Decoding Design

Portland invests in green building

Posting in Architecture

The city of Portland approves plans for the Oregon Sustainability Center and recognizes the value of sustainable building.

Portland’s city council approved plans for the Oregon Sustainability Center last week. The city and its project partners hope the Center will be the world's first and tallest mixed-use office building to achieve Living Building status.

The decision to support the Center represents the city's commitment to build (and pay for) a sustainable building. With a construction budget of $62 million, the 150,000 square foot tower will cost 15 to 20 percent more than comparable buildings in Portland's downtown area. The city's fiscal pledge to green building recognizes a return on investment bigger than rental income.

The project is jointly supported by the Oregon University system, the Portland Development Commission, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and an assortment of for-profit and non-profit groups with interests in sustainability and social equity.  In June of 2011, the Oregon state legislature held their approval for funds on the conditions that private sector tenants were found and signed to leases, and that the city of Portland foot the costs of architecture and engineering services. Ultimately the Center will be owned by the city and the Oregon University system.

Sustainable buildings at the commercial and institutional scale are relatively expensive to build. Innovations, especially in the early stages, often come at a premium. Some of the Center's premium technologies include triple-glazed glass, solar panels, a high capacity underground water tank, and a geothermal well system that will provide heating and cooling. The energy saving and energy generating materials make up a heavy but worthwhile expense.

Targeted for a 2012 groundbreaking, the Oregon Sustainability Center is an example of the importance of total buy-in for sustainable building. Mayor Sam Adams understands the value of the experience: “We’re never going to be the biggest city, but I want us to be the scrappiest, most successful international city. To do that you’ve got to invest in innovation.”

Via: The Atlantic Cities
Images: Oregon Sustainability Center

Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure