc. AIA, Sustainability Leader
Sandra is a key member of Overland’s Design Performance team, working closely with John Byrd and design teams on the implementation of The Human Handprint and sustainability goals as they pertain to each project. Sandra tracks and measures Overland’s performance for meeting our AIA 2030 Commitment and produces AIA 2030 reporting. Sandra has also championed sustainability initiatives in Overland’s operations and firm culture, including contracting a local composting startup for the office, spearheading an on-site organic garden, and reducing our waste stream through recycling.
In addition to John and Sandra, every member of Overland’s team across all levels, locations, and market sectors we serve, contributes to Overland’s mission, vision and values for stewardship and sustainable design.
Overland’s Design Performance team, in collaboration with Overland’s technology and BIM teams, took sustainability to the next level in 2022. Working together, the cross-functional team developed and launched an integrated sustainability platform earlier this year to empower design strategy, decision-making, and collaboration around holistic sustainability and design performance. The platform brings together Power App, Power BI dashboards and SharePoint for data capture, synthesis, reporting to track and measure KPIs aligned to The Human Handprint™ framework and AIA Framework for Design Excellence for each project. A Human Handprint dashboard is available via Overland’s enterprise-wide SharePoint site for all team members to see how projects are performing in real-time. This information is driving more strategic conversations with our clients and consultants and all areas of Overland’s business.
“The entire design experience with Overland was transforming, for their team and ours. It is my opinion this campus could only have been designed by Overland Partners. They have a strong grasp of how nature can act as a refuge for children, but also empower them, and provide a sense of safety while encouraging exploration. In addition, the campus has established a broader sense of community, made possible by its inspiring design.”
– Kim Abernethy, President & CEO
ChildSafe Harvey E. Najim Children & Family Center
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does Overland Partners lead and participate in?
Overland has taken on the missions of several industry-focused sustainable initiatives such as the AIA 2030 Commitment and focused our projects to aim for the standards of leading sustainable design organizations such as the International Living Future Institute and the International WELL Building Institute. We use these to guide our sustainability goals when working on each project.
Hughes Warehouse Adaptive Reuse project is a perfect example of the ways in which our firm embodies the industry’s sustainable initiatives on a project level and on a day-to-day level with our employees. An AIA National COTE Top 10 winner in 2015, and Overland’s main office, Hughes Warehouse demonstrates what it means to integrate sustainable solutions into every level of your business. The building incorporates sustainable elements such as drought-tolerant, native landscaping, repurposed materials from the original early 20th century building, and 90% of the building using daylight as its natural source.
Overland also incorporates sustainable initiatives for our employees to incorporate into their work life every day. Overland recognizes the negative global impacts food waste has on our planet in the form of methane gas. Within the office, we are contracting with a local San Antonio-based startup called Compost Queens to provide composting services. Our in-house composting efforts amounts to ~ 5,475 gallons of waste which is equals ~ 454 pounds of methane diverted annually.
We are also involved in a third-party certification program sponsored by The City of San Antonio that promotes improved recycling programs in the workplace called Reworks San Antonio where we are certified at the highest level – Gold Certification. In our office, we recycle using small bins located at each employee’s desk as well as with the larger, separate recycling and composting bins located in our kitchen. In addition to our food waste, we also recycle our studio materials through an Architectural Materials Upcycling Program. We donate our material samples to local organizations like the Southwest School of Arts, Thomas Jefferson High School’s Architecture Program and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) Central Texas chapter.
Overland is also in the process of expanding our photovoltaic installation to move our San Antonio HQ to NetZero energy.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center served as a prototype for the development of the LEED rating system and Sustainable SITES© Initiative.
How do you see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will Overland Partners play in that progress?
As the world continues to see the effects of our industrial choices impacting our environment for the worse, it is important that the consequences of these actions be taken more seriously in every decision we make on an individual and enterprise level. The Architecture industry is trying to mitigate our role in increasing those negative effects we all inevitably contribute to the environment through missions such as the AIA 2030 Commitment, and building standards that encourage certifications like LEED, WELL, and Living Future.
