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.  

Overland Appoints Sebastian Ortiz as New Vice President of Business Operations

Overland Partners, an architecture, planning and urban design firm based in Texas renowned for its human-centered and sustainable design projects, announced today that Sebastian Ortiz has joined the company as Vice President of Business Operations. The El Salvador native has more than 20 years of experience in the strategic growth and optimization of organizations, ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to large corporations, and has a strong track record of success in business strategy and operations across multiple industries.

In his new role, Ortiz will be responsible for overseeing the firm’s financial, administrative, and operational functions, working closely with the leadership team to ensure exceptional delivery of sustainable design solutions to clients, while also maintaining a strong focus on operational efficiency, profitability, and growth.

Prior to joining Overland Partners, Ortiz led a restaurant group where he built the company from a solo operation to more than 100 restaurants in three countries over the course of 12 years.

“Sebastian’s brilliant business acumen will help us strategically expand and grow, while remaining true to our brand promise of unlocking the embedded potential of people and places with a deep respect for the environment,” said Overland President Adam Bush, AIA.

Ortiz holds a Bachelor of Arts from St. John’s College and a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University, an educational foundation that fosters a unique approach to problem-solving with a well-rounded and creative mindset.

“Overland’s actions consistently reflect their core values,” said Ortiz. “The firm’s focus on sustainable design, dedication to exceptional client outcomes, coupled with their unwavering integrity and accountability sets them apart in the industry and is a key reason why I joined the firm,” he said.

According to Ortiz, Overland is well positioned for expansion, both in terms of new market sector growth and geographic reach. The firm established a Dallas design practice in 2021 with the newly formed Sports & Entertainment practice group led by Bryan Trubey, FAIA.

Overland provides comprehensive architectural, master planning and urban design services to clients worldwide through its team of 90 employees located in San Antonio, Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City and New York City and is known for integrating technology, materials, art, and craft to create places that care for the earth, promote well-being and lead to measurable human transformation.

An Architect Top 50 Firm, Overland has received more than 200 international and national design awards and has been widely published at home and abroad.

Connecting People and Place: Data Tools for Architects

Good architecture requires that architectseek a deep understanding of the site. A careful climate analysis allows designers to do just that. The findings from a climate analysis provide the information needed to leverage the sun, wind, land, and vegetation that surround a project to create better buildings. But what about the people? What are the health and equity considerations? What values and risks surround a project’s site? How can viewing a site as part of a community inform designs to create better communities?  

Literature surrounding social science, public policy, public health, architecture, and urban design contend that building and community design decisions can have long lasting impacts. So how can an architect be better and do better?  

Architects can be more and do more by leveraging and learning from data such as that provided by governmental agencies like the US Census, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Environmental Protection Agency in the form of an environmental justice (EJ) tool.  Tools such as Building EJ ToolEJScreenClimate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and Spark Map are online websites that allow architects and urban planners to gather social, economic, and environmental data on surrounding communities to inform design. Understanding local conditions can have positive impacts on the health, safety, and welfare of local communities. 

Building EJ Tool 

Developed by Autocase, the Building EJ Tool is a free online tool that provides local community data, data sources and resources on local communities. This tool is great for residential and multi-family projects. Users can create a “Project” with basic cost, size, location and use. Information is displayed in graphic tiles via a Data Dashboard which gives a broad overview of the socioeconomic, environmental, climate change, amenity, and demographic indicators. Project information can remain private or be shared publicly across the Building EJ Tool community. In addition to informing good sustainable design, the Building EJ Tool summary can also be used towards LEED Social Equity Pilot Credits 

EJ Screen 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently developed the EJ Screen, a free web-based tool, that combines environmental and demographic indicators allowing users to compare environmental justice indicators for their design location to state, regional, and national averages.  This EJ tool is great for firms and project teams that want to understand the local climate, climate risks, and surrounding community. Users simply enter their project address to display graphic mapping information by percentiles for environmental justice indexes, supplemental indexes, pollution, socioeconomic indicators, health disparities, climate change data, critical service gaps and additional demographic data. Users can also download the full EJ Screen Data as a CSV file that can be used in conjunction with other software such as GIS or statistical software for more advanced analysis. While the EJ Screen tool does not capture all the environmental, social, and economic risks for things such as water quality or indoor air quality, it is an easy-to-use screening tool that helps users understand some of the risks and limitations of a community. If architects want to know more to do more, EJ Screen is a good place to start. 

Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool 

This EJ tool was developed as part of an executive order under the Biden administration as part of the Justice-40 Initiative which seeks to deliver 40% of overall benefits of investments towards climate, clean energy, and related areas to disadvantage communities. This EJ tool is great for project teams and firms working on commercial projects, specifically civic, cultural, institutional, and office projects. The tool is a web-based graphic map display requiring no sign-up and is free. While this tool is not as comprehensive as EJ Screen or Spark Map, it’s a super-fast easy way to access climate, environmental, health, housing, water and wastewater, as well as workforce development.  

Spark Map 

Of all the EJ tools discussed Spark Map is the most comprehensive. It has a wide range of indicators from environmental, income and economics, housing and families, to healthcare outcomes This EJ tool is a comprehensive catch all that is great at the designer, design team, firm level for all project typologies. User registration is required. While there is a free version which gives users access to 80+ indicators, the premium level is worth considering if projects are public facing. The report has in-depth summaries below each graphic map that benchmarks design community percentages with local, state, and national data (when available). A full Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) can be exported as a PDF or displayed as high-level graphical tiles.  

The bottom line is this. Each of these EJ tools is useful. They all, to some extent, cover the three pillars of sustainability with indicators across economic, social, and environmental issues. They’re all free or offer some free version. While there are plenty of tutorials to offer guidance, no training is needed. They’re all web-based which means there is no software download or installation required. They’re all somewhat intuitive and simple enough to get graphics, maps and/or reports for project community within minutes. Small residential projects might choose the Building EJ tool which gives broad indicators that can help inform design. Small and large commercial projects will find Spark Map and the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool super helpful. The challenge for architects is taking the time to swim in the data and really make efforts to understand the community and its history while designing for its future. Architects thrive within constraints but using EJ tools can help identify issues and reveal opportunities. These EJ tools are useful, practical, and give architects a greater understanding on which to base design.  

Sandra Montalbo, Assoc, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, LFA, is Design Performance Manager at Overland Partners Architecture. Sandra has a BA in Communication and Public Relations (The University of Texas at San Antonio, 2006 [UTSA]), an MA in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development (Hawaii Pacific University, 2010) and a MArch (The University of Texas at San Antonio, 2015). She was the lead researcher and primary author of “The Habits of High-Performance FirmsSandra was awarded the AIA San Antonio’s Rising Star Award and served on the NCARB Experience and Advisory Committee in 2018.  She helped 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 Architect’s Associate Member of the Year Award, and UTSA’s CACP – Distinguished Alumni Award, and was a recipient of the AIA National’s 2019 Jason Pettigrew Scholarship.  In 2020, she led a research team for “Intersections: Climate Change, Racial Justice & the Pandemic” for AIA National. In 2022, she was recognized by the Design Future’s Council as an Emerging Leader at the 2022 Annual Leadership Summit “The Future of Environmental Responsibility.” Sandra is currently a Design Performance Manager at Overland Partners Architecture and a PhD Student in the Land Use Planning Management and Design (LPMD) at Texas Tech University. 

Read the original article on AIA KnowledgeNet.

Texan by Nature Unveils TxN20 for 2022 – Overland Earns Top Spot for Leadership in Conservation

“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

Companies Operating Across the State of Texas Recognized in the TxN 20 for Their Leadership in Conservation & Sustainability

AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Texan by Nature (TxN), a Texas-led conservation non-profit founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, today announced 20 honorees of the 4th annual Texan by Nature 20 (TxN 20) – an official ranking of companies with Texas operations that have made a demonstrative commitment to conservation.

The TxN 20 recognizes the best and most innovative work in conservation coming from business based and operating in Texas. As part of the TxN 20, Texan by Nature honors companies across 12 industries in the Lone Star State whose ingenuity cultivates impactful programs and forges new, beneficial paths in conservation. With 168 million acres of land and global leadership across multiple industries, Texas is fortunate to have industry leaders who see the value in partnering with conservation initiatives while also developing innovative, environmentally sustainable methods and processes within their business.

“We believe in building an environmentally sustainable future through actions, collaborations and innovative models in conservation,” said Joni Carswell, CEO & President of Texan by Nature. “It is an honor to celebrate the Texas-based industry leaders that share these values and demonstrate the benefits of pairing business resources with conservation efforts to impact the globe.” 

