Overland Partners Architects Unveil New Renderings for Conservation-Focused Zion National Park Discovery Center

Overland Partners Architects Prioritize Conservation in Designs for New Zion National Park Discovery Center at the East Gateway Firm Unveils New Renderings During Zion National Park Forever Project’s Celebration for Construction Kick-off

SAN ANTONIO (AUG. 31, 2023) —Design architects from Overland Partners, with architect of record, Place Collaborative, showcased renderings of the Zion National Park Discovery Center during a ceremony held in East Zion, Utah, on August 22, 2023. Led by Zion National Park Forever Project members, attendees included Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox, officials from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Utah Office of Tourism, and special guests from the local community. The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, and Shivwits Band of Paiutes were valued collaborators and present at the celebration, with Shivwits Elder, Karma Grayman, providing a land blessing preceding the event.  

Following more than ten years of collaborative planning, the ceremony officially marks the start of construction for the Zion National Park Discovery Center project. Positioned on 19 privately-owned, donated acres just outside the east entrance to the park, the location protects the area from potential commercial development. With a dedication to preserving the remarkable beauty of the landscape, the Zion National Park Discovery Center will serve as a model for cultivating a connection between people and the land while instilling a profound respect for the environment among future generations through immersive learning opportunities.  

The 22,000 square foot Discovery Center will offer free, hands-on educational experiences for visitors of all ages, encouraging them to explore the area’s diverse history, native ecology, stunning geology, and agricultural heritage while cultivating a deep sense of connection to the place. 

“Our shared commitment to create an authentic entry experience leading to Zion National Park is evident in the meticulous attention to preserving, conserving, and seamlessly integrating structures into the landscape,” stated James Lancaster, principal architect at Overland Partners leading the Discovery Center project. “We aimed to design a place that sits lightly on the land, celebrating the iconic natural beauty of Zion,” he said. 


Informed by the remarkable geologic formations of the region, views from the Discovery Center site are framed by sandstone cliffs, intricate canyons, and expansive desert plateaus. Designed to be a model for conservation-focused development, regenerative design, and ecosystem-based living, the building will be constructed using cross-laminated and heavy timber, aiming for all wood to be Forest Steward Council (FSC) certified. Finishes will reflect the natural colors and textures found throughout Zion’s semi-arid climate, including locally quarried sandstone, reclaimed wood finishes, and weathered steel that compose the building envelopes.  

By incorporating passive design strategies, the Discovery Center’s integration of indoor and outdoor spaces will provide guests with comfortable spaces to gather throughout the year, supported by efficient mechanical systems when needed. Outdoor amenities encompass versatile spaces tailored to offer thermal comfort choices suitable for every season. The architecture and positioning of the structures on the site prioritizes panoramic view corridors, the utilization of natural daylight, and prevailing breezes. During summer months, exterior walls retract, and downdraft towers facilitate natural evaporative cooling. In contrast, porch overhangs are designed to welcome the gentle warmth of the low winter sun into the space during colder months, and a communal outdoor fire pit can be enjoyed during cold nights. Through a series of operable clerestory windows, daylight is channeled into the interior year-round. Green roofs on connecting corridors bring natural insulation, while a rainwater capture system will be used for landscape irrigation. 

The Discovery Center establishes a gateway experience to Zion National Park, Utah’s first national park established in 1919, and the nation’s third most popular national park, as it hosted nearly five million visitors in 2022 ( The park encompasses nearly 150,000 acres of diverse terrain—red rock desert, towering forests, and spectacular vistas with hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. Focused on conservation and broadening recreational access, the Discovery Center will also function as a transit hub, linking visitors to over 70 miles of new trails. Presently, almost 80 percent of the park’s annual visitors enter through Zion’s south entrance in Springdale. The east gateway aims to ease congestion during peak seasons. 

Funding for the Discovery Center was provided in large part by a $15 million bond to the local service district by the Permanent Community Impact Fund Board of the Department of Workforce Service with a $10 million investment by the Utah Department of Transport to construct the needed road system.  

The site will be enhanced with an eco-sensitive landscape plan by Island Planning Corporation, inviting visitors of all ages to learn about agroforestry, interact with nature, and participate in harvesting of edible plants. Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds will design engaging play settings that promote children’s development through immersive experiences with nature. These spaces will be thoughtfully crafted to reflect the distinctive local characteristics of the area. 


Overland Partners delivers dynamic, comprehensive design services in architecture, master planning, and urban design throughout the world. With offices in Dallas, Denver, San Antonio, and New York, Overland’s notable spirit of collaboration brings their clients’ wisdom to center stage, integrating technology, art, and craft to create world-class, innovative, and sustainable solutions for complex projects that care for the Earth and promote human flourishing. For more information, visit  

The Zion Forever Project is the official non-profit partner of Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks, and Pipe Spring National Monuments. The momentum behind the Forever Project has generated funding, partnerships, and community support from organizations and park enthusiasts throughout the state and beyond, reflecting the project’s goals to unite park, community, and state resources to address visitation and park protection issues. Visit to join in the mission of stewardship for Zion National Park. 

