Dutch West 8 Has a Brilliant Landscape Design for Houston’s Botanic Garden 

The Dutch firm has created a unique pedestrian bridge that features an arch of trees overhead

The Dutch landscape-design group West 8 knows how to incorporate green space nearly anywhere. And with its most recent design of a botanical garden in Houston, the firm might’ve taken its abilities to a whole new level—literally. A footbridge at the Houston Botanic Garden will feature an arch of trees, secured to steel beams, that is rooted over the heads of pedestrians walking below. The garden, which is replacing a suburban golf course, will lift much of the existing topography in order to raise it out of potential flood plains. Other areas will actually be excavated to form natural ponds and wetland gardens when water inevitably rises in a part of the state that is prone to flooding. “The plan takes its inspiration and structure from the best qualities of the existing site, and gives forethought to the biggest environmental challenges: flooding and intense weather events,” the firm said in a statement. The 120 acres of land will include an open lawn area, a hiking and bike trail, and natural and cultivated gardens, as well as a conservatory building.

There has been some resistance from locals on the city’s plan to build a botanical garden. A handful of residents are upset by the fact they are losing a golf course; others are concerned with more practical matters, such as the potential for traffic congestion. Organizers from the botanic gardens insist that they will work with local residents to find solutions to their problems. The outcry even led Jeff Ross, president and CEO of the Houston Botanic Garden, to suggest to a reporter that change never occurs without some concerns. “We're very committed to working with the community in solving any problems,” he said in a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle.

Once completed, the gardens will offer year-round beauty to visitors. What’s more, guests will be provided respite from the Texas-heat with connected pavilions, cafés, and lecture halls. Nearly all parts of the botanical garden will be interwoven in network of tree-lined pathways, which will grant guests access to all parts of the land, while also providing much needed shade. Construction is slated to begin in 2018.

Posted by Saskia Pardaans May 25, 2016 Categories: Innovation

Houston medical conference aims to be next OTC 

Dr. Robert Robbins, President of Texas Medical Center                 

With attendance down nearly 28 percent at this year's Offshore Technology Conference, the Texas Medical Center wants to take a health care conference in its third year and make it something the city's tourism industry can count on in years ahead.

Medical World Americas is a three-day conference starting May 18 that covers a broad variety of topics around health care and brings in experts from around the world. It has also prompted other health care-related conferences and events to co-locate in Houston at the same time, creating a whole week dedicated to health care.

MWA's counterpart, Medica, is an annual conference in Germany with more than 130,000 visitors from 120 countries. The program wanted to expand to North America and looked at Houston because of the TMC. Three years ago, Dr. Robert Robbins, CEO of the TMC, originally envisioned the conference to be Houston's next OTC within five years of its launch. It's taken a little longer, he admits, but still sees an opportunity to make it a staple of the city's convention schedule.

"I really believe that over the next four to five years as we get TMC3 opened and hopping, get more companies here, this will get Houston in the center of everybody's sights about where the hot new life science and medical cities are," he told the HBJ.

In its first two years, MWA had a $1.5 million economic impact on the Houston area and accounted for 1,200 hotel rooms, according to Houston First. While those numbers pale in comparison to the tens of thousands that attend OTC, which has been around much longer, MWA has had significant traction. While Houston has hosted medical conferences in the past, there haven't been as many as Houston First would have liked, despite health care being a major industry here.

"For whatever reason, in the past, we've not been able to crack that code as much as we'd like to," said Michael Heckman, senior vice president for Houston First Corp. "It's a great opportunity."

This year's keynote speaker is Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway as well as health care-related technologies. Around 2,500 medical professionals are expected to attend the conference, which will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center, up from 2,300 last year, Heckman said.

Kamen's keynote represents an ongoing shift for MWA to focus more on health care commercialization, which has also been a major focus for Robbins in his tenure at the medical center.

"More and more, you're going to see this place become hotter in terms of biotech and the translation of fundamental commercialization of products. The meeting is going to need to change to reflect that," Robbins said.

Source: Houston Business Journal


Posted by Saskia Pardaans May 23, 2016 Categories: Health

Ambassador Henne Schuwer visits Houston - the coverage 

Last week we welcomed our Ambassador Henne Schuwer and Remco Zeeuw, Head of Economic Department, in Houston, Texas. A program with different activities and events were awaiting them.