A catalyst for thought leadership, innovative partnerships, and community-led solutions, Texan by Nature has been working with the Texas business community to implement Texas-led conservation practices. The TxN 20 provides not only recognition to honorees, but a catalogue of best practices and metrics to industry peers. The honoree’s commitment to conservation, their projects and programs, best practices, and lessons learned are examples and inspiration for us all.

“I’m thrilled to celebrate this year’s TxN 20! They are pioneers, collaborators, and changemakers.  I encourage other companies to follow their example and engage in conservation. Together, we can set the standard for sustaining a prosperous economy, rich natural resources, and a secure future for the next generation,” said former First Lady and Texan by Nature Founder, Laura Bush.

To select the 2022 TxN 20, company data submissions were evaluated and independent research across 2,000+ of Texas’ publicly traded and private companies was conducted for 12 industry sectors. All companies were evaluated on key criteria through a 17-point scoring system to narrow down the list to the top 60 companies in Texas. Key scoring criteria included: stated commitment to conservation; reported metrics related to conservation; measured investment in conservation; reported Return on Conservation; positive conservation impact on land, water, wildlife, people, waste, energy, and more; and activities such as infrastructure, production and supply chain, employee engagement, and more. Each year, an esteemed selection committee of top industry leaders is formed to evaluate the top 60 companies and select the final honorees for the TxN 20.


  1. Austin Parks and Recreation Department
  2. Cap Metro
  3. CEMEX
  4. Cirrus Logic
  5. Comerica
  6. Darling Ingredients
  7. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
  8. Farmer Brothers
  10. IBM
  11. North American Development Bank
  12. NRG Energy
  13. Overland Partners
  14. Sanderson Farms
  15. Stantec
  16. Sysco
  17. Texas Health Resources
  18. Vistra Corp
  19. Vital Farms
  20. Yeti

To read more about each 2022 TxN 20 honoree, please visit: 

The TxN 20 2022 Selection Committee members included:

  • Rick Archer, Founding Principal – Overland Partners
  • Andrejs E. Avots-Avotins, MD, PhD, The Elizabeth & Drayton McLane, Jr. Chair in Health & Wellness Vice President of Medical Affairs – Baylor Scott & White Health – Temple
  • Lucia Athens,  Chief Sustainability Officer – City of Austin
  • Tracee Bentley, President & CEO – Permian Strategic Partnership
  • Garrett Boone, Cofounder – The Container Store, Board – Green Space Dallas, Trinity Park Conservancy, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, Perot Museum
  • Stoney Burke, Founder/CEO, Aquia Group, TxN Advisory Council
  • Wayne Craig, Vice President & Director of Information Technology – Cactus Feeders
  • Edward Craner, Sr. Vice President – HOLT CAT
  • Matthew Crommett, Director – LH Capital, Inc, Lyda Hill Philanthropies
  • Michael Dorff, Communications and Public Affairs  – Raytheon
  • Trey Dyer, Director of Land and Fixed Assets  – The East Foundation
  • Smith Getterman, Director of Sustainability and Special Projects – Baylor University
  • Robert Horton, Vice President, Environmental Affairs & Sustainability – Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, TxN Board
  • Devin Hotzel, Manager, Government Relations – Enbridge
  • Tyler Lowe, Director, Governmental Affairs – Vulcan Materials Company
  • Bob Malone, Chairman, President & CEO – Sonora Bank
  • Richard McDonald, Corporate Director, Environmental Affairs & Sustainability – H-E-B
  • Ashley Nelson, Director, ESG & Sustainability – Phillips 66
  • Julia Murphy, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer – City of San Antonio Office of Sustainability
  • Angelica Rosales, Business Development – Sundt, TxN Advisory Council
  • VJ Smith, Manager, ESG and Stakeholder Engagement – Marathon Petroleum
  • Audrey Templeton, Enterprise Risk Manager – Molson Coors

Activating new investments, amplifying and accelerating innovations, and connecting partners to the resources they need to succeed, Texan by Nature offers select programs to help engage Texans in stewardship of the state’s rich land and diverse communities including the Conservation Wrangler program, TxN Certification, the Conservation Summit, Symposia series,the TxN 20, and select statewide initiatives. For more information on TxN partnerships and programs, or to learn how to get involved, please visit


Texan by Nature (TxN) brings conservation and business together to advance conservation – positively impacting natural resources, prosperity, and health across Texas and beyond. TxN partners deeply with conservation groups and business, acting as an accelerator for conservation groups and a strategic partner for business. Their projects and programs have impacted 7M+ people, 19.5M acres, and all of Texas’ 254 counties over the last 2 years. Get involved and learn more at and follow on Facebook @TexanbyNature, Twitter @TexanbyNature, and Instagram @texanbynature.

