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Green Buildings

Pete Springer/OPB

Along with rain and microbrews, Oregon has a reputation for being at the fore of the green building movement. Portland certainly has its share of buildings boasting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a standard-bearer in green building circles. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the city is home to 65 LEED certified and 169 LEED registered commercial and institutional projects.

It should come as no surprise, then, that our state is home to at least two building projects vying for the title of the world’s greenest. Independence Station, located about 15 miles southwest of Salem, envisions a mixed-use development of shops and condos capable of running for a year or more without assistance from the power grid. In addition to a green roof and a 42-foot high indoor vertical garden, the building will rely on waste vegetable oil for energy and use ice made at night to cool the building during the day. When complete in mid-2010, it will be on track to have the most LEED points of any building in existence.

Meanwhile, a second, larger project, still in the feasibility study process, is being planned near Portland State University. The high-rise office building, called the Oregon Sustainability Center, will bring together businesses, non-profits and universities to create a hub for the region’s expertise in green building, design and sustainability. It aims to meet the standards set out by the Living Building Challenge, which goes beyond LEED in its sustainability demands, requiring buildings to have net zero energy use. (For the record, Independence Station developer Steven Ribeiro says his building aims to meet “Living Building” standards in the second phase of the project.)

At the moment, such projects represent the exception within the broader building movement, but with buildings accounting for more than one-third of national energy use, changes are afoot. The Oregon Legislature, for instance, is considering legislation backed by Governor Kulongoski which would move the state toward a goal of net zero emissions for new construction by 2030 as well as direct a task force to develop a state energy performance rating system.

So what’s the future for green building? Just last week, the Clinton Climate Initiative and the U.S. Green Building Council announced a new effort (pdf) to promote urban real estate growth with net carbon emissions below zero. 

Are you a developer or builder or contractor who works on green-certified buildings? What role does cost play in considering whether to pursue such certifications? Recent studies, after all, have differed on the savings involved in green buildings.

Do you live in a green home or work in a green office? What differences have you noticed? Have you retrofitted an older home to make it more efficient? What’s the best way for builders and homeowners to “be green”?


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