Historic Warehouse Grows Green
Commitment to "green" characterizes every aspect of the Natural Capital Center project. One example is evident in the pursuit of learning by Carrington Barrs. Even while working as the on-site supervisor for redevelopment contractor Walsh Construction, he was writing his master's thesis on the subject of green technologies in commercial construction.
Originally constructed in 1895, the old warehouse was acquired in 1998 by Ecotrust with the help of philanthropist and founding board member Jean Vollum. After a century of service in storing the goods of the industrial economy, the historic building is now poised for a new role as a market center for the goods, ideas, and services of the conservation economy.
Creating Green from Brown
In keeping with Ecotrust's mission to foster the development of a conservation economy, the transformation of the old brick-and-timber warehouse respects its original character while incorporating a variety of innovative green building technologies.
Project architects Jeffrey Stuhr and Gabriel Small, of the Portland firm Holst Architecture, orchestrated the building's historic restoration and environmental design. Other firms designed interior tenant spaces.
Walsh Construction has estimated that more than 98 percent of the construction waste has been recycled or reclaimed — certainly a city record, and possibly a national record for a commercial construction site.
The Natural Capital Center will yield enough energy savings to earn it a Portland General Electric "Earth Smart" certification. Low-flow water fixtures, for example, use 32 percent less water than conventional ones. The energy-efficient windows, fixtures, and ventilation system are expected to achieve energy savings of 20 percent.
The project also incorporates features that qualify it as a U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified building. Forest Stewardship Council -certified wood is used throughout — in construction plywood, on the outdoor terrace, and in new windows and furniture. Environmentally innovative interior materials, such as recycled paint, wheatboard cabinets, and rubber flooring from recycled tires, carry the conservation mandate indoors.
Bioswale landscaping along the edge of the site and a "green roof" serve to filter and absorb stormwater runoff to protect local waterways from the contamination associated with conventional drainage and storm sewer systems.
The building is accessible to pedestrians and is near streetcar and bus routes. With 50 indoor and outdoor bike parking spaces as well as showers and lockers for bicycle commuters, it aims to maximize convenience for cyclists.
Blending Nonprofits and Businesses
The rapidly developing Pearl District in Portland is a mixed-use neighborhood of converted warehouses, shops, galleries, and new housing. Similarly, the Ecotrust building has a tenant mix that supports its environmental ethos.
In addition to Patagonia and Ecotrust, nonprofit and business tenants gather around the themes of sustainable forestry and fisheries, green building, and financial investment that supports the environmental ethos of the place. Recently the City of Portland Office of Sustainable Development (OSD) moved into new premises in the center.
"We've got to live it if we're going to preach it," says Dan Saltzman, commissioner-in-charge of OSD. "As building tenants, our staff will be able to provide immediate examples of what green building is to developers, businesses, and residents. Even better, these key audiences will see how it can be done affordably and with beautiful results."
In designing the new space for OSD, architect Greg Acker sought to create a healthy and comfortable space using local, sustainable materials that foster a productive work environment. A core element of his approach, he says, is restraint.
"Sustainable design is as much about what you don't do as what you do," says Acker. "For example, desk stations are built from manufacturer-rejected, certified wood doors that were donated to the office and assembled with exposed, unfinished steel connections. The desks are adjustable and easy to deconstruct." The result is a practical but stylish office space, intended to inspire but adaptable to a rapidly changing work environment.
As well as office and retail space, the three-story, 70,000-square-foot (6500-square-meter) building includes exhibit, event, and interaction spaces to welcome the public. These include outdoor seating, a public atrium, a resource center, and an outdoor terrace with a fireplace.
The Message within the Medium
The Ecotrust conference facilities were inaugurated with a nationally-acclaimed exhibit of green building, Ten Shades of Green, brought to Portland by OSD.
Designed by Carol Edelman and Breese Watson, of Edelman Soljaga Watson, using a variety of environmentally beneficial, innovative, and recycled materials, the conference facilities are available to business and community groups for meetings, workshops, and other events.
This space has already become a popular conference venue, affirming the organizers' vision of creating an environment that fosters ideas of conservation, the arts, and community building.
The Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center is open weekdays. Visitors are welcome in the public atrium, library, and other public spaces. Free tours are held every Wednesday at lunchtime.