Oregon Sustainability Center moves to schematic design

Plans for the Oregon Sustainability Center are moving forward as schematic design begins this summer. In addition, substantial revisions to the project have been made.

Plans for the Oregon Sustainability Center are moving forward as schematic design begins this summer. In addition, substantial revisions to the project have been made.

If all goes as intended, Portland could see the OSC begin construction by the end of this year, said Lisa Abuaf, Portland development commission manager for the South Park Blocks Urban Renewal Area.

One of the project revisions has been to reduce the building to a smaller size. Once imagined as a 200,000 square foot-plus building, it has been resized to a more modest 165,000–150,000 square feet.

The decision to resize the building was influenced by several factors, including finances.

“We were really taking a look at the cost because we wanted to make sure that this had intentions of being not only an icon for the city of Portland, but also that [the design is] something that is replicable,” Abuaf said.

“In order for it to be replicable, we feel like there will likely be a premium to the project,” she said. “But making the cost delta not so wide that people say ‘This is just a one-of-a-kind thing, this can’t be done again.'”

Also, committee members did not want there to be a lot of unused space in the building.

“There is a lot of office space on the market, and relatively [little] green office space,” Abuaf said.

But already groups like the Oregon University System and Oregon Best are committed to being part of the OSC. The City of Portland is planning to locate the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in the OSC as well.

Nonprofit groups such as Earth Advantage, Oregon Environmental Council, the River Network, Conservation Services Group and the Community Help Partnership have been involved with the building, and expect to have space in the OSC.

“We knew that this was a building that was going to need to be tenanted by mission-driven groups, given the energy performance they would be signing up for,” Abuaf said.

Even with the strict energy performance policies, companies are still expressing interest in being part of the building. In order to compensate for this while moving forward with the project, Abuaf said that they will “walk into schematic design with a lot of flexibility.”

This includes designing one or two floors that could potentially be included or taken out, depending upon the space needed at construction time.

The OSC is considered a one-of-a-kind building model for several reasons, including its compliance with the Living Building Challenge, which mandates that it use net-zero energy, water and wastewater. In addition, it is larger and has greater use demands than most green buildings. 

“Conventionally, the projects pursuing the Living Building Challenge are lower density,” Abuaf said. “The higher density you go, you run with the challenges of a smaller footprint for your project.”

The Living Building Challenge is a program designed to “raise the bar and define the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment,” according to a publication from the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, the group that put together the challenge.

“Really it’s a priority at a city level and a priority at a state level right now, showcasing what Portland and Oregon’s strengths are in sustainability,” Abuaf said.

Often buildings like the OSC are showcase or exhibit centers, and do not receive regular high-frequency use as planned at the center.

The OSC will be built on the edge of Portland State’s campus, located on Southwest 4th and Montgomery. The location was decided because of the area’s access to public transportation, such as the MAX light rail, bus or streetcar. 

“One of the aspects of this site that lent itself to this project was that it is at the juncture of all of these alternative transportation options, and it is one of the stops that is most frequently used,” Abuaf said.

To see the brochure for the Oregon Sustainability Center, visit www.pdc.us/pdf/rfps/2009/RFP-08-26-OSC-Brochure.pdf.