Oregon’s most populous city is fertile ground for sustainable design. With 82 LEED-certified buildings (at press time), Portland is second in the U.S. only to the much-larger Chicago, which has 88. Maybe it’s the damp weather—the City of Roses averages 38 inches of rainfall and more than 150 days of precipitation annually—or the progressive leadership and critical mass of creative people.
“Portland is crazily dichotomous: fiercely entrepreneurial yet West Coast laid-back; liberal politically yet somewhat libertarian,” says local developer Kevin Cavenaugh. “There is a strong can-do culture here. This has helped push more experimental programs and concepts and, ultimately, buildings out of the ground.”
City Hall has made green design a priority, according to Alisa Kane, green building manager for the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. “The city’s existing building codes and control over density, [as well as] many years of investment in sustainable strategies—renewables, stormwater management, water conservation—make taking the first green step easier,” she explains. “Many developers have suggested that because our codes are already so stringent, achieving LEED Silver is a ‘no-brainer.’”
As such, sustainable architecture is practically the industry standard here. “I see more and more designers working to integrate great, contemporary design with more climate responsive solutions specific to this place,” says Clark Brockman, associate principal and director of sustainability resources for hometown firm Sera Architects. “This is particularly encouraging. It means that those looking in from the outside will see great examples of place-based design, something that must proliferate much more rapidly if we are to have any hopes of meeting the 2030 Challenge [developed by Architecture 2030] and leveraging buildings’ ability to slow the effects of climate change.”
576,000 strong in 2008, the city has grown by 5.4% this decade; 2009 job growth: -6.6% at the start of the fourth quarter.
19.1-million-s.f. downtown office market is 9.8% vacant; Class A asking rent: $26.15/s.f.
Median home sale price, September 2009: $241,400.
• Vibrant urban fabric
• Large creative class
• Public transit system
• Economic malaise
• Increasing unemployment
• Impact of projected growth
“To remain on [our green] track, we need strong leadership, financial resources, and a commitment to walking our talk,” says the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s Alisa Kane. “[F]ive years from now, I see bike lanes wider than car lanes; buildings that produce their own energy and create no waste; [and] a healthy population that has their basic human needs met.”