In the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon, the recent renovation of the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center stands as an example of collaborative sustainable efforts married with historic preservation. This renovation of an 1865 transit building was commissioned by the nonprofit conservation organization Ecotrust to become a hub of economic and social activity. This LEED Gold building has been open since 2001 and continues to give back to the Portland community.
The 70,000-square-foot former warehouse was renovated to include retail, office and an event space. At a cost of $12.4 million, this sustainable renovation ended up costing only $140 per square foot. Designed by HOLST Architecture and constructed by Walsh Construction Company, the space is now home to such eco-centered organizations as Patagonia, the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development, the Certified Forest Products Council, the Wild Salmon Center, and Ecotrust. This brick and timber building maintains the character of the Pearl District and is widely credited for helping to spur the district’s revitalization.
The sustainable components of the Natural Capital Center include 98 percent reuse or reclamation of construction debris (a Portland city record), the reuse of 75 percent of the existing structure, and harvesting 50 percent of the construction materials locally. The building’s wood construction is all FSC-certified, and select interior materials were made from recycled materials such as wheat and rubber tires. The most impressive aspect of this building is the attention that was paid to protecting the Willamette River by controlling all stormwater runoff. The roof was redesigned with an eco-roof that filters and absorbs rainwater. Bioswales around the site also help to filter and absorb runoff from the parking lot and other hardscapes. All of these features added up to help make this building the first LEED Gold rated historic building in the country.