Taking the LEED in Portland



Joshua Thomas, marketing and media relations manager, Port of Portland, Portland, Oregon, USA


Located in Oregon on the US west coast, the Port of Portland has been building expertise in brownfield redevelopment, air and water quality projects, waste minimisation, clean energy and leadership in energy and environmental design, or LEED certification. From its headquarters building to its three airports, four marine terminals and five industrial properties, the ‘greening’ of the port is reflective of the community in which it operates.

Welcome to Portlandia

You can bet that whenever there's a list of the most sustainable or environmentally conscious cities, Portland, Oregon will be included somewhere near the top. It has earned national recognition as the ‘greenest city,’ ‘most eco-friendly city,’ and ‘America’s top bikefriendly city’ – and for good reason.

Although it is only the 23rd largest metropolitan area in the US with approximately 2.2 million people, Portland repeatedly pushes the envelope and sets the standard for what it means to be green. From its network of pedestrian trails and bike paths, to its light rail and streetcar connections, its ever growing number of electric vehicles and charging stations, even the way Portlanders get around town reflects an ethos. This community walks the talk.

The ethos is also exhibited in the proliferation of LEED certified buildings around town. Even the Rose Garden Arena, home to the Portland Trailblazers NBA franchise, was the first major league sports facility to earn LEED Gold status. And they’re not the only ones blazing a trail when it comes to large-scale LEED facilities in Portland.

Setting the platinum standard

According to Forbes magazine, the Port of Portland’s LEED Platinum headquarters building is among the world’s most high-tech green buildings. The structure is representative of an organisation dedicated to proving that old school industry can use new school techniques to walk with a smaller carbon footprint. It is a showcase for sustainable building practices from environmental, as well as social and economic standpoints.

The three-story office building sits atop a seven-story, long-term parking garage. State-of-the-art green technologies include a Living Machine® system that treats wastewater onsite by mimicking natural tidal wetland processes, eco-roofs to capture storm water and a geoexchange system to provide ground source heating and cooling.

During construction, the port minimised construction waste, selected rapidly renewable or recycled materials and products, and sourced products and services locally whenever possible. The building even incorporates old ballast stones in a walkway and timbers from an old pier in the building’s woodwork. Construction provided training opportunities for apprentices and work for numerous small companies including minority and female-owned businesses. The work has paid off. Features like daylighting, window glazing, fixed exterior shading, water-efficient fixtures and eco-roofs are saving energy, water and money. The building’s water-efficient features decrease water usage by 75 per cent. The parking garage and headquarters building also meet energy star rating requirements. The port estimates that the building uses 36 per cent less energy than a typical building of its size, and the garage uses 78 per cent less energy than a typical similar size garage. The electricity it does use is 100 per cent renewable, and the US Environmental Protection Agency recently recognised the port as a top 10 renewable power purchaser among local governments nationwide.

“It was important to us that the building provide value to our customers and reflect Portland and Oregon’s commitment to sustainability, including consideration of how our choices affect the environment, the work force and the community we serve,” said Bill Wyatt, port executive director.

Positive influence

Perhaps most impressive is the daily influence the building has had on how the port’s employees work together as an organisation. Collaboration and productivity has improved as interaction between co-workers is encouraged by the open office design. Dedicated recycling stations and the tracking of garbage versus recyclable materials is reducing the waste stream and cutting disposal costs. It is a healthier environment as well, with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), low impact cleaning products and options for employees to stay fit through expanded exercise and commute options. Natural light makes for a better work environment while reducing energy consumption. The building serves as a model for green building design as the port provides tours and conducts outreach to the design and educational communities.

“Our headquarters shows how important some of the subtle aspects of good building design are to creating a great work environment,” said Greg Sparks, project development manager for the port. “A high performance building doesn’t require a sacrifice in the real purpose of a building, which is to create a space for people to work.”

Model tenant goes for gold

The port encourages solutions that are both good for business and good for the environment. By integrating porous asphalt, shore side power and ultra-low sulphur diesel into its operations, the port sets an example that its tenants follow. One of the first port tenants to attain LEED certification was Toyota Logistics Services (TLS). Toyota has maintained auto import operations at the Port of Portland since 1971. During its first 15 years of operations, volumes increased more than tenfold, making Portland Toyota’s largest auto import port in the US. Today, TLS has a ground lease at terminal four to process imported Toyota, Scion and Lexus vehicles at a 101,000 square foot vehicle distribution centre.

In 2004, a two-year, US$40 million project – approximately US$30 million of which was invested by Toyota – served as the cornerstone for redevelopment of the port’s terminal four. Acknowledging Portland’s commitment to social responsibility and environmental quality, key components of the TLS vehicle distribution centre and its surrounds were designed to reduce the facility’s environmental footprint. This emphasis was also consistent with Toyota’s earth charter, which calls for ‘growth that is in harmony with the environment.’


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