The Oregon Sustainability Center is getting ready to build the largest Living Building Challenge-certified office tower in the world. The Portland-based skyscraper is being developed using the LBC’s doctrine of neither taking resources nor causing environmental harm — this means that the building will produce all of its own water sources and energy. That’s a tall order for a tower, but the collection of non-profits that comprise the Center, along with a strong community, feel up to it. Ground breaking is projected to start by the end of the year.
To achieve a net-zero energy footprint the building uses many passive design features. These include a floor plan and building materials that maximize natural cooling in the building, which mean that they will forgo any traditional AC. Natural lighting is, of course, a big part of the design. Just as important is a system that provides feedback to the occupants, to assist them in reducing personal energy consumption, which is upwards of 40% of the building’s total energy footprint. Because the energy load is so greatly reduced, a series of solar panel arrays will allow them to realize net-zero energy consumption. The panels will also shade windows and provide outdoor covered spaces.
The grey-water from toilets will be recycled using a living machine system and then treated and discharged within the development’s footprint. Rainwater will be collected for irrigating the many trees and plants that will be incorporated to make the space feel more natural for its fortunate occupants and visitors. The building will be used as a laboratory and educational facility to substantiate the Living Building Challenge. Many building professionals believe this system to be the next step beyond LEED certification.