Their first visit was a breakfast meeting with the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership (BAHEP),Texas A&M University and elected officials to discuss collaboration with The Netherlands on a number of initiatives, the most pressing being moving forward with the design and construction of a coastal spine and flood gates to protect the coast and upper Galveston Bay, including the Houston Ship Channel from future storm surges like or worse than the area suffered from Hurricane Ike in 2008. Click here for an impression.

After the breakfast meeting we talked with Henri Remmers founder of Corpus. Corpus has plans to build a museum in League City, close to Houston. Henri Remmers and his team informed us about the status. Click here for an impression.

During a luncheon with more than 40 members of the Netherlands American Chamber of Commerce  at the NRG Stadium there was a discussion about the relation between the Netherlands and Texas and the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP). Besides there was enough time to get to know each other and strengthen existing relationships. Click here to watch the great atmosphere.

Afterwards the Ambassador and the Minister of Economics, together with the Honorary Consul Jos Wellink and Sander Vergroessen, Managing Director at IRO, visited the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC). There they spoke with different Dutch companies. The Ambassador was proud that the Dutch were so well presented at the OTC. It was nice to hear that the Dutch company Barge Master won the Spotlight on new technology award. Click here for an impression.

Finally, Henne Schuwer was one of the hosts, together with Sander Vergroessen and Pieter van Oord, CEO of Van Oord, of the annual Holland Network Reception at the Museum of Fine Arts where 400 American and Dutch people joined. For the second time on this beautiful location the reception was a huge success. Click here for an impression.

This program was developed in cooperation with the Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO Texas). With this visit we were given the opportunity to show the huge potential of the Texas economy to the Netherlands.

Photos by American Prestige Photography

Posted by Saskia Pardaans May 08, 2016 Categories: Handelsmissie

BMW opens new vehicle distribution center at the Port of Galveston 

The BMW Group opened its new vehicle distribution center at the Port of Galveston on April 20, about a year after first breaking ground.

The new 44,000-square-foot facility at 1028 Harborside Drive was developed to better serve the New Jersey-based company's 45 BMW and Mini dealers in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. The company expects to import and process approximately 32,500 vehicles annually at the new facility.

The new development sits on approximately 20 acres and spans two buildings where vehicle inspection, accessory installation, vehicle programming, and vehicle maintenance and storage are performed.

Why Galveston? BMW's Southern Region is growing faster than any other region in the U.S.," Stephan Reiff, vice president of aftersales for BMW of North America, said in a statement. "Building this facility allows us to continue to deliver the highest quality vehicles while providing faster delivery times to our customers."

WWL Vehicle Services Americas, a global provider of auto processing and outbound vehicle logistic services, owns and operates the facility under BMW Group on-site management. Approximately 40 BMW Group and WWL Vehicle Services employees will work at the facility.

 Michael Mierzwa, port director for the Port of Galveston, previously said in a statement that the new facility will help the port continue to be an economic engine.

 "With this new vehicle processing center, we are confident that the activity level of the port will continue to increase, including the creation of new livable wage jobs. We are pleased that our successful efforts to maintain existing world-class tenants and to attract additional ones continues," Mierzwa said in the statement.

Source: Houston Business Journal

Posted by Saskia Pardaans May 03, 2016 Categories: Economy

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is moving its headquarters from New York to Houston 

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries moving its continental headquarters from New York to Houston is a big vote of confidence from a global corporation.

"When a company like this puts a headquarters here that signals to other companies that are on the East Coast or the West Coast, 'Hey I ought to be thinking about moving my headquarters to Houston,'" said Bob Harvey, the president and CEO of The Greater Houston Partnership.

It's big enough Governor Greg Abbott and members of Congress were here to welcome the new headquarters, which is relocating from New York.

"You could have chosen any place in the United States to make your headquarters. We are proud you chose Houston. You chose wisely," said Gov. Abbott. "It is even sweeter knowing that New York's loss is Texas' gain. This has been the result of quintessential Texas teamwork."

