Even in the sea of green buildings that is washing over Central Oregon, Bend architect Scott Steele’s new building in NorthWest Crossing stands out.
Steele Associates Architects’ new office space on the Mt. Washington Drive-NorthWest Crossing Drive roundabout stands to become the first building in Bend to reach the demanding LEED Gold standard — the second-highest level of environmental friendliness a new building can reach under standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
Statewide, only two buildings — an Oregon Health & Science University medical office building and Gerding Theater at the Armory, both in Portland — have hit the highest level, LEED Platinum, according to the Green Building Council’s Web site.
Central Oregon’s builders have received some increasing recognition, too, for their green designs. Home builder Bill Hull won one of the Green Building Council’s national awards last year for a house he built in NorthWest Crossing. The subdivision itself is one of several that requires its builders to build to environmentally friendly Earth Advantage standards, and about 30 homes were featured over the weekend in the annual Central Oregon Green & Solar Home Tour.
So far, though, of the 33 LEED Gold buildings in the state, only two are in Central Oregon — the Midstate Electric Cooperative building in La Pine and the Community Barn at Brasada Ranch in Crook County.
Steele’s building is poised to become the third.
Steele’s LEED Gold application, filling two oversized binders, is under review by the Green Building Council’s examination board, Steele said Friday. It’s the first finished Bend building to take a shot at the Gold standard. A second, the ODS/Western Title project at Wilson and Bond streets in the Old Mill District, also will be built to meet LEED Gold standards, project managers said last summer, but it has yet to rise above ground level.
There is no set formula that qualifies a building for the top LEED certifications. Instead, the program awards points for buildings that hit its standards in five areas: water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality and environmentally conscious site development.
Steele’s three-story, 16,000-square-foot project is going for points in some obvious areas that characterize environmentally friendly buildings.
Thirty-eight percent of the materials in its carpet tiles are recycled, and the xeriscaped landscaping uses 50 percent less water than a standard layout, Steele said. Also, 50 percent of its lumber is Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber from Warm Springs, and the work tables contain 22 percent recycled laminate, 100 percent recycled cores and 90 percent recycled metal legs, he said.
But there are less obvious touches throughout that Steele believes will elevate the building to Gold status.
Some are incorporated in the building’s design, said Steele, who designed it in conjunction with his team of staff architects and designers.
• Seventy-five percent of the building’s occupied spaces get enough natural light during the day to eliminate the need for electric lighting.
• A “green roof,” planned for planting in the spring, will help insulate it from the outdoor heat and cold.
• Solar ledges over the windows on some exposures will help shade the interior from the high summer sun, while letting daylight inside in the winter.
• And a combination of transom windows and mechanical ducts in the ceilings will let people open windows to catch cool summer breezes, while the air flow stays high enough that it won’t blow a blizzard of papers off of architectural drafting boards.
The building’s mechanical touches are harder to see. They include:
• A weather station on the roof is programmed to e-mail building occupants when the weather is ripe for opening the windows, so the heating or cooling system can be shut down.
• Overhead lights turn dim and brighten as people walk through the building, wasting as little power as possible on ambient lighting.
• Building occupants can control lighting preferences at every desk through their personal computers.
Altogether, the building is designed to be 25 percent to 30 percent more energy efficient than Oregon codes require, Steele said, but the environmental thinking extended beyond its walls. Even during construction, Kirby Nagelhout Construction crews recycled 75 percent of their construction waste, and a thermographic scan of the entire building was done to locate heat leaks — a process that Steele believes was unique.
The parking lot has special spaces for carpools and energy-efficient cars, and there’s an electrical outlet for hybrids or electric cars.
Showers and lockers were installed to encourage people to bike to work, Steele said.
Indoors, the building was put together with materials that don’t emit toxic gases. Only “green cleaning products” are used to maintain it, Steele said, and, aside from the filters in its heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, little touches were included to help keep indoor air clear — a felted metal mesh stretches across the front entryway, for instance, to help scrape the fine desert dust off people’s feet before they walk in.
It cost about $2.9 million to build the building, Steele said. Green features typically add 1 percent to 5 percent to the cost of a commercial building, he estimated, but energy savings easily erase that disadvantage over a typical building’s lifetime and, in the case of Steele’s building alone, state cash rebates and tax credits for the installation of energy-saving devices will return about $70,000 in the first few years.
Along with Steele Associates Architects, the building is occupied by the green-building advocacy group 3E Strategies. Empty space on the ground floor could go to a coffee shop or restaurant, Steele said.
The building is dotted with plaques explaining its collection of features. The idea is to use it as “an educational tool,” open to the public for guided or self-guided tours, Steele said.
“To me, a lot of what is important about sustainability is doing the right thing for the environment, having a lesser impact on the environment, and putting less gases into the atmosphere,” Steele said. “And, when you do those things, what a wonderful benefit to have more healthy space, and places where people simply feel better and are more comfortable. And if you get both of those things, human resources issues go down and productivity goes up. I mean, it’s just a no-brainer.
“Sustainable building design and health and wellness go hand in hand,” he said. “It’s a fringe benefit, I guess.”