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San Pedro II design continues focus on sustainable future for downtown San Antonio

AUGUST 24, 2023 — The University of Texas System Board of Regents recently approved an update to the funding for the San Pedro II development project, previously approved in November 2022.

The UT System follows a prescribed funding and approval process for major building projects. With this latest step in the process, the San Pedro II project is now able to move from the design development phase to the construction phase.

Overland Partners, in collaboration with Gensler, is leading the design vision and development of the project. Teams will now begin preparing the site for construction, with an official groundbreaking scheduled for early 2024.

“I’m immensely grateful for the support of UT System’s Board of Regents and their approval of additional funding to further expand our downtown footprint with San Pedro II, advancing experiential learning opportunities for our students and enhancing the talent pipeline for San Antonio and Texas,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “UTSA leads the future with our clear focus on immersive, hands-on learning experiences for our students to further drive talent development for our city and region.”

Seamlessly integrated into UTSA’s Downtown Campus expansion, San Pedro II will work in tandem with academic programs and research collaborations in cybersecurity and data science offered by the School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center in San Pedro I, which opened in January 2023 and is located across San Pedro Creek.

“San Pedro II is an important milestone in actualizing UTSA’s downtown vision.”

Like San Pedro I, UTSA’s first LEED certified building, San Pedro II will follow a design guided by stewardship and sustainability. Additionally, the design of both buildings reflects UTSA’s commitment to the design, construction and operation of sustainable environments to create the best learning spaces for students, faculty, and staff.

The two buildings are part of larger placemaking efforts to revitalize this historic area of downtown, which includes the recent redevelopment of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park and the future Continental Hotel revitalization. San Pedro I and II will connect classrooms and meeting spaces inside with the outdoor venues and public art of the park, creating an ecosystem that supports students and the community.

“San Pedro II is an important milestone in actualizing UTSA’s downtown vision,” said UTSA Senior Vice President for Business Affairs and Chief Enterprise Development Officer Veronica Salazar. “We are working to create meaningful connections between the university, downtown industry, and cultural destinations that will benefit UTSA students by enhancing experiential learning opportunities.”

The new building is supported by investments of $52,409,972 from State of Texas Tuition Revenue Bond proceeds and $72,000,000 from University of Texas System Permanent University Fund bond proceeds. The BOR approved additional funding in the amount of $6,500,000 from Revenue Financing System Bonds, bringing the project total to $130,909,972. The increase in the total project cost is due to rising construction costs nationally.

Read the full article in UTSA Today. 

San Antonio Report: Experts weigh in on a downtown sports district in San Antonio

What would it take to develop a sports district in downtown San Antonio?

Rumors of building a new ballpark and arena downtown have been swirling for months with the owners of San Antonio’s baseball and basketball teams and city officials reportedly in talks to get the ball moving.

Where that sports district would go is the big question.

An expert who has been designing stadiums and arenas in cities around the world for over 30 years says it’s possible to put an arena and ballpark in San Antonio’s inner city.

In fact, despite limited available land with the right dimensions in the urban core, downtown offers some major advantages over suburban areas, said Bryan Trubey, a principal in the San Antonio architecture firm Overland Partners and an established expert in sports facility design.

The Dallas-based architect has been developing sports venues since early in his career, starting with Hong Kong Stadium. Among his many projects while with firms HOK, HKS and now Overland are Miller Park, now American Family Field, in Milwaukee; SoFi Stadium near Los Angeles; the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, and Victory Park in Dallas, which includes American Airlines Center, where the Dallas Mavericks play.

Nationally, there’s been a focus on putting sports venues near or within the city center, and it has to do with economics, Trubey said.

“If you can put a new asset that’s significant, like a sports entertainment venue, directly adjacent to long-term historical investment in the urban core, you get a multiplier effect,” he said. “That can be significant over time.”

Bryan Trubey
Bryan Trubey Credit: Courtesy / Overland Partners

New players, new venues?

Speculation over a new home court for the San Antonio Spurs expanded in June when the team scored Victor Wembanyama as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

Also coming off the bench are relocation plans for the San Antonio Missions.

When the baseball team’s new ownership group announced late last year it will have to build a new larger ballpark to remain in compliance with Minor League rules, it set off a flurry of forecasting.

Most theories have the team moving from the Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium on the West Side into the urban core even after landowners spurned one attempt by investors to buy up land along West Martin Street.

A sports venue in the downtown area has been discussed since at least 2016 when city officials commissioned a feasibility study that found seven potential sites for a stadium, all of which were downtown.

Reports state those talks have resumed under the leadership of Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Manager Erik Walsh.

Catalytic development

Professional sports as an economic sector has been on a growth curve since the mid-20th century, dropping only during the COVID pandemic, Trubey said.

