Downtown Houston towers in shambles following deadly storms

Ruined nearly 4,000 windows and counting; employers asked to allow work from home

Downtown Houston Towers in Shambles After Deadly Storms

A photo illustration of Enterprise Plaza at 1100 Louisiana Street in downtown Houston (Getty, Google Maps)

The recent deadly storms in Houston took a toll on commercial real estate.

Owners of downtown high-rises are scrambling to repair their buildings in the aftermath of the storms, which brought winds exceeding 70 mph and damaged nearly 4,000 downtown windows, the Houston Chronicle reported. That number is expected to rise due to cracks in already stressed glass.

At least 20 downtown buildings sustained damage, including CenterPoint Energy Plaza, Wells Fargo Plaza and two of Chevron’s towers. 

Downtown skyscraper windows are designed to withstand winds of 110 to 150 mph, according to Joe Colaco, a structural engineer who has worked on dozens of high-rises globally and in Houston. However, wind channeled between buildings can increase in velocity, and older buildings with aging glass are particularly vulnerable, he said.

Although most of the storm debris has been cleared, several streets remain closed due to the danger of falling glass. In response to the situation, Downtown Houston’s management district and Mayor John Whitmire are advising downtown employers to allow remote work until at least Tuesday. Chevron, one of the largest employers in the area, has temporarily closed its offices.

It’s common for more windows to break following a violent storm, Colaco said. Debris from higher floors can fall and shatter windows below, further complicating the repair process.

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While most damaged windows are expected to be boarded up by the end of the week, replacing them with custom glass will take much longer. Building owners likely will face challenges in sourcing glass due to high demand from construction projects globally, said Kris Larson, president of Downtown Houston’s management district.

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“We’re going to have plywood-covered windows in skyscrapers for months from now as just a reminder of the other events,” Larson told the outlet. 

The Hyatt Regency Downtown Houston lost 30 skylights but expects to have them replaced within two weeks. Meanwhile, the hotel has boarded up the damaged skylights and is accommodating conference attendees and post-storm contractors.

Property managers are leveraging their contractor relationships to expedite repairs. At 1100 Louisiana and 1415 Louisiana, Hines property managers are assessing the timeframe to repair or replace the 150 damaged windows and skylights at each tower. Brookfield Properties reported significant damage to the TotalEnergies Tower at 1201 Louisiana but did not provide a repair timeline.

— Quinn Donoghue