Transforming Brodie Oaks From Shopping Center to City in South Austin

An overhead view of the Brodie plan. Image: Barshop & Oles / Lionheart Places

We’ve said this before, but the upcoming redevelopment of the 37-acre Brodie Oaks shopping center into a new mixed-use community for South Austin is the sort of large-scale urban planning even the city’s most change-averse citizens ought to celebrate. Try telling us the “after” image doesn’t look like an upgrade:

Taking a sprawling 1980s strip mall-style shopping center and replacing its large parking lots and storefronts with denser housing — including approximately 200 affordable homes — alongside offices, hotels, and retail allows the development team of Barshop & Oles Company and Lionstone Investments to lower the existing impervious cover of the site and increase its open green space by more than 30 percent, providing nearly 12 acres of new city parkland, 10 of those acres adjacent to the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Due to its location inside the regulatory area of the city’s Save Our Springs water quality initiative, the Brodie redevelopment is likely the most environmentally sensitive project of its scale currently planned in the city, and should provide a roadmap for future upgrades of similar underutilized and overpaved shopping centers throughout the outskirts of the urban core.

The trick to this sort of sprawl-busting density is extra height, and the development hopes to attain its allowances of 160 feet adjacent to parkland and up to 275 feet on the sides of the tract facing Loop 360 and South Lamar Boulevard through the city’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) process, which is currently headed for a new round of public hearings — after securing the approval of the Parks Board earlier this summer, the PUD heads for the Environmental and Planning Commissions next month, with the first reading at City Council scheduled for its December 1 meeting.

Once the PUD is finalized, the project should enter the permitting phase by 2024, with the first phase of construction tentatively scheduled for groundbreaking sometime in 2025. With this final stage of approvals now approaching, the project’s development team has recently launched a new website for the plan, which is simply going by the name Brodie — that’s where we’re finding all these incredible before and after pictures of the shopping center, and you ought to check it out for yourself.

Brodie will be a destination landmark for South Austin reflecting the unique character of South Austin through its creative design and the incorporation of public art and performance venues. A focus on biophilic design, energy and water conservation, and the use of regional architectural styles and materials will all help contribute to the South Austin character.

The project will reserve prominent areas with views of Downtown and the Hill Country as publicly-accessible open space. The project is planning for approximately 1,700 residential units, 1.2 million square feet of office, 200 hotel rooms, 140 thousand square feet of activated ground floor retail and restaurant uses. A central green will be developed and programmed for events and entertainment acting as the central core of food and beverage options. This central green will connect from the core of the development to a festival street that can host farmers markets and events and terminate at a new trailhead to the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

The restoration of over 25 percent of the site to open space adjacent to the Barton Creek Greenbelt is made possible through heights of up to 160’ adjacent to parkland and 220’ to 275’ along Loop 360 and S. Lamar Boulevard frontage. The project is partnering with Foundation Communities to include a project of approximately 130 family-oriented units, serving families between 40% and 60% of median family income. Approximately 70 additional units of affordable housing for households earning up to 60% of median family income will be dispersed throughout the project, along with affordable retail and artist spaces. Finally, repositioning the retail environment from single-use, auto-oriented to mixed-use and walkable will align the physical environment with social and environmental trends.

— Brodie Site

We’ve already made it clear why we think this sort of project is precisely the way Austin ought to grow, since it’s obvious by now that our city’s expansion is inevitable and trying to stop it doesn’t do favors for anyone. Despite some petty complaints by distant homeowners about the new buildings mildly altering the views from their backyards, no serious person could effectively argue that the Brodie plan as laid out here is not a better deal than what’s sitting at this property now — building up, not out, should be our local mantra for the next generation, and we can think of nearly a dozen shopping centers around town that could use the Brodie treatment. Perhaps consider sending your representative on Council an email supporting this plan?

Read the original article on Austin Towers.