It comes at a time when Houston's economy is in a bit of haze, with low energy prices having a far-reaching effect. The latest numbers from the Texas Workforce Commission show Houston gaining in service and healthcare related jobs, but losing big in manufacturing, mining and retail.

That said, the Greater Houston Partnership reports there were 244 new companies that set up shop in Houston in 2015. So far this year, there are 89 and 1 in 5 come from foreign companies like Mitsubishi.

"Texas as you know, last one in the recession in 2008, first one out," said Texas Congressman Randy Weber, who attended the ceremony. "You heard a lot of discussion about how great Texas is. We're gonna make it through this."

Source: abc13



Posted by Saskia Pardaans May 03, 2016 Categories: Economy

Ambassador Henne Schuwer visits Houston 

We are thrilled to welcome our Ambassador Henne Schuwer and Remco Zeeuw, Minister of Economics, this Monday in Houston, Texas. A program with different activities and events are awaiting them.

Their first visit will be a breakfast meeting with the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and Texas A&M University. The topic of this meeting is: reducing hurricane-induced surge in the Houston/Galveston Region.

During a luncheon with members of the Netherlands American Chamber of Commerce there will be a discussion about the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Afterwards the Ambassador and the Minister will visit the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) where they will talk with Dutch companies.

Finally, Henne Schuwer will be one of the hosts of the annual Holland Network Reception at the Museum of Fine Arts where 400 American and Dutch people will join.

This program is developed in cooperation with the Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO Texas). With this visit we are given the opportunity to show the huge potential of the Texas economy to the Netherlands.

Posted by Saskia Pardaans April 29, 2016 Categories: Handelsmissie

Historic Houston Flooding - the day after 

For the second time in one year, the Houston metropolitan area was flooded because of heavy rainfall. 240 billion gallons of water fell across the region; some areas had received 10-15 inches of rain. The flood took eight lives, caused more than $5 billion in property damages in Harris County alone, shut down 100 roads, caused 120.000 power outages, closed all schools and city buildings and many office buildings. Some Houstonians just finished the repairs from last year’s flooding and have to start all over again. Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for nine counties in and around the Houston area. And this won’t be the last time.

The general view of the city officials is that this historic flooding is beyond control. Houstonians and local media no longer take this opinion for granted and are taking serious steps  to sue the City of Houston. The criticism by the media is focused on the lack of action to expedite big-picture flood improvement projects which allowed Houston’s flooding problems to continue. A lot of these flood improvement projects, even the ones to improve watersheds with an ‘extremely high risk of catastrophic failure tag’, are years and years behind on schedule. From the perspective of the Houstonians -reflected in the media- there’s a real call for help to control the water. Once again, the Dutch Delta works for Flood protection are mentioned and admired in the media.

Also in The Netherlands images of the dramatic rescues, flooded homes and floating cars in Houston were distributed by the media. In The Netherlands we are so used to being protected by dikes and the Delta Works nowadays, we don’t even worry about flooding’s like that. Also the Dutch people have learned it the hard way, but we gained a lot of knowledge on water management and with all this knowledge, the Dutch are experts on flood protection issues like the ones in Houston. Fortunately there are a few projects in which local universities partner with Dutch institutions and other strong partners to share knowledge to better understand how to protect Houston’s people, economy and environment from water.

However, we strongly believe that more help and knowledge sharing is needed, which creates opportunities for The Netherlands to make a real impact. If you believe your company can deliver valuable input in any way on water-management in the Houston area, we recommend you to contact our NBSO-Texas office: www.nbso-texas.com.

Posted by Saskia Pardaans April 21, 2016 Categories: Water

Watch This Storm Surge Protection Video 

A movie says more than 1000 words. Watch this movie and see what can happen if a storm enters the Golf Coast. And more important: what can be done to prevent it!

Texas A&M University at Galveston have been privileged to work with Dutch institutions and other strong partners to better understand how to protect our region’s people, economy and environment from hurricane induced storm surge.

