Designing to Improve Lives Through Civic Life: Wendy Heger

Wendy Heger, AIA, LEED AP, has trended toward civic and academic projects in her career. The Houston architect and graduate of The University of Texas and Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a Page associate principal and senior project manager as well as the acknowledged Page go-to expert on the transformation of library planning and design.

Wendy's work focuses on the library's role as a “third place” in the 21st Century: a social setting separate from the two usual social environments of home ("first place") and the workplace ("second place"). In addition to her participation in the Texas Library Association and the Urban Libraries Council, she was appointed in 2013 to the University of Texas (UT) Library Advisory Council, which oversees the university system’s 17 libraries.

In 2014, Wendy led the Houston Public Library (HPL) Master Plan team, a joint effort between Page and Group 4, an architecture firm in California. HPL serves one of the largest regions – both population and area – in the United States through 42 library locations. This extensive network benefits more than two million diverse residents of the Houston metropolitan area across 627 square miles. The HPL Master Plan team worked closely with HPL staff and stakeholders to develop facility and strategic plans for the entire system. This included a three-year service plan, consisting of forecasts based on demographic, economic and service trend analyses, as well as a ten-year facilities and implementation plan. The latter required evaluation of the entire HPL service area to determine how customers currently use the system and want to use the system. Development of prioritized recommendations for renovation, replacement and new construction needs followed.

Currently, Wendy is serving on a Page team which will develop a similar Master Plan for the City of Houston’s Health Department. The Department’s mission is centered on educating families to promote a safe and healthy environment. She is also serving as project advisor for the renovation of Houston’s Robinson-Westchase Neighborhood Library.

Prior to joining Page, Wendy worked as the Assistant Director of Planning & Facilities for the Houston Public Library system, where she applied programming, operational needs and design standards to 18 capital projects. She also oversaw two significant historical renovations at HPL: a $25 million renovation and addition to the Julia Ideson Building which houses the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, as well as an $8 million restoration of the historic Gregory School, an African-American archival research center. Additionally, Wendy was responsible for overseeing maintenance, security, furniture, art, and emergency programs. 

When Wendy served as the Chief of Design & Construction for the City of Houston’s General Services Department, a precursor to her role with HPL, she managed the design and construction of building projects included in the City's Capital Improvement Plan for all City departments except Aviation. This included implementation of alternative construction delivery methods and the US Green Building Council's LEED program, which is a significant part of her work at Page today. 

As part of her early career at Bricker + Cannady Architects, Wendy provided construction administration services on projects for Rice University and the University of Houston-Downtown, which provided her with invaluable experience in working with higher educational institutions that informs her work on the UT Library Advisory Council. Wendy’s drive for civic improvement was also nurtured by her first job position in the Comprehensive Planning Division of the City of Houston’s Planning & Development Department, and by her family’s history of enhancing Houston’s environment in the landscape architecture/nursery industry. 

The value that Wendy provides in enhancing libraries’ effectiveness is particularly critical in Texas, with its workforce development needs, low literacy rates, and children’s educational needs. Libraries are one of the most important “third places” for civic engagement and building human capital. Planning better libraries improves the quality of life in communities, which is Page’s vision for the firm’s work.