Portland Reflection Paper
July 27, 2011
Reflection on the Portland trip
It was a whirlwind visit. Overall the Portland trip was a great visit. We were able to see much of the downtown area and visit a lot of projects, touring not only the developments but the buildings also. The trip marked the first time I have visited Portland, and yes, I would love to go back. This trip was slightly different from others. Here, because of the travel time we only spent 2 full days together touring projects. This trip also marked the first time we met and toured with another real estate program, from Portland State University. It was great to meet other students and compare notes as we toured projects.
One of the most interesting and amazing experiences was hearing and seeing the attitudes of the residents of Portland. It is easy to see why Portland and cities like Portland lead the nation in green and sustainable building. The ethos of sustainability does not just reside in the developer or the designer, or one member of the project team, as it usually does here in the south. The ideas and goals of sustainability reside in the community, the character and the municipal leaders of the City. From the top down and from the bottom up, the City of Portland has a unique and special relationship with how, and why it builds, develops and cares about sustainability. This ethos was expressed to us in multiple ways and in every place we visited. Every participant, from the designers we met, the builders, the developers and the elected officials carried similar ideas and attitudes as they all were working toward many of the same goals and visions. It was special to see and hear. In one side conversation my fellow students were discussing some of the development costs, leasing rates and the quality of projects being built in the Portland. It was clear that the owners and developers have more than just the bottom line of the development in mind as the project comes to life. They are truly living and creating up to their standards and in some cases sacrificing profit for the public good, to leave behind buildings and projects that meet the public’s goals and visions they all share.
One project that we discussed on the trip stood out to me, the Oregon Sustainability Center, which was a last minute addition to our schedule. The project is not yet built, but we were given the chance to speak with the developer of the project as they plan to break ground in 2012 and be completed in 2013. The developer of the project took time and spoke with us, Mr. Dennis Wilde, Gerding Edlen’s Chief Sustainability Officer. In addition to Mr. Wilde we also had the lead architect from GBD Architects with us. Mr. Wilde discussed Gerding Edlen’s business model and told us they have built more than 43 LEED accredited buildings, seeing no cost increase for achieving Gold ratings, and only a 1-1.5% cost increase to achieve Platinum ratings. The discussion was an overview of the Oregon Sustainability Center and its history. One of the projects goals is to meet the challenge, the Living Building Challenge, created by Cascadia Region Green Building Council, in an effort to further the goals of LEED and raise the bar for green and sustainability buildings. The LBC requires projects to meet 16 prerequisites that include: Site Selection; net zero energy, net zero water, not using red list material such as PVCs, a civilized environment and inspirational and educational components.
Per the OSC’s website their mission is
The OSC is the collaborative vision of a unique public/private partnership between city and state government, higher education, non-profit organizations and the business community. The OSC core project team includes: City of Portland, Bureau of Planning & Sustainability; Oregon Living Building Initiative (OLBI), a consortium of non-profits working in sustainability; Oregon State Board of Higher Education and the Oregon University System; Portland Community College; Portland Development Commission; and, the Portland + Oregon Sustainability Institute. The project’s mission is to create a world-class center of excellence in sustainability that celebrates and nurtures the values and strengths of Oregon’s leadership in climate change, land use planning, smart growth, green building, environmental stewardship, civic engagement and social justice.
During our discussion some of the key facts Mr Wilde mentioned:
· Net Zero Building – Power, waste, water and connectivity standards
· 130,000 sq.ft. – down from 300,00
· Zero on site Parking
· All LED lighting
· Only laptops allowed in the building
When Mr Wilde spoke about the building size he mentioned the current size of 130,000 SQFT. He explained that the original size of the building was expected to be around 300,00 SQFT. The change was made due to the use of new technologies, the unknowns of the costs and performance of the building. The solution was to create a model building where the overall systems could be put in place for the desired costs, while allowing for time to study, commission and evaluate the performance of those systems in a smaller footprint for future projects. Wilde also mentioned that they had no issues leasing or having individuals approach them for space at the 300,00 SQFT level. By pairing the building back to 130,00 SQFT footprint they were forced to only offer space to some users that had expressed and desired interest. This was great to hear as a testament to the city and the culture in Portland that so many groups and individual wanted to take space before the building was ever built.
Future tenants included typical offices, non-profit groups needing space and a department of the City. For all of these groups the project does not have to provide any parking. All parking will be met through off site, existing city parking, and through the use of Portland’s public transit, sidewalks and bikeways. It was amazing to hear that a fully functional 130,000 SQFT building in downtown Portland with office tenants and city departments would have no dedicated parking and the building tenants were completely okay with this. Once again the city’s culture and overall ethos that public and private partnerships were in full support of this type of development and use was astounding. These future tenants were also part of the discussion when talking about energy requirements. We talked about how the end user can easily undermine all of the designer’s energy saving and LEED elements of a building. In the OSC only laptops will be allowed. There would be monitoring of all energy uses that might include detailed monitoring of each outlet to help control the energy used. In addition Gerding Edlen was looking into ways to develop new power strips for office spaces. Existing typical power strips we use every day consume and use power when we are not using the devices plugged into them. Gerding Edlen sees a need to develop smarter power strips that can help monitor power uses and can stop drawing power when not being used.
The trip and other visits also provided us examples and tours of projects that had some of the systems that the OSC would be using. Our visit to the hospital showed us a building that recycled all of it own waste, created energy through solar and natural systems along with sophisticated heating, cooling and climate control systems. We were able to ride and see multiple aspects of the transit system using trolley’s light rail, buses and the tram that interconnected the riverside and mountain top hospital campus buildings. We were also exposed to water reuse technologies to supply irrigation, fire protection and a integrated system of fountains and public spaces, before the excess ground water was diverted to the river. The trip overall was a great experience of buildings, projects and people.