Oregon Sustainability Center Inches Forward

An ambitious project intended to boost cleantech and advanced manufacturing in Portland, Ore., got a nudge forward this week. At the urging of Mayor Sam Adams, the City Council voted 3-2 to add $1.7 million to $450,000 that had already been allocated for planning for the Oregon Sustainability Center. Adams hailed the vote, saying the green-in-every-which-way building would create jobs and help Portland “continue to be a market leader in some of the fastest-growing economic sectors.”

But planning money is not construction money and while Portland has said it’s willing to put up $13 million for the center, the city is looking to the state to chip in another $37 million from the sale of bonds. In the last session of the state legislature Republicans wouldn’t get on board, and one GOP lawmaker told the Oregonian newspaper the narrow City Council vote hadn’t done much to convince him of the center’s viability.

Oregon Sustainability Center

image via Oregon Sustainability Center

The two councilmembers who voted against going forward with the project said they did so out fear that the city would be taking on too much risk. Even councilmembers who supported the project sounded nervous about the cost. Still, the council did move forward, and Adams and supporters received good news from the Obama administration, as well, this week: The U.S. Commerce Department, thorugh its Economic Development Administration, announced a $1.5 million grant for the project.

The federal grant is specifically aimed to support “self-sustaining water and wastewater systems that will be a model for green building practices,” at the center. Water is just one of several ways the center would be paragon of green development; the plan is to achieve a triple net-zero rating as the building enerates its own energy – with a solar power system, in part – and producing no carbon emissions or waste.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.