“A lot of cities, for really the last 25 years, have come to a greater and deeper understanding that having sports and entertainment venues can contribute to quality of life, so they are a public benefit in a lot of ways,” he said.

But land costs have gone up, making such projects more costly and challenging in today’s market. Rising interest rates have put a damper on sports and entertainment venue development the past two years but the industry is still robust — and urban-focused.

Dewey Newton, the Dallas-based senior vice president of sports and public assembly for Turner Construction, said the company has been busy responding to three requests for proposals and doing two interviews.

Newton attributes it to pent-up demand after the pandemic, but also to the number of aging facilities across the country. “Every time we build a new stadium, you think there’s not going to be any more to build, but there are still a lot of them that are 25, 30, some 40 years old,” he said.

Turner recently won the bid to build a new, 60,000-seat stadium for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans in Nashville. The $2.1 billion project will be located directly across the Cumberland River from downtown Nashville in a fast-developing area known as East Bank.

While land may be harder to acquire and more expensive in any city’s urban core versus outlying areas, public infrastructure like parking and transportation along with private development, like hotels, restaurants and bars, is already in place.

In suburbia, it might cost less to purchase the wide open spaces needed for a sports district with surface parking lots, but significantly more expensive to install the infrastructure needed to support it.

A sports venue can have a “multiplier effect” on previous investments in the urban core, Trubey said, activating an area and contributing to creating an authentic live, work, play environment.

Former County Judge Nelson Wolff has said he would like to see a new ballpark in the urban core, especially if it’s located near the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, in which the county has invested millions to develop on the northwest side of downtown.

“That is one of the things sports and entertainment venues can help accomplish more effectively than really any other use,” he said. “It also lifts the existing mixed-use infrastructure in the urban core.”

At Victory Park, located in Uptown Dallas, Trubey said, the developers understood that “if we do certain things with the arena in this case, we can make it catalytic and that it can transform a multi-block area into a vibrant destination environment.”

That’s been the goal of his sports venue projects for many years, he said. “Integrations are really the key to creating value in this particular building type and opportunity.”

Concern about returns

Between 1970 and 2020, state and local governments devoted $33 billion in public funds to construct major-league sports venues in the United States and Canada, according to a 2022 study by several university researchers on the impact of sports franchises and venues on municipalities.

The median public contribution covered 73 percent of construction costs, the researchers found, but sports teams and facilities resulted in “little to no tangible” economic impact on the local economy.

The Frost Bank Center, where the Spurs’ 2023-24 season opens this fall, was built in 2002 at a cost of $186 million and funded by tax-exempt municipal bonds, supported by a hotel occupancy and car rental tax. Almost $29 million came from the Spurs organization, which is said to have received $41 million in federal subsidies.

“The public is obviously very concerned about the returns” created by sports venues that their tax dollars helped to build, Trubey said.

Until a location is selected and a timeline created, it’s not possible to determine what the cost of a sports district could run, he said.

One sports venue consultant speaking on condition of anonymity said construction costs vary widely but arenas are generally just over $1 billion and baseball stadiums $1.5 billion.

Land size of about 8 to 10 acres is needed for an arena and for a Major League Baseball park, about 10 acres or more, he said, but the trend among most cities is to put them in a downtown location rather than the suburbs.

That’s especially true of venues built for basketball and baseball, which have more games in a season than football, making it more desirable to select a central and accessible location, the consultant added.

Building a sports venue takes about two to three years of actual construction and varies according to the facility’s complexity and scale, Trubey said.

“We’ve done things much more quickly and we’ve also had projects that took significantly longer because of approvals or financing or public support,” Trubey said. “It all has to do with how you are able to capitalize the project or get permission to build the project or both.”

Spread out

With the Spurs’ home court on the East Side and the Missions on the West Side, the Alamodome downtown and a soccer pitch, Toyota Field, on the Northeast Side, San Antonio’s major sports venues are spread across the city.

From 1973-93, the Spurs played at the former Hemisfair Arena downtown and, until 1994, the Missions played at V.J. Keefe Memorial Stadium on the St. Mary’s University campus on the West Side.

Hemisfair, with its parks, apartments and ongoing development, and the site of the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, have been floated as a potential site for a new sports venue likely given its proximity to the city-owned Henry B. González Convention Center and other downtown amenities.

The Institute of Texan Cultures is located at Hemisfair and was originally designed and built for the World's Fair in 1968.
The Institute of Texan Cultures and Hemisfair have been floated as a potential site for a new sports venue. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Trubey pointed to several cities that have managed to develop baseball stadiums in close proximity to football or basketball venues to create a sports district, including Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

“We just completed Globe Life Field for the Texas Rangers,” he said of the $1.1 billion ballpark for the Major League team. “It’s literally across the creek and a big greenbelt [from] AT&T Stadium that we did for … the [Dallas] Cowboys.”

