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Regenerating Water Avenue

University of Oregon


  • Lacey Aley, Alex Collins, University of Oregon, Addison Estrada at University of Oregon

Project Status

Concept Proposal
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Project Description


DESIGN AND INNOVATION: Having an energy efficient building has a lot to do with the decisions made during the preliminary design stage. For this building, an emphasis on a long and narrow floor plate was made to assist with daylighting and natural ventilation. Due to program demands, a decision was made to separate the program into two buildings or bars which helped to keep the floor plates between thirty and fifty feet deep. This also allowed the height of the building to remain under five stories which is the maximum building height in that area. By separating the two buildings, an indoor atrium was proposed to both help bring the outside in as well as to help act as a thermal buffer and regulate the buildings’ temperatures year round. The goal for the site was to regenerate both the immediate area as well as the surrounding industrial district. The building is to also be an icon for innovation and sustainability and can be seen from a “bird's eye” view from both the Tilikum Crossing and the I-5 Bridge. Not only is it important for the building to use regenerative design strategies, but it also needs to demonstrate to the public what regenerative design can be.

REGIONAL/COMMUNITY DESIGN: The Tilikum Crossing to the south and the MAX line to the east cup the building. This makes it an optimal location for more sustainable forms of transportation including bus, train, walking, and bike. This constant traffic around the site also improves the possibility for the building to have a high flow of traffic at all times of the day. The building was designed to feel welcoming to people passing by so that anyone could get inspired by the work that would be occurring inside. Additionally, many spaces on the site are there for public use and community engagement. Utilizing a “tried and true” visible construction system from the area eludes at the history of the area, while being a building of the future.

LAND USE/SITE ECOLOGY: Due to the previous destruction of riparian habitat, the building re-populates the land with native species of plant life. This utilization of local plants not only improves the riverside soil conditions, but also creates habitats for local fauna. The building is separated in order to allow for the natural ecology to pass through the building when it needs to. This creates an environment where the building can be apart of nature rather than to dominate it. The integrated urban farm also allows for the site to be used as a source of food for the building, which cuts down the necessary transportation of food goods to the site. Additionally, much of the site is geared toward community spaces and events to help bring people to the site. A large portion of the site is dedicated to the cleaning of stormwater and greywater. The treatment ponds and cisterns is a visible and interactive way for visitors to witness the water cycle.

BIOCLIMATIC DESIGN: The physical climate of Portland, as well as the social climate, allows for the integration of an unconditioned open atrium space that supports the bulk of the circulation for the building. The open atrium space helps to regulate the temperatures of the supporting buildings on either side while maintaining a more mild temperature itself in comparison to what may be happening outside. The idea behind the atrium was to allow people to feel as if they are outside without having to deal with the extreme high and low temperatures as well as the fall, winter, and spring rains that the northwest is known for. This space becomes a place where “creative collisions” can take place in order to further the advancement of the sustainable technologies that are growing in the incubator spaces. Careful consideration of the sites sun angles, prevailing summer and winter winds, and opportunities for thermal mass was taken into consideration in the design of this building. These considerations help to passively heat and cool the building as needed to create a desirable thermal comfort level.

LIGHT/AIR: Through the invention of a seasonally activated dynamic façade system, not only are day lighting opportunities improved, but direct solar radiation is also blocked from entering the southern glazing of the building during the summer. In terms of the buildings massing, the programmed spaces deliberately take the form of two 40-foot deep bars that further allow optimal daylight penetration. The central atrium space utilizes a similar approach as the southern façade that allows for shading the northern bar in the summer with the use a vertical shading system composed of optimized interior fabric sails. The double wall system on the south also allows for a simple stack ventilation approach within the building’s double skin. The northern bar stack ventilates through two hidden shafts that are centrally located adjacent to open planned rooms. By having long and narrow floor plates with operable windows on the north and south facades, the building will rely less on electric lighting and active cooling systems saving valuable energy.

