Award Winner - May 2011
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Tellepsen Family Downtown YMCA

Houston, Texas

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Kirksey Architecture in Houston

Size: 115,000 square feet, plus 200-car parking garage

Project Cost: $33.5 million

Quick Tour:

  • Natatorium: 4-lane, 25-meter lap pool, whirlpool and warm-water therapy pool
  • Steam rooms, sauna rooms
  • Gym with competition basketball with 2 cross courts, volleyball
  • Five racquetball courts
  • 15,000-square-foot cardio/strength wellness area
  • 5 group exercise rooms
  • Women's center with cardio, weights, circuit training, stretching and lounge
  • Running/walking track
  • Child watch area
  • 3,000-square-foot multipurpose room
  • Chapel
  • Café
  • Locker rooms, including family changing rooms, massage rooms
  • Community services with computer lab, food pantry, case management office space

The new Tellepsen Family Downtown YMCA is the largest operating YMCA of Greater Houston, serving more than 10,000 members. As a replacement for the 1941 facility, this new flagship Y meets the needs of a revitalized downtown that now includes homes with families and children.

Encompassing 115,000 square feet of membership and program space, this state-of-the-art building allows the Y to provide an expanded range of services to further its mission of building a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

Expected to achieve LEED Gold, the new Y will be the first "green" facility certified by the U.S. Green Building Council in Greater Houston.

The project was conceived as a Window to the Community, culminating in the building's main design feature, a 40-foot tall curtain wall along the upper three floors of the entire north façade. This provides a visual connection from within the building looking out, as well as from the city looking in. The interior of the building is open and transparent with views of multiple activities from a single location.

The main entry, conceived of as the Porch, is a large, two-story exterior volume located underneath the upper floors of the building and programmed to accommodate a multitude of community activities, from the starting line for downtown fun runs to outdoor dining for the first floor café.

Adjacent to the Porch is a two-story lobby entry, with access to Reception, Child Watch and Youth areas, as well as the indoor pool. A large central stair provides circulation to the floors above and provides an orientation device for members.

Straightforward, durable materials, including stone, brick and metal panel, accentuate the different volumes and programmatic elements of the building. The upper exercise floors are clad in metallic color standing seam metal wall panel, while the lower floors are limestone.

Graphics are important to the design and provide a story about the history of the YMCA and the Tellepsen family, for whom the building is named. The graphics appear on the first floor as banners on the columns and on the walls in the upper floors. An "Items from Our Past" display features preserved objects from previous downtown facilities, and the original downtown rooftop Y neon sign is featured in the Wellness Center.

Designed to achieve LEED certification, sustainable concepts throughout the new facility allow it to be more efficient and less expensive to operate, consume less energy, and emit fewer harmful chemicals. Materials and finishes were selected for durability and low maintenance. The exterior is clad in limestone and brick, with standing seam metal wall panel. Lobby and corridor floors are polished concrete. Concrete structural columns and overhead deck are exposed throughout, and the lobby and corridors have an open mesh metal lay-in ceiling.

The building design carefully considered site orientation and window locations to reduce solar heat gain, yet still allow extensive natural daylighting into spaces. Daylight modeling and outdoor lighting simulation was performed to analyze and reduce potential sun glare through the main northeast-facing curtainwall. Ceramic fritted glass, including full-height YMCA graphics, was used to help with glare reduction. High-performance low-e glazing was used to reduce solar heat gain while maximizing light transmission.

Energy modeling was used to derive an estimate of annual energy and water consumption to help with utility cost budgeting. Ultimately, the building was designed to be more than 10 percent more efficient than a standard building constructed to required codes. The cool white roof reflects 90 percent of the sun's radiation, reducing heat gain. The building will save 1 million gallons of water annually through various water-conservation measures. On top of this, various measures were taken to protect indoor air quality, divert construction materials from landfills and use recycled content.


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

"Excellent urban presence. Covered plaza and transparent corner lobby blurs the street edge boundary. Similarly, opening the pool to sidewalk-level views and the gym façade are confident gestures to connect the interior to the outdoors. Overlapping track, gym and wellness center is an original compression of program elements based on the limited area of the city lot."

Daniel Heuberger

"Love this project! From the large-scale graphics to the well-designed and consistent interior and exterior elevations, nice materials, not overdone, but great pops of color, exposed structure and great character. Simple, modern, elegant. Most importantly, it looks like a great place to go to and be in."

Rudy Fabiano

"Houston just got better! The Tellepsen YMCA is an excellent addition to the community."

Jim Wirick

"The building as billboard for activities within is effective."

Janet Jordan

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Project Manager: The Mathis Group

General Contractor: Tellepsen Builders

Structural: Haynes Whaley Associates

Civil: Cobb Fendley Associates

Electrical Design-Build: Pieper-Houston Electric

Mechanical Design-Build: Graves Mechanical

Pool Design-Build: Watts Pool Company

Landscape Architect: Lauren Griffith Associates

Graphics Design Consultant: Babendure Wheat Creative

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