Posted by Saskia Pardaans April 18, 2016 Categories: Water

Houston heeft slechts een fietsaandeel van 0,4%  

Al een aantal jaren wordt, daarbij gesteund en aangejaagd door de Nederlandse ambassade in Washington, in Amerikaanse steden zogenaamde ThinkBike workshops gehouden. Consultants van MOVE Mobility en Goudappel Coffeng maken deel uit van het groepje deskundigen die graag aan de slag gaat met Amerikaanse vertegenwoordigers, van zowel de private als de publieke sector, die voor de opgave staan om fietsvoorzieningen in Amerikaanse steden te verbeteren. Door tussenkomst van de Nederlandse Business Support Organization in Houston kregen zij, in ferbruari 2015, de mogelijkheid om de Dutch Expertise als het gaat om fietsplanning en voorzieningen te presenteren aan het hoofd planning van de stad Houston, de vierde stad van de US natuurlijk vooral bekend van de olie, de NASA (Houston we have a problem..) en de ongelooflijke hoeveelheden auto’s die elke dag weer over de vele (vlakke) snelwegen hun weg van/naar de uitgestrekte buitenwijken weten te vinden. Met een fietsaandeel van  0,4% van alle ritten staat de stad op de 52ste plaats, ver achter steden als Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles of buurgemeente Austin. Reden te meer om het fietsplan uit 1993 (!) in 2015 te gaan updaten omdat ook de planners uit Houston zien dat Young Urban Professionals graag in steden gaan werken met een actieve lifestyle en fietsvoorzieningen horen daar natuurlijk bij.

Mede door het enthousiasme van het hoofd planning en met steun van de manager van het Downtown District, een archictect/planner met Nederlandse voorouders, werd het plan opgevat om vergelijkbaar met de andere Amerikaanse steden, ook in Houston een ThinkBike workshop te organiseren. Deze partijen kregen de nodige fondsen bijelkaar en in het najaar van 2015 vond de driedaagse ThinkBike workshopin Houston plaats. Inmiddels was het fietsplan in concept vrijwel gereed maar een concreet plan voor de binnenstad was er nog niet. De planners zagen de ThinkBike workshop als een ideaal middel om in zeer korte tijd, met betrokkenheid van voor- en tegenstanders, publiek en private partijen en politiek, de lastige hobbel van het creeren van een fiets voor Downtown Houston met steun van de Nederlanders op papier te krijgen.

De ThinkBike workshop vond plaats via een behoorlijke succesformule waarbij gestart wordt met een fietstocht, presentaties van City-officials en ontwerpsessies. Vooral tijdens de ontwerpsessies ontstonden mede door de Nederlandse inbreng logische routes van/naar en door het centrum waarbij prima werd aangehaakt op het goede trailsysteem wat de stad Houston al heeft. Het is nu zaak om dit trail systeem, wat vooral in het weekend voor recreatieve ritjes wordt gebruikt, ook een grotere rol te laten spelen in het woon-werkverkeer van en naar Downtown.

Het leuke en inspirerende van een ThinkBike workshop zit hem in een aantal zaken. De gezamenlijke fietstocht maakt het voor alle deelnemers heel tastbaar wat de opgave is. Ook biedt het de mogelijkheid om juist zaken te laten zien die wel al in orde zijn. Het betrekken van burgemeester of hoofden van dienst toont het belang van de workshops voor alle betrokkenen en genereert commitment bij de groep ontwerpers. De strikte duur van de workshop dwingt je om binnen een korte tijd te werken aan een concreet product en dat terug te koppelen aan de opdrachtgevers, wederom de burgemeester of hoofden van dienst.

Tijdens de kleine week die wij in Houston waren hebben we gezien dat het Amerikaanse enthousiasme en professionalisme aanstekelijk werkt. Binnen een aantal uur werden er netwerken uitgewerkt, Oost-West en Noord-Zuid corridors verbonden en dwarsprofielen uit de PC getoverd. Ook werd er tijd ingeruimd voor een tweede verkenning op de fiets omdat een bepaalde corridor toch meer mogelijkheden bood dan eerst was voorzien. De avonduren werden gebruikt door de ambtenaren, die elkaar onder normale werkomstandigheden te weinig zien, om bij te praten, issues nog eens te bespreken en de lijnen voor de volgende dag eigenlijk al netjes voor te koken. Lunches, locaties, sprekers, badges, enz. enz. allemaal perfect geregeld om zonder uitloop aan het eind van dag twee een rapport in powerpoint vorm vrijwel gereed voor de inspraak.