Overland has adopted many commitments to industry-leading conservation efforts. Along with the already dozens of LEED-certified projects Overland has achieved, we are still in the process of making sure our current projects are on a trajectory of achieving those same standards or better. In Sarasota, Florida, Overland is working on the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens which is currently under construction and on a path to becoming the first Net Positive botanical garden/restaurant in the world and an International Living Future Institute Certified Living Community.
We view sustainability as a process of continuous innovation and improvement, applying a holistic approach to synthesizing best practices from around the industry into a systematic framework with The Human Handprint as our guide. Overland will continue to strive for the highest levels of sustainable operations in our buildings to generate a positive impact for the Earth, its people, and its environments, one design at a time.
How does Overland Partners quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
To lead Overland’s commitment to sustainable design, our firm has a dedicated Design Performance team and Human Handprint project champions to consult on sustainability throughout the design process. From an enterprise perspective, Overland calculates our annual carbon footprint including energy, water, travel (air and motor vehicle), office supplies, etc. We use this carbon calculation to gauge how sustainable our operations are from year-to-year as part of our pursuit towards carbon neutrality. What we are not able to reduce in terms of carbon emissions, we hope to counterbalance with carbon offsets. We use our carbon footprint calculations to inform our annual purchase of carbon offsets thru Carbon Fund as part of our pursuit of carbon neutrality. We invested $1,262.93 to offset 100.73 tons of CO2 for our 2021 operational carbon emissions. We chose a reforestation project as a beneficiary of our carbon offsets.
The solar array on our San Antonio office currently generates ~52% of our electricity consumption. At the end of fall 2022, we are set to generate 105% of our energy consumption. Our investment in a NetZero replacement for our existing system will generate 232,000 kwh of electricity. This requires a $180,000 investment and a payback projected at 8 years. This solar upgrade will translate to substantial savings for the firm of ~$27,000 per year and ~$492,394 over the panels’ lifetime (17 years of electricity generation after payoff and adjusted annually at 2% for inflation).
In addition, Overland supports non-profit partners and sponsors many community events that promote sustainability on an environmental, social, and economic level including: Committee on the Environment (COTE) San Antonio events, United States Green Building Council (USGBC) National, Urban Land Institute (ULI), the local American Institute of Architects (AIA San Antonio and AIA Dallas) and a Texan by Nature’s Conservation Wrangler program.
What is the one lesson that Overland Partners has learned from your conservation and sustainability efforts that others can take back and think about applying within their own space?
Through our value of Servant Leadership, we meet our clients where they are and approach sustainability and conservation through the lens of listening first to our clients and the landscape with an open mind and willingness to share knowledge. Our promise of Unlocking the Embedded Potential™ through our method of The Human Handprint comes from our curiosity and passion for always finding a better solution that is unique to every client, project, and place. We integrate sustainability aspirations with real-world practicality. The decisions we make about sustainability have a ripple effect. It is never too late to start making sustainable choices that will influence and inspire others to do the same. When you strive to do the right thing, those efforts build upon each other creating a virtuous cycle that leads to a brighter, more sustainable future for all.
Hughes Warehouse, Overland’s San Antonio office and a National AIA COTE Top 10 winner, is the transformation of an early 20th-century warehouse into an innovative and functional studio space.
Why is Texas an important home or base of operations for Overland Partners?
Overland was founded in the Lone Star State, and although we work on projects all over the world, we choose to call Texas our home with design practices in San Antonio and Dallas. We take the values and lessons we learn here to others around the world and reciprocally, can bring the very best we learn from others to influence and inspire our practice here. The diversity of people, landscapes, and communities present in this state are like no other and offer rich opportunities to make a powerful impact on those in our own backyard.
Learn more about Overland Partners’ conservation and sustainability efforts here.
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All 80 employees at Overland Partners are actively committed to reducing the carbon emissions from buildings. As signatories to the AIA Nationals’ 2030 Commitment, we perform an extensive internal audit and report every project’s progress towards reducing carbon emissions annually since 2014.
Overland Partners’ PV panels reduce the amount of electricity generated from fossil fuels. We purchase annual carbon offsets for our operations and in 2021 we offset 100.73 Metric Tons Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which translates to the carbon offset from roughly 600 mature trees (45ft x 8in. diameter).
Overland Partners’ in-house composting efforts amount to 5,475 gallons of waste (454 pounds of methane) annually which is diverted from landfills.
DFW Airport, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas