Archive for May, 2012


Dull Olson Weeks Architects (DOWA) and IBI group have merged their resources to work together on sustainable designs for buildings all over the North West. DOWA-IBI has been hit by the green bug, with an ambitious green team implementing sustainable initiatives all over the office. They have also started practicing sustainable design in most project plans, especially in educational facilities. DOWA works in the micro side of sustainable design by going into facilities and finding out creative ways to assist in the learning process while remaining earth friendly at the same time. IBI generally deals in macro projects, neighborhood and alternative transportation needs, such as light rail in the financial district of Portland. Both ends of the organization encourage clients to think differently and not just consider the dollars and cents, but to acknowledge what makes sense.

In education facility projects DOWA has revised the way schools look and run, inside and out. Project managers go to classrooms and speak with students on what they want in schools so that the most quality of improvements can be made. The firm is changing how schools function with these designs, such as classrooms surrounding common areas to be used for a multitude of activities. Most projects have turned schools into a colorful, transparent masterpieces, and money savers at that.  After designing and constructing the project, DOWA goes into the classrooms to educate the students and teachers on how to properly use the sustainable technologies. A builders manual is then allocated to the facility manager for future reference.

Portland Development CommissionThe Portland Development Commission (PDC) is responsible for economically impacting areas of Portland that are in need of economic stimuli or recovery. They do this by initiating urban renewal projects on decaying or underused areas. In doing so, public attention will gather around the area and with time use of the area will increase until development continues on its own. In order to make the correct long term decisions the PDC works with the public sector to find out what sustainable improvements are viable with the soon to be revitalized area.

Urban renewal is not just a program, but a new way of thinking about the way things function. Like sustainability, revitalization and renewal projects are more of a journey than a destination and upkeep of the built environment is a consistent need. As cities grow denser and sprawl is no longer an option, planners and policy makers will have to fully embrace urban renewal to keep their cities functioning. You can’t build out or up forever, so reusing and re-purposing is the future. In a way, there is a need to rethink: rethink the way schools are laid out, rethink the way neighbors interact, and rethink the way cities endure.Our Work


Hotels and Hostels

The Heathman Hotel - Portland, Oregon                                    Hostelling International - Northwest Portland Hostel

Eco-tourism has become an industry of its own over the years and hotels are beginning to take notice, not necessarily to sell rooms, but to save money and help the local community. That is at least the motivation for the Heathman Hotel in Portland, Oregon. This historic luxury hotel, under the supervision of general manager Chris Erickson, has committed to eco renovations and sustainable strategies to enjoy the long term benefits and become a productive part of the local community.

Heathman Hotel is Green Seal Silver

Heathman hotel understands that sustainability is part of the culture in Portland and in order to remain a part of that culture the hotel must keep up. In addition to keeping with community expectations, Erickson has been able to retain employees, even through the recession, by cutting energy costs rather than labor.  Along with financial incentives from local organizations and government initiatives, the Heathman has been able to benefit while benefiting the environment as well.

Hostels take sustainable travel one step further than hotels; placing up to eight strangers in one room, rather than eight rooms for each stranger. Generally most travelers spend the bulk of time out of their hotel rooms, seeing sights or taking meetings while the hotel room sits idle, most likely using energy. The North West Portland Hostel and Green Tortoise Hostel of Seattle both cater to social travelers who don’t need a private room and enjoy being around people of all ages from all around the world. These hostels are comprised mostly of bunk bed filled rooms that serve the simple purpose of storage and sleep. The hostelling culture encourages patrons to spend as little amount of time in rooms as possible, while encouraging guests to socialize in communal areas and take advantage of hostel programs and events. These hostels also provide public transportation information and bicycle rentals to limit car usage by guests.

Both the Heathman Hotel and hostels abroad practice sustainability through recycling and composting, using sustainable materials and cutting down on energy/water use through lighting fixtures and low flow everything. Hostels have a greater sustainable impact due to room sharing. Land use and building materials are cut drastically when not as many rooms are needed and the concept of sharing rooms while traveling makes so much more sense for society, the environment and the wallet.

Planning for Growth

Growth in the United States is consistently commended as a positive on society, no matter what the outcome. One repercussion of unchecked growth, urban sprawl, is the outward expanse of low density development without regard to surrounding areas. This decentralized form of planning leads to dependence on automobiles, natural terrain destruction and decaying infrastructure/development. People are also more spread out, leading to segregated communities and a lack of connection between citizens.

Dr. Gerard Mildner of Portland State University is the director for the universities center for Real Estate. Dr. Mildner, with years of experience in multiple disciplines, has researched growth management issues and communicated the need for growth to be considered in sustainable initiatives. He expressed the importance of urban growth boundaries established all over the state of Oregon. These regional boundaries discern between urban areas and less developed land. This is all an effort to limit sprawl that would eventually move in to natural areas of the state that citizens decided should be left alone. The guides are used by municipalities, counties and the state to make land use and zoning policy decisions. Cities in Oregon are required to establish urban growth boundaries in their plans and although it is challenging, planners have recognized the benefits of this strategy. Land/buildings will be developed and redeveloped in the urban core, which will help to keep people in the area, spurring business to continue in the long term. More time can be spent on existing infrastructure, rather than planning for future sprawl and the infrastructure it will need. Urban services, such as fire, police, parks and schools could focus on the limited areas needs as well. Setting these boundaries will protect Oregon’s farms and forests for ages as urban development innovates into the sustainable cities of the future.

The Portland Bureau of Planning Sustainability has held growth control as an important issue as well. Sustainability and planning were brought together under one bureau so that long term development initiatives can coincide with sustainable programs to make for purposeful plans that will allow the city to thrive. Those representing the bureau supported a grassroots effort to stop a freeway from being built across the Portland landscape. Sensible Transportation Options for People (STOP), helped to bring down the proposed western bypass freeway in an effort to practice traffic calming. The plan was removed and STOP was successful in most likely curbing future sprawl. The sustainability end of the bureau has quite a few plans for the future of Portland:

  • Climate Action Plan
  • Garbage, Recycling, Composting and Yard Debris Programs
  • Urban Growth Bounty Food Initiative
  • Sustainable City Government Partnerships
  • Solarize Portland
  • Clean Energy Works Oregon
  • Build It Green!
  • The Portland Plan

The Bureau’s sustainability initiatives are spread out all across the region due to the links with planning and the nature of plans covering every sector. Joining public planning and sustainability is essential to limiting growth in other U.S. cities and regions. It might also lead to programs that Portland already strives for and enjoys.

Formerly 1000 Friends of Washington, Futurewise is a Washington public interest group focused on building communities correctly with respect to the region’s forests and farmland. This group works with local Washington governments to ensure smart growth policy and planning for long term success of the state. Futurewise works in organizing efforts, advocacy work, support groups, legal aid and education initiatives to drive the message to citizens across Washington. The Growth Management Act, adopted by the Washington legislature in 1990, was set forth to require smart growth planning by all local and state governments. Unfortunately, the legislation does not come with any true enforcement measures, so Futurwise and other groups have come in to advocate for its importance. Although the group has been very successful in building relationships with governments and citizens, it is a constant challenge convincing policy makers that these policies are beneficial to all people and businesses in Washington.

Limiting growth is picking up support all over the country and as local governments run out of expansion territory they will have to re-prioritize developing out or up. Leaving regions underdeveloped and building around them only hinders business, communities and the environment. There are so many benefits to living in densely developed areas and with every service and development improvement, neighboring areas will benefit as well. There is a reason they call it “smart growth”.

Office of Sustainability & Environment

For over 10 years the Office of Sustainability & Environment of Seattle (OSE) has been working to protect the cities environment for future generations to enjoy. The office has four areas of focus in which planning and programs are implemented:

  • Environmental Sustainability Coordination
  • Environmental Sustainability Innovation and Research
  • Climate Change Action Planning, Policy and Measurement
  • Green Building and Resource Conservation

Pike Place Market SignThe sustainability and environmental department coordinates with all other city departments in areas such as green team building, office sustainability and cross-departmental program implementation. The office also promotes interconnecting sustainability into any and all projects other departments might be working on. Policy, the most notable of the offices programs is what really makes an effect on the city. The OSE can recommend full policy or policy additions to the city council or mayor with a decent amount of buy in, but the office has been careful not to over reach or abuse their standing. One policy the OSE has worked to enact is Seattle going carbon neutral by 2050.

A program the OSE is working on that seems to be spreading throughout the country is growing food in the city. The OSE has been working with the public and is trying to engage them on why growing food is so important and how easy it can be with a little elbow grease. The office has laid out basics to gardening and the benefits that go with it. The department of sustainability and environment works in just about every area that has to do with sustainability and even through the recession the municipality has been able to keep the office going. Why does every city not have a department representing sustainability? Most cities could most likely justify it if they were to label the department something like: The Department of Efficiency. That really is all that sustainability is; efficiency in environment, society and business. Perhaps re-branding sustainability into efficiency would translate better for areas that are not so embracing of the green movement.Seattle Public Library by Thomas Hawk

Campers and Counselors

After two years of research with experts and children, the design and practices of Islandwood: school in the woods, was set in motion. The state of Washington had implemented mandatory environmental education for kindergarten through the twelfth grade with an emphasis toward the fourth and fifth grade level. To meet these education needs, former logging land on Bainbridge island was chosen as the site to teach hands on environmental sciences. Islandwood quickly established a school overnight program for low income school children in the local area. In this program graduate students from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute educate the visiting fourth and fifth graders with real world, hands on experiences in a fun, outdoor environment. The over 250 acre campus is an experiment in sustainability itself. Different buildings on Islandwood feature alternative technologies, building materials and design all with sustainability in mind. Along with the educational activities, Islandwood is in a beautiful area with modern facilities that provide an adequate setting for weddings, conferences and corporate retreats.

Washington was able to set in motion a requirement (unfunded), mandating outdoor learning and a program was created to fill the void. With no help from the legislation, funding from tuition, fees, endowments and donations has led to Islandwood’s successful programs.  What if the program could be expanded? Families in Washington and all over the country struggle every summer to fill their children’s time with productive, fun, learning experiences. Washington could mandate outdoor learning all summer long and with a bit of help from the public sector and private funding, overnight camps could spring up all over the state. Undergraduate and graduate students would take the place of counselor-instructors as summer internship programs. These internships would depend on the region and the college student’s area of interest or major with possible class credit as an incentive. There are lots of details that would need to be worked out, but if summer breaks continue; why not try and get every kid in a fulfilling camp experience where they can learn from older generations about the environment around them? Islandwood is a great start and Washington has set the bar for teaching environmental learning for students, but why not progress and raise the bar?


Children are constantly trained to share with those around them, but as people grow older sharing tends to go out the window as more personal possessions are acquired. In the Northwestern US and all over Europe, people are going back to sharing again. In dense cities such as Portland or Seattle owning your own car is expensive and probably not useful that often with all of the available public transportation. Often people might only need a car to leave the deep city for outings or groceries, but now thanks to Zipcar and Getaround car sharing, owning a car is no longer necessary. Both are car sharing programs that work a little differently.

Zipcars are a quick car rental program for members only. After applying and paying membership fees, the zip member will receive a zipcard. Once the zipcard is activated members can go online, by phone or head into a zipcar store and reserve a car. The zipcars are strategically located all over the city in an assortment of makes and models. Members can reserve a car based on location or model, whichever they would like; as long as the car chosen is not reserved the member is welcome to rent for as long as they’d like for up to four days. The car is accessible with the zipcard for locking and unlocking. The car comes with a gas card for filling and the only fee to pay is the hourly rate. Short of a few technical rules it’s simply a reserve and go system. Getaround cars all depend on a vehicle owner, known as peer-to-peer car sharing. Individuals that own a car can earn up to $10,000 dollars a year just for sharing their vehicle. The system is convenient and Getaround fully insures the renters. The vehicle owner sets the price, who can rent and when the car is available. Renters will be able to save money and keep things simple by not owning a vehicle. Although this is a more primitive form of car sharing, both Zipcars and Getaround cars work to relieve dense cities of every individuals vehicle.

Co-housing, a long established form of living and sharing among neighbors could serve as a slightly more sustainable way of living. At Daybreak Cohousing of Portland, residents are encouraged to engage in communal activities with other residents. Each resident has a modest sized apartment or condominium stacked and wrapped around a common courtyard. There is a common study/library, dining/activity hall, industrial kitchen where communal meals take place weekly and the cohousing can conduct meetings, events and rentals as they see fit. Common areas are also located in the basement as well: exercise room, laundry room, shop room and bicycle garage. Instead of owning an expensive tool set or power saw, residents can simply share and save the money.

This particular cohousing unit values sustainability as well, therefore gardens surround the building and all rain water is saved from runoff which allows for a tax credit. Daybreak is also located very close to public transportation so that a majority of residents do not even own cars. Cohousing is not for everyone, but people looking to save resources and live amid neighbors might find Daybreak or other cohousing units as a more than valid place to live and thrive with others.

Deep in the industrial district of Seattle sits a plain factory building that houses one of the most renowned innovation centers in the nation. McKinstry Innovation Center offers start-up companies an uncomplicated foundation for beginning an innovative technology, program or product. After a rigorous vetting process, tenants are offered a very reasonable rate in a modest indoor office. Common printing areas, kitchen, lounge and meeting rooms are there for tenants access. Other common areas include:

  • Shop space for prototype development
  • Demonstration space
  • Access to mock-up demonstration platforms for testing
  • Two large and four small conference rooms
  • Kitchenette, coffee and wine bar
  • Fully equipped copy and production center
  • Fireside Grille dining area
  • Wellness Center with cardio, weights, locker rooms and showers
  • Onsite parking

Innovators are also at liberty to use services provided by the McKinstry group, which will definitely come in handy for start-ups:

  • McKinstry mentoring and consulting services
  • Office concierge
  • Secure building with card access
  • Telephone/voicemail
  • Computer line with T1 access
  • Fiber connectivity
  • Secure LAN dedication
  • Notary public
  • Mail service
  • Janitorial

Essentially McKinstry offers innovators a chance at a reasonably priced private office without the regular hassle of maintenance or office infrastructure. Collaboration with other professionals and innovators is also probable with all of the common areas that will regularly be used.

There is something to this idea of sharing with neighbors. It does not automatically warrant a sustainable label, but it is moving in that direction when common resources are shared. At least in dense cities with adequate public transportation, car ownership is not a necessity when car sharing is available. All offices might learn from the McKinstry innovation center and office buildings wouldn’t need to be so massive if common areas existed between organizations in the same building. Cohousing would be a great alternative to suburban sprawl with added security, friendship and family ties.




Passive Housing

Passive housing is all the rage for green builders and responsible homeowners these days, but what exactly is it? Essentially it is a standard for energy efficiency in the built environment that seeks to reduce the structures carbon footprint. Heating and cooling consumes great amounts of energy due to air escaping structures around doors, windows and even through walls. Gene Wixsom, of Green Builders Inc and a passive house consultant, sees passive housing as turning homes into a secured energy envelope that should reduce energy consumption as compared to a normal house. Infrared assessments can be used to find temperature leeks inside and outside of a building and based on the results contractors can determine what improvements need to be made.

There are many design parameters that can be used to keep temperature and air regulated within a structure and many examples of how to achieve these parameters:

  • Insulation Levels – superinsulation
  • Low Air Escape – careful sealing and air barriers
  • Solar and Landscape Impact – passive solar gain, vertical gardens and green roofs
  • Window Technology – Triple pained technologies
  • Ventilation – Cross ventilation, heat recovery ventilation
  • Lighting – Daylighting, solar panel systems

Generally the best way to sell home improvements is to report the return on investment, but passive house improvements are not so easy to quantify; therefore the health and wellness of residents and the environment must be pushed. Living in a properly built energy envelope will payback, but the amount and time it takes is uneasy to reach, so passive house advocates have promoted the health benefits of constantly taking in fresh over stale air and helping the environment as well.

A Green Hammer passive house restoration is almost finished in Portland, Oregon and the home owner couldn’t be happier or more involved with the process. Just a few examples of improvements that set the house apart from its neighbors:

  • Forest Stewardship Council Wood
  • Insulation under the home
  • Seismic retrofitting
  • 3,000 gallon cistern (tax credit)
  • Metal roofing
  • Green sealing tape
  • Cellulose Insulation (ground up newspaper)
  • Mini split heat pump
  • Heat recovery ventilator
  • Pocket doors

The senior homeowners of the new passive home are obviously long term thinkers. After their kids had all grown and moved on they decided they didn’t need so much room and that there was no sense in paying for utilities on a limited budget. The downstairs bathroom is also wheel chair accessible just in case stairs are no longer an option due to old age. How is it that so few people prepare for the long haul?

Passive CommericalHammer & Hand remodeling services, a small business of Portland, is currently pursuing many passive house remodels, but one that stands out is the first passive commercial building retrofit in the US. The Glasswood Passive House site was first built in 1912 and had been left vacant for quite a few years while the neighborhood around it slowly improved. The plans so far for the building is to have a passive house office on the second floor and a popular, high performance restaurant on the ground level. The lower level will not technically meet passive house criteria, but the air system in the building will provide much better air quality than a conventional building. Glasswood Passive House Walls

Aside from how beautiful these passive houses are and will be, they will serve as a perfect models for future housing design and construction. Perhaps this strategy would come in handy in a climate as hot and sunny as Texas…