One of Houston's biggest medical office projects — the $1.3 billion, 400,000-square-foot O’Quinn Medical Tower — is expected to deliver this year. Photo courtesy of Baylor College of Medicine

Medical office and life sciences projects are making a big splash in Houston’s commercial real estate sector in 2023.

The 42Floors commercial real estate website ranks five Houston-area medical office buildings among the country’s 20 largest medical office projects set to open this year. Meanwhile, 42Floors identifies two Houston developments among the 20 biggest U.S. life sciences projects on tap to debut in 2023.

Leading the list of the largest U.S. medical office buildings scheduled to be completed this year is the $1.3 billion, 400,000-square-foot O’Quinn Medical Tower. Set to open April 14 at the McNair Campus of Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, the outpatient facility will adjoin the McNair Hospital Tower, which opened in 2019.

The O’Quinn tower will serve as the new clinical home of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. The center is a federally designated facility for cancer care and research.

Highlights of the 12-story O’Quinn tower, southeast of the Texas Medical Center, include:

  • Ambulatory surgery center with 12 operating rooms and 10 endoscopy suites
  • 80-bay setup for infusion therapy
  • More than 70 exam rooms
  • More than 850 parking spaces

In all, five medical office properties in the Houston area made the 42Floors list, representing the highest concentration of major projects in any U.S. metro area that are scheduled to open this year. The four medical office properties joining the O’Quinn tower on the list are:

  • Houston Methodist Sugar Land Medical Office Building 4, 159,252 square feet
  • Kelsey-Seybold Springwoods Village Campus, 157,983 square feet
  • Kelsey-Seybold Ambulatory Surgery Center in Clear Lake, 116,000 square feet
  • 1715 Project in Friendswood, 107,000 square feet

A separate 42Floors list ranks Dynamic One, part of Baylor College of Medicine’s TMC Helix Park, as the second largest life sciences project in the U.S. set to come online this year. Houston’s TMC3 Collaborative Building lands at No. 19.

The 12-story Dynamic One project will feature lab space, offices, restaurants, and stores. It represents the first of four buildings planned for the 37-acre, five-million-square-foot TMC Helix Park, which is projected to generate an economic impact of $5.4 billion.

The 42Floors list puts the square footage of Dynamic One’s north tower at 365,000. Organizations involved in the project cite the square footage as 355,000.

The Baylor College of Medicine has signed up as Dynamic One’s anchor tenant. It will occupy 114,000 square feet of lab and office space.

“Baylor College of Medicine is a major force in life sciences discovery and commercialization at TMC. Their move to TMC Helix Park will serve as a catalyst for enhanced collaboration with TMC’s other esteemed Institutions, as well as with industry leaders from around the world,” Bill McKeon, president and CEO of TMC, says in a news release.

Also located at TMC Helix Park, the four-story TMC3 Collaborative Building will span 250,000 square feet. It will contain research facilities for MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Texas A&M University Health Science Center, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and TMC.

In addition, the TMC3 Collaborative Building will house life sciences companies, the TMC Data Collaborative, the TMC Venture Fund, the Braidwell hedge fund, and venture capital and private equity firms.

Dolce Midtown Apartments is one of the many new apartment options in the Houston area. Photo courtesy of Dolce Midtown Apartments

Houston booms among nation's top 10 markets for new apartments

They come, we build

It's not all in your head. Those new apartments you spotted on your way to work probably did just pop up — and it's happening in big numbers in Houston and around the state, according to a new study.

RentCafe estimates 7,143 new apartments will be built in the Houston metro by the end of 2019 — the 10th highest projection nationally. Nearly half of those new units will rise within the city of Houston proper.

And these aren't vanity projects. With more than 90,000 new residents calling the Houston area home, we need all the apartments we can get.

Houston leads the region in terms of projected new apartment units at 3,163, followed by Conroe's 724 expected units and The Woodlands' 678.

Most of Texas is booming, too. No. 1 on RentCafe's list is Dallas-Fort Worth, with 22,196 new units expected by the end of the year. No. 5 Austin is expected to bring 10,783 new units to the region. Meanwhile, 3,510 new units will be built in San Antonio, a steep decline of 41 percent from the 5,993 units built there in 2018.

Nationally, Seattle makes for a distant second behind DFW with 13,682 new units expected, followed by New York City, which was No. 1 in 2018, with 13,418 units planned for this year.

Unlike the Lone Star State, the nation as a whole is seeing a slump in apartment construction. The 299,442 new apartments expected in 2019 represent an 8.2 percent drop from 2018's 326,240 new units, which also were weaker numbers than in 2017, when 331,765 new apartments were built.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The majority of McCarthy Building Companies' projects now include some sort of virtual or augmented reality technology. Courtesy of McCarthy Building Companies

Houston-area construction team utilizes technology to solve problems

Reality real estate

In recent years, the construction industry has begun embraced advancements in reality technology like virtual reality and augmented reality. While it has yet to reach critical mass in the industry, several contracting companies in the Houston region like McCarthy Building Companies are embracing the technology and blazing the trail for the construction industry.

Chris Patton, virtual design and construction manager for McCarthy's southern region, says many construction companies are consistently looking for ways to improve processes and procedures through reality technology.

"We really saw the potential and use cases for [VR] really early on, and it was really just a matter of the hardware and the software catching up to being something usable, consumable, deployable and cost effective on our projects," Patton says. "We were sitting there waiting for it and ready to go when it was."

Patton says these visualization tools have changed the way contractors display projects and have helped the partners on these projects — such as the design team, building owner and subcontractors — make better informed decisions earlier, more quickly and sometimes at a cheaper price point.

