In a follow up to a story we ran recently about the the Oregon Sustainability Center (OSC), a public forum held this week in Portland unveiled the latest, and likely final, schematics for what some hope will be the greenest high-rise building in the world. While the design does showcase sustainability, is it otherwise an ugly duckling ready to fly?
The plans for the center began after Oregon’s public, nonprofit, and academic communities separately, yet simultaneously, initiated their own campaigns for a green research and commerce center.
Going beyond the industry requirements of LEED Platinum, the Oregon Sustainability Center plans to achieve net-zero energy and water performance, be toxin-free, and build architecturally with locally sourced materials.
Portland architecture blogger Brian Libby, who attended the event, explained, “the new schematic drawings, while still not revealing the most gorgeous work of architecture, seem to me and many in the architecture community to be a big step in the right direction.”
The center, which is part of the Oregon Living Building Initiative, will be home to the state’s leaders in sustainable business, government, and education. Space for public and private sector organizations will also be available for sale or lease, posing as a workplace where tenants will be expected to work communally towards a common goal of sustainable development and leadership.
However, Libby expressed concerns surrounding the aesthetics of the building, which in his opinion, is the weakest link of the project thus far. “They seemed to be building not only one of the world’s most sustainable buildings, but also an ugly office tower on stilts with an oversized roof,” he explained.
He sensed many stakeholders in the local architecture and design community also felt the exterior designs of the OSC could still use some work. “Aesthetics are not a superficial concern,” he said. “We need our buildings to touch the soul, and to be places where we want to congregate.”
Gerding Edlen Development Company is the leader of the project and development team, which is made up of a number of stakeholders, including SERA Architects, GBD Architects and Skanska Construction.
Although the construction of the Oregon Sustainability Center isn’t expected to begin until early 2012, the construction of the high-rise is expected to create over 1,000 jobs in sectors as diverse as engineering, semi-conductor manufacturing, and finance.
However fear remains a big concern by many who believe the projected $60 million costs of the center are too much right now, when budget cuts are happening throughout the country.
“But you’ve also got to spend money to make money sometimes,” he said. “The OSC could wind up as a very wise investment in the future, a kind of seeding for future blooms in Portland’s sustainability-based economy.”
The building is expected to open late in 2013. In the short term, the OSC’s developers are currently soliciting feedback on the design from the public.