Construction of the Portland Building was completed in 1982, making the building 35 years old as of 2017. Building design, the result of a national design competition, is credited to renowned architect Michael Graves, with support from the associate firm Emery Roth & Sons of New York. It was the first major Post-Modern architectural expression to be fully realized and, as such, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
The construction was unique in that it was one of the first design-build arrangements in the country, involving a project management firm, two architects, two contractors, and a structural engineer. This was well documented to have led to communication problems, process issues, and change orders during construction that were not fully evaluated. The use of both the design competition and the design-build arrangement for construction were motivated by the City’s low budget for the new building.
Since completion, the building’s exterior envelope has presented numerous chronic signs of compromise and failure. These have resulted in water penetration, air infiltration, damage to interior finishes, mold, and frequent discomfort of occupants. For exterior envelope issues alone, there have been studies done in every decade of the building’s 32 year history, starting as early as six years after completion (see Previous Study/Repair Timeline).
During that time, there were nine major maintenance projects to address water infiltration. Structural studies have also been undertaken and structural repairs completed, including a significant repair of the 15th floor in 1995. Despite the numerous studies and repairs, overarching system issues were never fully resolved. Seismic deficiencies initially discovered in 1995 were not deemed significant enough by the 1997 City Council to justify the costs of seismic upgrades.
In 2008, Facilities initiated another phase of study and repair. This phase included replacement of the leaking membrane roofs at the 2nd and 3rd floor roof levels; replacement of the leaking membrane roof at the 14th floor roof level; and replacement of the leaking exterior envelope of the penthouse. It was determined at that time that additional phases would be necessary to address other ongoing envelope issues.