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11 September 2017

HOK’s Houston Office Hosts AIA Staff Displaced by Hurricane Harvey

Local AIA chapter will relocate to HOK’s Houston office for up to six months.

The American Institute of Architects’ Houston chapter was three weeks away from moving into its new office when Hurricane Harvey struck late last month. AIA’s new space, located within the historic 1906 B.A. Reisner Building in Houston’s original downtown, took on four-and-a-half feet of water. Meanwhile, the chapter’s existing office was also flooded by the hurricane’s record-setting rainfall.

Beginning today, Sept. 11, the AIA Houston chapter has found a new temporary home in HOK’s Houston office. The chapter’s seven-person staff will work out of the HOK space for the next three to six months, until their new office is repaired.

“We have room, so we wanted to make that minor contribution to help AIA get back on its feet,” said Jay Tatum, HOK’s managing principal in Houston. “We’re all a family in Houston’s architectural community, and families help their own.”

The loss of their new and existing offices comes at a critical time for AIA’s Houston chapter, with its staff working overtime to help the community recover from the catastrophic flooding and devastation left in the wake of Harvey. In addition to collaborating on relief efforts with AIA National, the Texas Society of Architects, FEMA, and state and local officials, AIA Houston has been helping to match up organizations in need of office space, equipment or furniture with those offering to provide it.

“Figuring out what we’re going to do next, for both ourselves and the community, has been daunting and paralyzing,” said Rusty Bienvenue, AIA Houston’s executive director, in this AIA.org interview. He noted that 156,000 homes in Harris County alone (50 counties were affected) had flooded—with most Houstonians not having flood insurance. “How do you address something this massive in an effective way?”

Though the Houston chapter’s new space was in a floodplain, Bienvenue explained in the AIA interview that its architects and engineers had designed flood mitigation measures that were intended to serve as a demonstration for how to design for a flood zone. “Unfortunately, the building wasn’t completed in time, there were gaps all along the facade and it took on four-and-a-half feet of water. There’s no flood insurance on a construction site, even in a flood zone, so we have to start over.”

The risk policy carried by the contractor will cover some of the costs, but it has a $250,000 deductible.

To make a tax-deductible donation to help rebuild Architecture Center Houston, go to AIA Houston’s GoFundMe campaign.

To offer your help to AIA Houston, email harvey@aiahouston.org.