The project’s mission is to create a world-class center of excellence in sustainability that celebrates and nurtures the values and strengths of Oregon’s leadership in climate change, land use planning, smart growth, green building, environmental stewardship, civic engagement and social justice.
Predominantly an office building, the Center’s top floors will house a variety of non-profit, government, academic and business tenants who are working to promote sustainability. The public spaces on the first and second floor will serve as exhibit space, including interactive displays and signage that tell the story of the region’s innovations in sustainable technologies, policies and practices. A resource dashboard will let onlookers review the building’s energy and water use in real time. The lecture halls, classrooms and conference rooms on the second floor will support higher education, as well as networking for public, private and academic purposes. This area will also include a visualization lab, which will bring together researchers and community groups to solve regional issues in an experiential way. An active retail environment will anchor the first floor of the building.
The current headcount for the building includes approximately 725 weekday office users and an estimated 1,400 students and faculty, who will utilize the classrooms and conference center each day. Visitors attending events and touring the facility could range from the dozens to the hundreds, depending on the building’s daily schedule.
At the core of the project is a 220,000+ square foot urban, mixed-use high-rise located on the eastern edge of the Portland State University campus, between SW 4th and 5th Avenues and between Harrison and Montgomery Streets. The Center is also the proposed anchor for Portland’s first Eco-District, a neighborhood development strategy that combines high performance buildings with city infrastructure, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water use.
The building’s size is strongly influenced by the site’s capacity to generate renewable energy. The 13-story structure is predominately concrete and glass and includes one level below grade. The second floor classroom and conference center is accessible from inside the tower, as well as from a monumental exterior stair, which connects this floor to the ground floor plaza. The tower is crowned with a large structure that supports its primary solar array. Artfully shaped and strategically oriented, this distinctive structure will establish a strong presence on Portland’s skyline.
The 33,500 square foot site (currently a surface parking lot) is located on the south end of downtown Portland, on the eastern edge of the PSU campus. It is a nexus for public transit with bus, streetcar and light rail systems all immediately accessible either on-site or on surrounding streets. The design anticipates a permanent streetcar alignment that will diagonally bisect the site.
The front door to the Center will be SW Montgomery Street. Efforts are underway to transform eight blocks of Montgomery into a green street, which will celebrate creative stormwater reuse. Coupled with its display of sustainable site features, the Center’s urban design and integration with the district’s green street will create a unique and extraordinary place for individual reflection, social interaction and public events.
The current site is zoned RX (a classification for residential uses) that allows only limited commercial uses. The site also has a height restriction that limits new buildings to a maximum of 125 feet. As a result, a legislative zone change will be required, as part of the entitlement process, in order to allow the development to proceed as currently conceived. A strategy for enacting the zone change has been developed with guidance from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
The Living Building Challenge is unique, among programs that encourage and evaluate accomplishments in sustainable design, in that it mandates beauty as well as aggressive goals for energy, water and waste systems. The Center has been designed in this spirit, integrating and often expressing the technical features that enable the building to perform to the highest green building standards.
UPDATE, 6/27: I'd like to respond to those who have said it was a "copout" of me to not criticize the building's look.
At the same time, I do agree with the more negative commenters that the rendering makes this look like an ugly work of corporate architecture. I'd also heard these same whisperings of concern from the city in recent weeks, that the project was turning into an Edsel.
The team putting this building together is absolutely first rate when it comes to green credentials and track record. That should not be underestimated. These people are world leaders in their field. That's why they were selected.
Green building is unquestionably the dominant movement in contemporary architecture today. But unlike modernism or postmodernism, it's not an aesthetic movement. It's not to say there can't be beautiful green buildings, but the guts are more the focus than they used to be. That's not a bad thing at all. Architecture absolutely has to transform in order to meet the future's energy needs. Being great green architects and being the conjurers of aesthetic beauty do not always go hand in hand.
But, having said that, it would not have been impossible to create a net-zero energy building with more than net-zero looks.