Trubey declined to call out any part of San Antonio that he would consider a good place to build a new ballpark or arena, or whether his firm had been involved in the talks, saying that should come from the ownership of the teams.

But Newton, who has led Turner’s sports group for a decade, said he thinks San Antonio would benefit from a downtown sports district. It’s a city “where you can just go to a hotel, park and get your car three days later,” he said. “It’s a very easy city to have a district like that.”

‘Everything but the ball’

Both teams and various officials have said the city’s sports venues are no longer adequate, despite millions poured into renovations over the years. Can they be made better?

“A lot of that depends upon the age of the structural part of the venue,” Trubey said. The structural frame of venues built in the late ‘90s could last a century or two, but it also creates a “locked” geometry that doesn’t allow for adding seats or amenities, he added.

Many were not built to accommodate today’s fans, the teams and league requirements, and the business model of sports has changed over the years, he said.

“People want to buy, participate and sit in environments that didn’t exist in a lot of prior arenas and ballparks.”

About six years ago, Turner Construction completed improvements to the Atlanta Hawks’ stadium at a cost of $175 million, Newton said.

Today, “you could spend, all-in, $400 [million] or $500 million easily on an arena renovation,” mostly improving the fan experience, he said. But because the buildings are so large, “you have to touch all the spaces so, basically, it’s everything but the ball.”

Bill Mykins, vice president of the sports venue consultancy Brailsford & Dunlavey, said his firm has worked on renovating older stadiums, including the St. Louis Blues’ Enterprise Center and the Seattle Mariners’ T-Mobile Park.

In the case of Seattle, where the Mariners’ ballpark was built in 1999, the goal is to someday have a 100-year-old ballpark, like Fenway Park in Boston, Mykins said.

In the end, it comes down to, “What’s the owner’s vision?” he said.

Stanly Ranch Wins Multiple Best Of Awards From Travel + Leisure Magazine

Congratulations to Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection, for being honored with multiple World’s Best Awards 2023 by Travel and Leisure magazine! Most notably the No. 1 Best Resort Hotel in California, the No. 2 Best Resort Hotel in the U.S., and the No. 11 Best Resort Hotel in the World!
Stanly Ranch opened in April 2022, redefining Napa luxury travel with an unparalleled commitment to exceptional guest experiences, service and unique amenities for wine, wellness, and adventure. Nestled among the agrarian landscape of the Carneros appellation, Travel + Leisure readers commented on the vineyard setting and Northern California country setting with one reader stating, “This is the most beautiful place I have ever stayed.”
The embodiment of sustainable luxury, Stanly Ranch creates a harmonious balance between modern comforts and the natural beauty of southern Napa Valley, in a destination that captures the essence of California’s wine country intertwined with the service and luxury of a world-class Auberge experience.
To read more about what makes Stanly Ranch one of the most unforgettable luxury resort destinations in the world, visit the official Travel + Leisure links provided:
World’s Best Hotels of 2023:
Best Continental United States Resort Hotels of 2023:
Best Resorts in California 2023:

San Antonio Black history museum looks toward new home in Kress-Grant building

A rendering shows the SAAACAM Cultural Center at the Kress-Grant building off of Houston Street in downtown San Antonio. Credit: Courtesy / Overland Partners


by Nicholas Frank

If all goes according to plan, the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM) will have a new home in the historic Kress-Grant building downtown by mid-2026.

A former five-and-dime store in the basement was one of seven downtown lunch counters to be peacefully desegregated in 1960, giving the building a prominent place in the Black history of San Antonio.

Luxury Travel Redefined: Auberge’s Stanly Ranch in Wine Spectator

Auberge Resorts Collection, known for its unparalleled hospitality brand, is masterfully redefining the essence of luxury travel, as featured in the June issue of Wine Spectator magazine. Like the meticulously crafted vintages of the Carneros appellation, Auberge’s newly opened Stanly Ranch embodies a harmonious blend of communal and immersive experiences at the southern gateway to all Napa has to offer.

According to Marvin R. Shanken, Wine Spectator editor and publisher, Stanly Ranch “is as much about commitment to Napa as it is a statement of grand ambition.” Shanken says its deconstructed design nestled among scenic vineyards, with cottages, a central pool and proximity to downtown Napa “represent a modern vision of California wine country.”

Overland’s architectural design team of Bob Shemwell, Michael Monceaux, Dyami Luster and John Byrd collaborated with CCID and AvroKo to create a contemporary reinterpretation of the valley’s early farmstead buildings, built of metal, wood and stone, with a deconstructed approach that creates a narrative between the land and guests. The more social experience combines not only amazing wine and farm-to-table culinary fare at on-site restaurant Bear, but live music, miles of natural trails and Halehouse Spa, where locals and guests stay, play, and renew.

“The shared experience of drinking wine and meals becomes a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and the inherent joy that can be found in coming together,” said Shemwell. “Through every impeccable detail, Stanly Ranch was designed to create lasting memories.”