Kortom, ook voor de “Dutch experts” een perfecte leerervaring en een enorme ervaring rijker weer op huis aan, op weg naar een volgende ThinkBike in Washington DC.


Posted by Saskia Pardaans April 15, 2016 Categories: Mobility

Dutch envoy Henk Ovink unleashes flood of ideas 

Photo by Tami Andrew

Rice School of Architecture hosts water management expert for talk, roundtable on Houston’s future

Last week Henk Ovink told Rice School of Architecture (RSA) students that without collaboration in advance of disaster, chaos is inevitable. Ovink, the Netherlands’ special envoy for international water affairs, brought to Rice his vision of how the collaborative energy and imagination of architects, engineers, politicians and citizens can help the planet not only prepare for but thrive in a future that he and many others believe will be dominated by the dictates of a changing climate.

Ovink delivered the last of RSA’s synthetic-themed spring lecture series April 4 at Anderson Hall. In her introduction, Dean Sarah Whiting characterized remediation projects as necessarily synthetic, as they are at once synthetizing efforts from multiple disciplines and are artificial insertions in anticipation of or in response to nature. Ovink approaches each community and its issues organically, but with a synthetic manner. Ovink: “For the next decade and the decades beyond that, water will rule the top of the list of crises that are impacting us.”

Rising water is a long-term threat that needs to be dealt with now, Ovink said. “The World Economic Forum put water crises as the No. 1 risk for the next decade. What’s interesting is that failure to adapt and mitigate these risks is No. 2, extreme weather events No. 3 and food crises No. 4. All of these are related to water.

 “So for the next decade and the decades beyond that, water will rule the top of the list of crises that are impacting us.”

Ovink speaks from long experience as a native of the Netherlands, where expertise in managing water is an ancient and ongoing part of the culture. He has worked around the world with large and small communities where water presents what they perceive as a problem – and what he sees as an opportunity.

The envoy, the subject of a New York Times Magazine feature last year, has built a presence in the United States since volunteering to help strategize on remediation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the East Coast in 2012. In his role as an adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Ovink helped form a plan that connected and sought input from all the neighboring communities in New York and New Jersey that were affected by Sandy, one of the most destructive storms in the nation’s history.

Ovink characterized Sandy as a Trojan horse that enabled the task force to develop systems and communications to manage crises. “We needed a process that was different,” he said.

Along with its role as the federal government’s crisis response team, the task force was charged with thinking about storms to come. “It was the task force and the president who said, How can we leapfrog to the future?” Ovink said. “Instead of only repairing, only rebuilding, only bringing aid to this region, can we prepare this region as an example for other places in the U.S. and perhaps the world?”

Part of that was the formation of Rebuild by Design, which started as a competition to gather ideas for remediation in Sandy’s wake and – no accident – has taken on a life of its own. Ten teams were chosen from 148 international applicants to embark upon three months of intense research into strategies that would not only help the region recover and prepare but could also be replicated by other communities. Ovink described several of the projects that came about as a result of the competition, including the concept of a “Big U” around Manhattan to protect its neighborhoods from floods and storm waters; a rethinking of New Jersey’s Meadowlands to expand the restoration of protective marshlands and add recreational value to the expanse; and a comprehensive strategy to help Hoboken, N.J., survive future flash floods and storm surges. “We wanted the talent of the world to engage with us,” he said of the competition.

 “We wanted interdisciplinary teams from all over the world to come to New York and New Jersey and work with us and a team of partners to try to unravel the region’s vulnerabilities and interdependencies before we jumped to solutions.”

While at Rice, Ovink gave one further demonstration of his commitment to building coalitions when he joined city and county officials, architects, engineers and academics in an April 5 discussion on planning for severe weather in the region.

The breakfast roundtable moderated by Whiting started with three short presentations on strategies for design resiliency by Ovink; Jim Thompson, regional chief executive at AECOM, and Phil Bedient, the Herman Brown Professor of Engineering and director of Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center. What followed Whiting said, was a “robust start to a discussion that needs to be ongoing if we are to design a better future for Houston.”

Ovink’s lecture will be available for viewing on the RSA website at http://arch.rice.edu/Videos/.


Posted by Saskia Pardaans April 13, 2016 Categories: Water
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