LEED Gold Resurrection
Large amounts of concrete were also reused in a sitewide rainwater retention system designed in collaboration with landscape architects GreenWorks of Portland. In a demonstration project coordinated with the Portland Environmental Services Bureau, a "green street" public plaza was created to collect rainwater from the roof and parking lot of the RiverEast Center, as well as from the adjacent Water Avenue. The runoff is then treated in a privately maintained facility before reaching the river.
To fund such elements of the project, the developers sought a host of grants and other alternative funding sources.
On the building's upper southwest corner facing the river, where Coaxis has its some of its offices, a glass box was added to enclose a previously open corner. This space, with floor-to-ceiling windows, acts as a central gathering place for employees. A multistory glass entryway on the east end of the building, with the original wide stairway preserved, has also become valued public space, with employees regularly eschewing the elevator.
The most overt "green" addition to the building is a double-glazed solar wall along most of the south facade. This feature captures heat in the winter and helps divert it in summertime.
With a radiant heating system, specially coated windows, energy-efficient fixtures, and other sustainable features, the building consumes 51 percent less energy than the code-specified maximum. The building's energy efficiency, materials reuse and recycling, use of a contaminated site, and location near ample mass-transit connections earned RiverEast a LEED Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Employee culture at both Coaxis and Group Mackenzie has undergone a transformation since construction on the project was completed in April 2007 and the firms moved into their new offices. Coaxis was previously headquartered in the Portland suburb of Tigard, and Group Mackenzie's Portland office was located on a long thoroughfare heading out of the city. Both companies used to have full parking lots and a mostly business-hours working culture.
But at the new location, their workers increasingly take advantage of available mass transit and biking opportunities. "We used to have seven people getting to work by bus or light rail," Jeff Reaves says. "Now we have about forty."
People from both companies also voluntarily work more often on evenings and weekends at RiverEast; many have integrated their personal athletic and cultural activities — an afternoon kayak trip on the river, perhaps a quick morning shopping jaunt — into their work day, and vice versa.
Meanwhile, other tenants are filling the ground-level street frontage: a boating supply store, a restaurant, an environmental nonprofit.
As architects developing their own building in a burgeoning neighborhood, "we saw the opportunity to have a broader impact," Dick Spies of Group Mackenzie says. "The Central Eastside has a strong history as an industrial sanctuary, but now it's transferring into a higher-density area for creative spaces, such as the one here. There's tremendous potential in that."
"But it was that deal-making opportunity from an entrepreneurial standpoint, to be able to work with a number of partners, that really helped make it happen."
Brian Libby is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer who has also published in Metropolis, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Architectural Record.
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