Stanly Ranch offers bold and heartfelt experiences that center around the spirit of discovery on its more than 700-acres of verdant landscape. It aims to thrill the senses, ignite curiosity, and foster a deeper connection between the land and the community. By unlocking a new side of Napa, Auberge invites guests to embark on a journey of exploration and unveil the hidden gems of the region. Stanly Ranch is where adventure and authenticity converge, fulfilling Auberge’s mission of creating one-of-a-kind experiences in extraordinary places that nourish mind, body and soul.

Read Wine Spectator’s Auberge cover story here.

Austin Community College – Rio Grande Campus Renovation Wins Prestigious AIA Design Award

The Austin Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) presented 19 designers with prestigious awards during their 2023 celebration on Wednesday, May 17. The awards recognize exceptional talent and hard work by local architects and AIA Austin Members.

“Design excellence standards have evolved to emphasize sustainability and community along with aesthetics, and Austin architects have embraced that,” said executive director Ingrid Spencer in a press release. “The jurors were awed by the quality and diversity within these submissions. They were able to select a range of incredible projects that rigorously addressed site, context, and climate.”

The Design Awards are broken up into three categories: excellence, merit, and special commendation, which is decided by the jurors. Of the 19 winners chosen, six were recognized with excellence awards, nine won merit awards, and three earned special commendations.

The six winners of the Design Award of Excellence, with their submitted projects, are:

  • Page, 200 West 6th Street
  • Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek Architects with Perkins&Will, Austin Community College Highland Phase II
  • Overland Partners and Studio8 Architects, Austin Community College — Rio Grande Campus Renovation
  • Cuppett Kilpatrick Architects, Belmont Park
  • McKinney York Architects, Sánchez Elementary School
  • Nelsen Partners, Talavera Lofts

The nine Design Award of Merit winners, with their projects, are:

  • Alterstudio Architecture, Alta Vista Residence
  • Pelli Clarke & Partners and STG Design, Block 185
  • McKinney York Architects, Community First! Village Micro House
  • Charles Di Piazza Architecture, Dogtrot House
  • Andersson/Wise, Elizita Ranch
  • Matt Fajkus Architecture, Filtered Frame Dock
  • Miró Rivera Architects, Five Yard House
  • Lemmo Architecture and Design, Pleasant Valley House
  • Gensler, University of Texas at Austin Moody Center Basketball and Events Arena

The three Commendation winners are:

  • Commendation: Humancentric Design – Page, AISD Rosedale School
  • Commendation: Public Amenity – Jobe Corral Architects, Festival Beach Restroom
  • Commendation: Site Specificity – Furman + Keil Architects, Hillside House

A panel of jurors selected the winning designers out of 111 total submissions. The panel is made up of industry professionals and academics, including Ahmed ElHusseiny, the founder and principal of AE Superlab in New York; Urs Peter Flueckiger, Dean of the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University in Lubbock; and Stephanie Kingsnorth, principal at Pfeiffer — A Perkins Eastman Studio in New York and Los Angeles.

During the ceremony at Austin PBS, Mayor Kirk Watson announced the winner of the Community Impact Award. H+uo Architects (stylized h+uo architects) received this award for their work on the Roosevelt Gardens.

More information about the AIA Austin Design Awards can be found on

Read the original article on Austin Culture Map.

JUST 2.0: Overland’s Commitment to Transparency and Brighter Future for All

The choice to pursue JUST is driven by our commitment to transparency in our practice of architecture, building a creative community where people thrive, and upholding our core values to unlock the embedded potential of the people, places, projects, and communities we serve through design that cares for the Earth and creates measurable human impact. Unlike awards and certifications, JUST 2.0 is a voluntary self-disclosure tool developed by the International Living Future Institute for organizations to disclose their operations, including how they treat their employees and where they make financial and community investments.  

More than a sign of how Overland is doing, it is an opportunity for us to continuously strive to be better, showing our commitment to creating a fair and inclusive workplace and supporting the communities where we operate. This includes implementing policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as programs and investment in professional development and career advancement for all employees.  


A look at our courtyard in our San Antonio office


“I am thrilled to share the news of our JUST label. It demonstrates Overland’s commitment to transparency and advancing our profession and practice of architecture and urban design by prioritizing fairness, equity, and design with positive impact. Through the lens of the JUST label, we will continue to challenge ourselves and strive towards creating an inclusive culture that embodies our vision, mission, and values of creating a workplace that unlocks our individual and collective embedded potential and promotes human flourishing,” said Irene Prosperi, HR Director at Overland Partners.

We are proud of the work we have done since our founding in 1987. Embracing the Just 2.0 label is Overland’s ongoing commitment to holding ourselves accountable for our practices of architecture and urban design for a more sustainable, equitable and just world. Learn more about JUST by visiting their program page here on the International Living Future Institute’s website. Stay tuned to our blog for more discussions about our JUST label and the actions we’re taking to stay true to JUST 2.0. Join us in building a brighter future for all!

