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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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The owner and property manager, PSU and College Housing Northwest, started out with the goal of building a demonstration project that exemplifies sustainability.  To bring this vision to reality, the two groups made steps to integrate this objective into the development process as early as possible.  PSU issued an RFQ containing language that indicated its objectives for sustainability.  Project manager Burt Ewart notes that a disproportionate amount of weight was given to design teams who have more than just a LEED building or two under their belt and truly live and breath green; “The architect and general contractor were hand-picked for their greenness”. 

The project team hired PGE Green Building Services to facilitate an ecocharrette that included representation from the entire design team, City representatives, and PSU students.  The goal of the ecocharrette was to capture an array of ideas that would increase the sustainability of the project, discover synergies between these ideas, and craft a sustainable development action plan.  The design team was already experienced in using the LEED green building rating system so it was used as a format to organize the ecocharrette. 

Prior to the ecocharrette, the architecture firm composed a LEED scorecard that identified pathways by which the project could earn basic certification and silver LEED ratings.  Also, a chart was produced that allocated LEED documentation responsibilities among the team and served as a reminder and checklist throughout the process.  In the end, Ewart estimates that 80-90% of the ideas emerging from the ecocharrette carried over into the design and construction.

Runnels at Epler Hall The desire to build an extensive rainwater harvesting system as the project’s signature feature emerged during the ecocharrette and PSU applied for supportive grants soon thereafter.  This turned out to be instrumental in securing the system’s inclusion in the project.  Ewart notes, “Obtaining grants for the rainwater harvesting system and ecocharrette were key.  The grants guaranteed that the process and systems could not be value-engineered out.” 

Keys to Success - Pre-design:
  • Include sustainability objectives in RFQ & RFP language
  • Hold an ecocharrette to brainstorm strategies for integrating sustainability into the project and allocate tracking, documentation, and other responsibilities.
  • Identify and secure funding sources for most valued project systems and processes early in the project.