WATER CYCLE: Quite possible the most prominent story carried throughout this building is the journey water takes through the site. Through rainwater harvesting, composting toilets, visible bioswales and river purification, this building is net positive in its liquid interventions. The site, as it sits now, truly experiences the toxicity of the steam power plant that occupied the area years ago. Water flowing down the adjacent Willamette River carries with it toxic pollutants that will soon enter the ocean in northern Oregon. The site will be one of the first sites along the Willamette to give clean and treated water rather than toxic or waste water. The proposed water cycle will begin by collecting the stormwater runoff from each of the large roofs. Cisterns are placed throughout the site to help store the water year long until it is needed. This water will be treated in the interior atriums treatment pond which could then be used by the occupants of the building. The greywater from the building will be recollected in a separate cistern and will be treated in one of the outdoor treatment ponds to either aid in the irrigation of the site or to be returned to the Willamette river. The same pond then serves as a heat sink for the heat pump that then conditions the interior spaces during the winter months.

ENERGY FLOWS AND ENERGY FUTURE: Sefaira helped to make major decisions in regards to doing one or two buildings, number of stories each building may have, separation of the two bars, as well as over and under glazing the south facade. By incorporating many passive design strategies, the building will need to rely less on active heating and cooling systems saving an extensive amount of energy. The active system in place will be the efficient ground sourced heat pump which will both heat and cool the building through radiant floor tubes. The building will have a high energy demand from the incubator users with the various tools and technologies they will be using. However, energy-star appliances will be used when possible and laptops will be encouraged rather than having desktop computer labs. The building will also have a lower energy footprint by being able to store and treat its own water onsite rather than use water from the city. The rest of the energy is offset with the 510 KW PV array that shelters both the northern and southern bars. To account for future technological improvements, the PV array will be easily replaceable for when more efficient solar technology becomes available.To further lower the carbon footprint of the building, all materials used to construct the building will be locally sourced. When possible, recycled materials will be used such as wood siding for the interior street facades.

MATERIALS/CONSTRUCTION: The construction of the building was chosen based on locally available materials as well as the cutting edge technology coming out of the area. A glulam frame with CLT decking supports a thin layer of concrete used for radiant temperature control. The hybrid glulam and CLT construction system can easily withstand the rather mild pacific-northwest climate. A majority of the building construction will be made out of wood components because of the northwest having a huge lumber industry. Shear forces are dealt with by the steel atrium that is used as a moment frame. Choosing steal not only contributes to helping the building deal with potential earthquakes but also allows for more daylighting and ventilation opportunities due to the lack of necessary sheer walls within the north and south bars.

LONG LIFE/LOOSE FIT: The construction of the atrium’s moment frame to mitigate shear forces allow for an open plan in each of the buildings that can be easily transformed into a myriad of differently programed spaces. The building was designed for collaboration which is not specific to incubator spaces. Our future is going to strongly depend on disciplines coming together and discovering new solutions. We are going to need to see collaboration happening in schools, offices, and research facilities which could all be housed in this new and flexible building. Additionally, many aspects of the site are geared toward community improvement rather than just the building occupants. When a community forms a bond with a space, that space then becomes a place where memories are made. People determine if a place is going to be successful or not and by designing for the community, a place has assured its future.

COLLECTIVE WISDOM/FEEDBACK LOOPS: Scattered throughout the site are displays describing the sustainable techniques that the building utilizes to become more ecologically friendly. The building serves not only the purpose of being a high performance building, but it also becomes a teaching tool for the people passing by in order to show the obtainability of these strategies. A sustainable building can only do so much good, but a building that teaches and inspires the masses to think more has the potential to be hugely beneficial. Lessons that were learned through the process of this project was the importance of collaboration. Not only is it important for us as (aspiring) architects to collaborate with one another but it is almost more important for interdisciplinary collaboration to occur. Putting architecture aside, humanity is only going to recognize the huge environmental problems that are occurring if every company, government, country, and organization are able to talk to one another about the causes and their effects. Perhaps if we as architects can bring more awareness to the amount of energy an average building consumes, we can do our small part towards a more promising future.

Faculty Sponsors: Bill Leddy, Marsha Maytum, Roger Ota
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