7 Questions for a Sustainability Professional, Sandra Montalbo

Texan by Nature’s network of business members is essential to achieving our mission of advancing conservation, and the sustainability professionals in these organizations are important allies in connecting industry with conservation. Professionals such as Sandra Montalbo, Design Performance Manager at Overland Partners, are transforming communities and organizations from within through raising Environmental, Social, and Government (ESG) actions. Overland Partners was a 2022 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in sustainable architectural design.

A credentialed LEED AP BD+C expert, Sandra Montalbo champions sustainable design and building certifications such as LEED, meaning the building’s design and operation reach high standards of natural resource conservation. She is also a WELL Accredited Professional (AP), and expert in the WELL Building Standard, a performance-based building and operations certification that requires third-party auditing and performance verification, and has received a Living Future Accreditation

1. How would you explain the importance of ESG strategy to someone who wasn’t familiar with it?

ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. It’s a way for the public, i.e., investors, stakeholders, and employees, to evaluate an organization. The term ESG is similar to the concept of sustainability in that it prioritizes environmental and social impacts. However, ESG prioritizes governance over economics. Governance is an essential component of ESG which covers corporate structure, management, responsibility, accountability, data protection, etc.

ESG serves as a gut check for organizations to evaluate whether their actions are aligned with their values. In addition, ESG can help investors and can be viewed as an indicator of an organization’s long-term success. While ESG is a helpful evaluation framework, financial considerations and profitability ultimately track higher with investors.

2. When planning environmental sustainability targets, what do you use as a guide to set these goals and commitments? (i.e. successful industry models, stakeholder concern, natural resource use?)

At Overland Partners, we are guided and inspired by our mission to positively influence the world through the practice of architecture. We are committed to being good stewards of the Earth. It’s a core value and an important part of our firm culture. Stewardship is one of the main reasons we signed on to the 2030 Commitment in 2014. The 2030 Commitment is a carbon-reduction framework led by The American Institute of Architects (AIA) to reduce the carbon emissions associated with buildings. It sets incremental goals toward carbon neutrality for all new construction by 2030 and a 20% reduction in carbon emissions for major renovations.

Our 2030 strategy is integrating low-carbon design strategies and analysis. Our designers understand the environmental impact and carbon emissions associated with the material production, construction, operation, and, ultimately, deconstruction of buildings. Reducing the embodied carbon in our designs requires that we conduct Life-Cycle Analyses (LCA) and energy analyses on projects. LCAs help us evaluate design options and require our designers to research lower-carbon intensive and low VOC materials, right-sizing buildings, and pushing function to outdoor unairconditioned, shaded spaces. Energy analyses help us optimize our buildings’ performance by evaluating optimal massing, orientation, wall assemblies, window-to-wall ratio, etc.

The 2030 Commitment also requires that firms develop and maintain a Sustainability Action Plan, which has helped us establish incremental goals toward carbon-neutral operations.

3. What is the first step for implementing ESG strategy for a company looking to engage in environmental sustainability for the first time?

In my opinion, sustainability and ESG have gained momentum with the Inflation Reduction Act which is encouraging to me as a sustainability professional.

Thinking globally, I’d start with the United Nations Sustainable Develop Goals (SDG). This can help organizations identify the themes that align with their goals and values. I’d then research third-party certifications/reporting that can help your organization identify focus areas and metrics by which to track and evaluate progress. On a national level, there are resources and organizations that advocate for transparency and accountability, depending on your industry, such as ISO Standards for Environmental ManagementGreen Business Bureau, and B Corp to name a few.

On a state level, I’d align myself with organizations with similar values, for example, the work Texan by Nature is doing to develop initiatives around education, advocacy, and certifications help advance collaboration between businesses and conservation. Diving into the Texan by Nature 20” is a great place to start for Texas-based companies and organizations interested in taking actionable steps towards positive, holistic, sustainable impact.

For Overland, it starts with our mission, vision, and values and putting them into action for positive, measurable outcomes for the people, places, projects, and communities we serve. Our pledge to The 2030 Commitment, is a great framework for sustainable design and operation, and the JUST label, which promotes organizational transparency through the lens of Diversity & Inclusion, Equity, Employee Health, Employee Benefits, Stewardship, and Purchasing & Supply Chain. These two tools require intensive metric-based evaluations of our project designs and our organization. Every year, we get a snapshot of our performance at a moment of time. The rigor of tracking and evaluating helps ensure we are making progress toward our organizational goals. They force accountability and offer us a path to better performance.

We literally pin our progress/shortcomings on the wall and use this as motivation for continuous improvement and performance moving forward.

The Binational River Conservation Project champions river restoration while also celebrating shared culture and history.

