PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If you’re walking on Southwest 1st Avenue and Southwest Pine Street in downtown Portland, then you might notice a regular beige five-story building staring back at you — and the company behind the design hopes it will be there 500 years later while leaving no carbon footprint behind.
PAE, an engineering consulting company in Portland, announced the completion of its 58,000 square-foot Living Building.
To meet the sustainability standards, the building is required to produce all of its own energy on-site, including only using water that falls on the building itself.
“It needs to produce no waste,” said Marc Brune, a mechanical principal with PAE. “It needs to be part of the overall ecosystem that really benefits the ecosystem rather than being a drag.”
Brune said the hardest part of the program was abiding by a “red list” of materials. Planners had to vet every material put into the building against the list, which included 780 chemicals.
Those chemicals on the list were either harmful to the environment or human health, added Brune. He remembers the company writing letters to select manufacturers asking if they could take out certain chemicals out of products.
“(The building) honestly exceeds my expectations. I had high hopes for it,” he said. “I am inspired daily to be working in here, and I’ve heard very similar comments from my colleagues and some of the other tenants in here.”
PAE is housed in three of the five floors of the building. A bank and other organizations have moved in to take up office space in the downtown area.
Brune says he’s glad to see an interest in downtown after the pandemic pushed people to work from home or move out of the city.
According to the engineering consulting company, the building’s circular system uses no city water and offers another income source for the building owners due to producing liquid fertilizer and agriculture-grade compost onsite.
“Using just one-fifth as much energy as a comparable building, photovoltaic (PV) panels produce 110% of the electricity needed via a PV-powered battery storage system with two-way power connection to the city’s utility network and electrical grid,” PAE said in a press release. “Designed as a microgrid, it can operate off-grid at a reduced capacity: at low power in the summer months, the building can operate for up to 100 days off-grid.”
Brune says the building is also built to the same seismic category as a fire station or a hospital.
To receive the full Living Building Challenge certification, the PAE building will record, track and report its performance data for the next year in correspondence with specific sustainability requirements.