September Focus: eco-friendly design
Not to say that LEED certification and other sustainable building standards are passé in Portland, but eco-friendly design and construction here has surpassed building materials and is now honed in on how green features can enhance the experiences of the people who use the structures.
This is particularly true when it comes to large projects such as mixed-use apartment buildings, offices, schools and universities.
Portland's GBD Architects has designed several examples of eco-friendly large projects, including the Osprey Apartments along the South Waterfront. The six-story, mixed-use development is a wood-framed building that leverages its location near the Willamette River.
Craig Mendenhall, AIA, LEED AP, an associate principal with GBD, said many of the firm's residential projects strive for LEED Gold certification. The challenge with Osprey Apartments was to design the building in relation to the vibrant atmosphere that surrounds it, a focus the owner wanted as well.
"It's more about encouraging people to be outdoors and be active," Mendenhall said.
As an example, Osprey Apartments meets Portland's requirement to accommodate 1.5 bikes per unit by including bike storage on each level of the residential portion of the building rather than in a designated space on the ground floor or an underground storage space. Each bike unit is surrounded by glass, not only to promote an active lifestyle but also to enhance security.
"People spend a lot of money on bikes these days, so they want to know they are secure," Mendenhall said, adding the storage units on each level also make the bikes more accessible to owners. A "wet room" incorporated into the ground level encourages biking, provides access for pedestrians and can serve as a space for dog care.
Osprey's design team wanted to showcase science through the storm water system, which funnels rainwater collected in drain spouts into an interior courtyard, where it is filtered and then released.
Designers also strove to connect outdoor living space with the indoors by including a roof deck that serves as a gathering place above the greenway. The building's balconies were specifically designed to help create a stronger transition between interior and exterior space.
"Traditional green features usually are more about materials, but the green features of this building are more experiential," Mendenhall said.
GBD Architects also designed Hassalo on Eighth, which on Sept. 12 received a LEED Homes Award from the U.S. Green Building Council. Earlier this year, Hassalo on Eighth was honored with the Sustainable Development of the Year Award from the NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
The Northeast Portland property, situated in the Lloyd District, features more than a million square feet of mixed-use space and three apartment buildings. The ground-level retail includes a grocery store, restaurants, common plaza and access to both the MAX and Portland Streetcar systems. It also boasts Lloyd Cycle Station, what GBD describes as North America's largest bike hub, with space for 900 bicycles.
Among its eco-friendly design elements is a Natural Organic Recycling Machine (NORM) that treats 100 percent of the residential wastewater through a constructed wetland on site. The process keeps 45,000 gallons of greywater out of the district infrastructure each day, and reduces potable water demand by 50 percent. NORM, green roofs and bioswales have replaced the asphalt parking lot that used to wash heavy rainfall into a combination sewer, keeping sanitary loads out of the public infrastructure and reducing the potential for overflow into the Willamette River.
GBD said its analysis of Hassalo on Eighth found that, among other cost savings, reduced sewer and water bills resulting from onsite water reclamation will help the project reap a return on investment within three years. More than 90 percent of the units were leased upon completion.
Eco-friendly design and construction have gone beyond building materials and more into users' experiences in education projects as well, according to Amy Running, IIDA, an interior designer and associate principal at Bora Architects who leads many of the firm's sustainability initiatives.
The firm recently designed Oregon State University's Learning Innovation Center, a new home for the Honors College that serves every department in the university with 2,300 classroom seats in 14 different settings and 640 informal learning spaces. With LEED Gold certification as a goal, the building was designed to foster multidisciplinary interaction. Bora is now working on the University of Oregon's Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.
Running said that across the spectrum, from pre-K facilities to universities, energy efficiency continues to play a major role in design and construction. "They're owning and operating their building for a long time, so they're seeing that payback," she said.
Improved energy efficiency is often found with updated mechanical systems, more efficient lighting and tight exterior envelopes that help to reduce the need for mechanical energy production in the first place.
"The other piece I think we're talking a lot about in education, and this spans from early childhood education to college, is indoor air quality," Running said.
When Bora takes on education projects, whether they are new construction or renovations of older facilities, the firm looks at elements that can impact students, teachers and staff on a daily basis. This ranges from updating mechanical systems that filter air to ensuring that new elements don't negatively impact air quality.
"It's hard for schools and institutions to retain a really good maintenance and cleaning staff, so we've looked at the impacts and physical demands of maintaining certain materials," Running said, noting an example is the tradition of stripping school floors with caustic solutions.
"We've tried to be more aware of the whole process of materials, not only as they go into the buildings in the initial phase and impact the users but also how they impact the people who are exposed to them while doing the maintenance," she said.