Before AR and VR technology entered the construction industry, companies either had to work with two-dimensional construction drawings or build very expensive, three-dimensional models, or mock ups, of construction sites that allowed clients to physically walk through a building space to interact with its features. Patton says the entire mock-up building process used to cost roughly $1 million — depending on the project size.

However, now this costly and time-consuming process is a thing of the past, as construction companies have found a way to utilize AR and VR technology to bring clients into a computer-generated environment. By putting on an AR or VR helmet, clients can immerse themselves and engage in a virtual environment that shows them all of the project's details and allows them to move about a virtual construction site the same way they would in a 3D model.

McCarthy's Houston division began utilizing reality technology in early 2015, with some of its other markets integrating the technology into their practices in late 2014. Since then, the company's use of AR and VR technology has grown exponentially, Patton says.

"When we first started evaluating and looking at virtual reality and augmented reality, [we] might have [used it on] one or two projects a year, and that was probably three years ago," Patton says. "Today, I'd say almost 60-75 percent of our projects—at some point in design or construction — utilize virtual reality or augmented reality or a combination of both."

Although McCarthy has been around since 1864, the general contracting company made its Texas debut in Dallas in 1981. Since then McCarthy expanded to create a Houston office in 2011, building a portfolio of renowned Houston clients such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Holocaust Museum Houston, Texas Children's Hospital as well as the recent completion of Houston ISD's Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

A notable project McCarthy's Houston Division took on was phase one the MFAH's master plan that included building The Glassell School of Art. The company also continues its work on phase two, which includes new developments for the MFAH for which McCarthy's virtual design and construction group created VR and AR models for the museum.

By using software like HoloLive and Fuzor for AR technology and Fuzor for VR technology, McCarthy's VDC group can visualize and combine digital creations with the real world, Patton says. With the growing number of projects utilizing the technology, Patton says McCarthy has invested greatly in personnel who will help grow the VDC group and continue to look for advancements in the construction industry.

"Some of the folks that we have those [VDC] positions in our company, some of them come from construction technology backgrounds and construction management backgrounds but others come from graphical design and have like a gaming background, some come from architectural backgrounds," Patton says. "[Reality technology] really kind of opened the door to a new opportunity for people to get engaged with the construction industry that we hadn't seen in the past."

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$1M donation to Rice establishes pioneering neuro-policy center in Houston

brainy support

A big donation to Rice University will soon help researchers better understand the workings of the human brain.

Harry Yan and Weiman Gao have bestowed $1 million on the Baker Institute of Public Policy to establish the interdisciplinary Neuro-Policy Program.

Neuro-policy is a newer field that explores how brain health and function can help to fuel economic growth.

“The Neuro-Policy Program is at the forefront of pioneering data analysis, empirical research and policy application,” says Harris Eyre, the lead for the program, as well as a senior fellow in brain health at the Baker Institute, in a news release. “Investing in evidence-based strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment can reduce brain and mental health disparities, optimize cognitive development and performance and foster innovation to build more resilient communities.”

Eyre describes the collective value of the human brain as “brain capital.” That’s because brains that are suffering from any number of neurodegenerative or mental health disorders (including depression, anxiety, brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease) have actually taken a toll on the U.S. economy, Eyre explains.

The Neuro-Policy Program seeks to improve brain performance, and consequently enhance economic growth, national security, and our overall standing as a nation of healthy brains. The program’s primary projects include establishing a task force to advise Texas “brain and mind” legislative efforts as well as a Texas Brain Capital Dashboard, collaborating on Texas Forward (Texas Brain Health Plan) with the UT Dallas Center for BrainHealth, thereby working toward U.S. brain capital policy and investment advances. These projects are expected to yield deliverables as early as 2026.

“The Neuro-Policy Program aims to leverage the university’s proximity to the Texas Medical Center and the institute’s strong connections to state and federal policymakers. This is an important yet underrepresented area of research that Houston is poised to lead,” says David Satterfield, the director of the Baker Institute.

Yan and Gao said in a press release that they were inspired to gift the grant funds to Eyre and his research after attending a March 28 Baker Institute event on brain health that featured U.S. Rep. Morgan Luttrell, a co-chair of the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus.

"We are honored to support Dr. Harris Eyre and the Neuro-Policy program he leads. Dr. Eyre’s work has greatly impressed us, highlighting the critical importance of brain health in our society today,” say Yan and Gao. “We hope our contribution can inspire further support and advocacy in the field, helping individuals lead healthier lives through a comprehensive approach to prevention.”

Houston HR software startup rolls out platform at local hospital system

tapping into tech

More than 14,000 nurses at one of the largest nonprofit health care providers in Texas have access to a new skills and competency management software.

Kahuna Workforce Solutions has officially deployed its platform at Memorial Hermann Health System, consisting of 17 hospitals and more than 250 care delivery sites. The platform will streamline onboarding processes and increase transparency and accessibility for staff.

“Kahuna will enhance our clinical competency experience and fully aligns with our nursing strategy to optimize our processes, prioritize innovation and safety, and excel as a top provider of care and clinical advancement for clinicians,” Bryan Sisk, senior vice president and chief nursing executive for Memorial Hermann, says in a news release.

“Memorial Hermann is committed to the Houston community and helping to develop the next generation of nurses,” Sisk continues. “The Kahuna platform will help improve the transparency, autonomy and efficiency of our competency management and development processes for our nurses to better support them in their roles, while also ensuring we provide high-quality care for our patients.”

The rollout comes six months after the software-as-a-service company raised a $21 million series B round of funding.

“We are thrilled to work with Memorial Hermann as they enrich all aspects of their clinical competency management practices with Kahuna’s skills management software,” adds Jai Shah, CEO of Kahuna Workforce Solutions. “This collaboration unites two Houston-based organizations and demonstrates a joint commitment to enhancing the standard of health care through digitized competency management in our Houston community and far beyond.”