A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oregon Sustainability Center Drowning?

The Oregon Sustainability Center has been the subject of several postings given the goal of "Net-Zero"  water and greywater reuse planned at the proposed building (how many postings? just use the handy search engine below). But reality has been settling in over the past six months in the regional newspaper The Oregonian as to how "sustainable" the project really is given the economy and the now $62 million price tag for the "living building".  This article hammers home the point that being "green" is not cheap and that the project is at risk of drowning under the construction costs  and challenges associated with leasing space - "construction costs at $434 a square foot, would cost almost 50 percent more than downtown Portland's most expensive new high-rise". And the article goes on to say that the project being "sustainable" has political baggage - "The inclusion of the word 'sustainability' is hurting it politically."

What was once considered a unique, first of its kind, building in North America is now playing fourth fiddle to other living building projects - "The center won't be the biggest or even the first of its kind -- Vancouver, B.C., has one; Seattle broke ground on one in August; and Minneapolis plans a larger project".

I just finished teaching a class on Sustainability to about 300 students during fall term. We discussed living buildings, including the Oregon Sustainability Center and the Bullitt Center in Seattle, and even had living building experts come speak including Garrett Moon and his brother Dustin (in abstentia due to being imprisoned in architecture graduate school). I took a couple of polls of the class during Living Building week, and they had mixed feelings about the Oregon Sustainability Center as shown in this graph. Most of the students thought the building project needed more planning, and a surprising number thought private industry should build it.

But what about how politically-charged the word "sustainability" is? Yes, I took a poll on this topic, too. A surprising number of students thought the concept sustainability is not partisan. Where this project will end up is anyone's guess given the political and economic situation in Oregon.
* * *
The project was "way out of reach financially"...
"It's like the difference between a Prius and a Tesla,"..
(comparing the $25,000 hybrid and the $110,000 electric roadster)... 
"The Oregon Sustainability Center is the Tesla".
~Friends of the Columbia Gorge Executive Director Kevin Gorman

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