Sustainable Building With Public Money in Oregon

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Excerpted and quoted from the Willamette Week’s cover story dated November 24, 2010 by Nigel Jaquiss.

Courtesy of GBD Architects and SERA Architects

Known certainly for its green qualities, whether they be of the eco-conscious variety or just the actual color of the state with its density of foliage and evergreen population, Portland, like several other cities, is making its presence known in terms of its green downtown architecture and sustainable buildings. But these efforts don’t come cheap, and the next great question worth entertaining, at least within the context of debate, is who should pay for the efforts which might ultimately benefit all of us?

If developers, city planners and — well — the public at large — have an agreement worked out, then “Portland will soon become home to the world’s tallest ‘living building,’ [with the addition of] a revolutionary structure that will generate all its own electricity, capture and process its own water and leave no carbon footprint,” according to this week’s Willamette Week paper. With more than 24 months worth of planning already behind it, the project hit a more aggressive clip in recent days, with “Gerding Edlen Development […] due to award the construction contract Wednesday, Nov. 24, for the 132,000-square-foot building—and […] to break ground next summer.”

Portland, OR To Be Home to the World’s Greenest Living Building

“We are attempting to create one of the most advanced buildings on the planet,” says Rob Bennett, who directs the Portland Sustainability Institute. “Sheathed in ultra-efficient, triple-glazed glass and topped with a massive, sail-like array of solar panels, the seven- or eight-story Oregon Sustainability Center will resemble a terrestrial NASA space station, surrounded with gardens that will filter and process wastewater,” again according to the Willamette Week.

Set to take over the grounds of what is currently a parking lot in the southwest downtown neighborhood that lies west of the river and currently includes most of the city’s skyscrapers, the living building will include, among other noteworthy features, “a 200,000-gallon tank to capture every drop of rain that falls on the roof and a geothermal heating and cooling system that will tap into the earth’s free energy.”

But the whole thing is going to be ultra-pricey, as anyone with an ounce of common sense would guess. So is it really true, that in order to make money, one has to spend it? With construction costs estimated at $462 per square foot, the building is sizing up to be literally the most expensive office space in the history of Portland. And here’s the kicker: “It will require $65 million in public funds, mostly from the Oregon University System and City of Portland.”

To learn more about the construction project, please read the full article on Portland’s plans for a new green building here.

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