4. In 2022, what was your most interesting lesson learned in your work as a sustainability professional?

I was super fortunate to begin my architectural career as a research fellow for the AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE). I traveled all over the United States from San Antonio to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. I interviewed 100 architectural professionals at ten high-performance firms that had won the most COTE Top Ten Awards. I then spent a year writing The Habits of High-Performance Firms with the late and forever inspiring Lance Hosey. We evaluated high-performance firms’ design approach, sustainability goals, hiring practices, analysis software, organizational structure, firm culture, and driving ethos.

The biggest takeaway, for me, was that they cared. These architects, designers, and interns cared so much about doing right by the planet that it carried them through all the challenges of budget, schedules, building code requirements, and deadlines. It’s the reason I chose Overland Partners. I’m so blessed to work with such amazingly talented, hard-working, and dedicated professionals committed to the cause, from our interns to our principals.

5. What component of working in environmental sustainability is your favorite and why? (i.e. water, wildlife, biodiversity, operational innovation, waste diversion, land, energy etc.)

At Overland, we are very fortunate to collaborate with aspirational clients who challenge and inspire us. For me, every day is an opportunity to be a force for good in the world and help deliver on our brand promise of “Unlocking the Embedded Potential™” for our clients by sharing knowledge, finding innovative solutions to complex problems, and working closely with my talented colleagues to push our solutions beyond code requirements and what’s immediately apparent… a chance to design healthy spaces that care for the Earth and elevate the well-being for all who experience the places we create. It is so incredibly fun and rewarding to bring our clients and stakeholders into the design process and see the original thinking that evolves. These ideas, when integrated into the design of buildings, have contributed to transformational architecture with far-reaching influence from setting the standards for USGBC’s LEED and Sustainable SITES rating systems to “first-of-their-kind” projects such as the first net-positive restaurant in the world; first hydroponic gardens in a wildlife park; first Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) pillows that serve as the roof for a historic renovation; and first children’s nature center for the prevention and treatment of child abuse to name a few.

We are able to bring these amazing projects to fruition by staying true to our purpose and promise, and leaning into The Human HandprintTM, the methodology we developed to guide our approach to intentional design and deliver on our promise of holistic, sustainable design with measurable human transformation.

6. From the eyes of an environmental sustainability professional, what makes a conservation project stand out? What can conservation projects do to make it easier to partner with them?

At this point, all conservation efforts should be a standout. We are at a critical time where every effort to care for the Earth, with all its resources and diverse species, helps move the needle towards a healthier, more sustainable world.  We are in the beginning of the sixth mass extinction. While that may sound dire to some, humans can also positively influence the trajectory of the climate crisis. Sustainability, stewardship and conservation seem overwhelming, but making positive changes within one’s own sphere of influence can generate positive momentum and outcomes.

That being said, Overland’s work, in collaboration with Able City, on the Binational River Conservation Project is hugely inspiring to me. This project is an excellent example of community-informed design. This conservation project focuses on the critical role of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, a shared resource that sustains life for approximately 6 million people. Cleaning up the river and restoring the riparian ecosystem on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border is essential to the region’s future and serves as a prototype project for border communities worldwide. With conservation as the driver, this project is an opportunity to reimagine the symbiotic relationship between the two Laredos – Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and Laredo, Texas, connecting people, connecting people to nature, preserving the natural environment, promoting cultural bonds, celebrating our shared history, and all of this while addressing immigration issues, national security, and catalyzing economic growth.

Conservation organizations can leverage social media and YouTube and create meaningful content that brings awareness to conservation issues. Asking for donations and time is important, but it starts with awareness and connection. Conservation messaging should be provocative and compelling while leaving space for the audience to connect and contribute.

7. What sustainability goal are you most looking forward to working on in 2023?

I’m most excited to see Overland’s full adoption of The Human Handprint™ App. The Human Handprint™ as a design methodology is not new to the firm. Aspects of The Human Handprint™ have been integral to how we work with clients, engage stakeholders, think about place, and approach sustainable design over decades of experience. While there are many sustainability certifications across the architecture, engineering, and construction industry for measuring building performance and occupant comfort, we design for people and communities.  To address this need, we took the initiative to develop our own system that puts people at the center of design and formalized The Human Handprint™ methodology in 2015. The methodology has evolved since then and we are now on The Human Handprint version 3.  The Human Handprint™ has created a continuous cycle of strategic problem-solving, learnings, and best practices to inform better design decision-making across all market sectors. Since we’re always striving to innovate and work smarter, we built an app to collect project data which feeds into a data visualization dashboard, integrating sustainability, design performance, and measurable human outcomes into one singular, powerful platform. Our Overland design teams are already seeing results when it comes to serving our clients and to elevating design decision-making. It has significantly streamlined our internal project performance tracking and reporting and is building fidelity into our process. The Human Handprint™ App is our firm commitment to people and the planet, creating positive, measurable human transformations.

Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business, every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.

We’re grateful to Sandra, Overland Partners, and the many sustainability professionals and companies who are future-proofing their businesses and our state with operational innovations and conservation investments that advance environmental sustainability in their sectors and provide successful models for the globe to follow. Learn more about the annual TxN 20 program, which recognizes leadership in environmental sustainability in industry, by visiting the TxN 20 website, and keep an eye out for more insight from other sustainability professionals to come.


Sandra Montalbo is passionate about sustainability. Architecture has provided her the platform to create positive change in the natural and built environment. In 2015, she received the Architectural Research Consortium Center’s (ARCC) King Student Medal for her research, “Architectural Design and Behavioral Effects in the Context of Sustainability.” In 2016, she was selected as the COTE Scholar with AIA National in Washington, D.C. In 2017, Sandra was the lead researcher and primary author of “The Habits of High-Performance Firms.” In 2018, she was awarded the AIA San Antonio’s Rising Star Award and served on the NCARB Experience and Advisory Committee.

Sandra represented the AIA San Antonio on the City of San Antonio’s Energy & Building’s Technical Working Group to develop The City of San Antonio’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) and served on the USGBC South Texas Regional Council. In 2019, she was awarded the Texas Society of Architects Associate Member of the Year Award, UTSA’s CACP – Distinguished Alumni Award, and a recipient of the AIA National’s 2019 Jason Pettigrew Scholarship. In 2020, she was recognized by the Design Future’s Council as 2022 Emerging Leader at the Annual Leadership Summit “The Future of Environmental Responsibility.” Sandra is currently Overland’s Design Performance Manager and is also a PhD student in the Land Use Planning Management and Design (LPMD) program at Texas Tech University.

Read the original article on Texan by Nature.

Takeshi Kamiya Named Global Director of Urban Design & Planning

Overland Partners, an architecture, master planning, and urban design firm based in Texas, announced the appointment of Takeshi Kamiya, AIA, LEED AP, as its Global Director of Urban Design & Planning. Kamiya will lead the firm’s efforts to plan and design sustainable and resilient projects that enhance human flourishing for communities worldwide.  

“Takeshi Kamiya is a highly respected architect and urban designer whose work reflects a deep understanding of the complex social, economic, historic, and environmental factors that shape urban development,” said Overland President Adam Bush, AIA. “He has worked on some of the most ambitious and innovative projects in recent years and will allow Overland to bring his thoughtful expertise to our diverse portfolio of clients around the world while advancing our footprint in the NYC area and internationally.”  

Kamiya is an architect and urban designer known for creating large-scale master plans across the globe for urban environments, downtown and entertainment districts, educational and corporate campuses, waterfront redevelopments and sports entertainment venues. His designs reflect an enthusiasm for exploration and a harmonious balance between people, society, and the environment. He applies science to ensure projects are realistic and buildable, and then executes with art for designs that are undeniably beautiful. The value Kamiya places on the importance and interplay of science and art has resulted in memorable places that are responsible, viable and loved by people. 

“I am excited to join Overland, as our shared commitment to producing inspiring and impactful work aligns with my personal design philosophy,” said Kamiya. 

Overland is a global architectural, master planning, and urban design firm with 90 professionals to serve clients across the U.S. and around the world.  Recognized for its ability to blend technology, materials, art, and craft, Overland creates places that prioritize environmental sustainability, foster well-being, and lead to measurable human transformation. 

As Overland’s Global Director of Urban Planning & Design, based in NYC, Kamiya will create and execute design strategies that encourage collaboration, innovation, and creativity, while also advocating for sustainability and equitable practices through urban design, master planning, and architecture. 

While at Cooper Robertson, Kamiya gained recognition for his involvement in the Hudson Yards Master Plan, one of the most impactful urban master plan projects in the U.S. The 340-acre Hudson Yards mixed-use development has quickly evolved into a new, vibrant community on Manhattan’s west side. Kamiya has also contributed to the Central Delaware Master Plan, which aimed to transform Philadelphia’s Central Delaware River waterfront into a dynamic and diverse mixed-used community, establishing a new gateway to the river’s edge while seamlessly integrating the thriving city. Kamiya’s experience in higher education is represented across several of the country’s top-ranked private and public universities on a range of diverse campus master planning initiatives that include Caltech, Georgetown, Pratt Institute, Stony Brook University, University of Miami, and University of California at Santa Cruz.  

Kamiya has also worked on projects in his home country of Japan, including the Hokkaido Ballpark, designed for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball team, during his time at architecture firm HKS, Inc. The ballpark features a traditional Hokkaido-style gable roof, a massive glass wall beyond the outfield, and a retractable roof, cultivating the natural turf field. The ballpark is surrounded by 80-acres of land. The first of its kind in Japan, Kamiya believes it will transform sports and entertainment projects around the world.  

Born and raised in Japan, Kamiya developed a passion for exploring how architecture shapes a city’s identity, while studying as an undergraduate. To further his understanding of urban design, he traveled to New York City and completed the graduate program in architecture at Pratt Institute, a college known for its commitment to craft, sustainability and social responsibility in design.