Where do we go from here? That was the existential (and practical) question Boora Architects faced in fall 2005, with the end of its lease at the historic Morgan Building in downtown Portland, Ore., looming. As employees weighed in on strategic priorities for the 47-year-old firm—including a philosophical shift toward a more collaborative working environment—one primary goal emerged: by 2016, “our work would be healing the earth and improving the human condition,” explains principal John Meadows, AIA, LEED AP. Doing such mitzvahs from a “transit-rich location” was equally important, since 80 percent of the staff doesn't drive to work.

Months later, the Boora team decided it could achieve what it wanted within its existing 26,000-square-foot, E-shaped space. With LEED Platinum as an end goal, every design decision was made to “maximize light, natural ventilation, and flexibility,” Meadows says. Removing the dropped ceiling added 3 feet of height for longer views. Making windows operable; installing temperature, motion, and daylight sensors; and positioning modular workstations in the structural bay between the perimeter wall and first row of exposed concrete columns also answered essential requirements. When privacy is needed, pivoting wall panels and tracked curtains are deployed to define meeting spaces in the largely open middle section.

Boora's pursuit of a better tomorrow is already paying dividends. The building's new owners were so impressed by the remodel that they've asked the firm to help them earn LEED certification for the entire structure.