Edith Green: Combining Sustainability with Award-Winning Design
Last year, doors reopened at the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal building (EGWW) following an extensive redesign to bring efficiency, light and life back into the 40-year-old office tower.
On Friday, at AIA Portland’s award celebration, the chapter recognized the building with both a Merit award for design and the 2030 Challenge Design Award for sustainability in the office category. These honors illustrate SERA’s innovative approach to integrating sustainability strategies with beautiful design.
“Winning these two awards is particularly rewarding because they recognize the dual goals of the project,” said SERA Associate Principal Lisa Petterson. “From the start, we worked with Jim Cutler of Cutler Anderson Architects to create a building that emphasizes performance without compromising our strong design aesthetic.”
The awards join a growing list of accolades for EGWW, now a national model for energy efficient renovation.
But EGWW didn’t get its start that way.
Built in 1974, the 18-story office tower was originally sheathed in an uninsulated concrete façade. Time had rendered its mechanical, electrical, data and fire and life safety systems outdated and inefficient. And at the start of the renovation, workers routinely found light peeking through the building’s exterior.
For the building’s landlord, the U.S. General Services Administration, an upgraded building would need to meet the strict efficiency standards of a contemporary government building.
Working with those stringent energy and water conservation guidelines, SERA, along with Cutler Anderson Architects, executed a design that would exceed its requirements — and beautify a city block.
Today, EGWW’s distinctive exterior is a gem in Portland’s skyline. Glimmering green glass, vertical aluminum fins and climbing vines, and an angled roof set it apart from neighbors. But it’s how these elements interact with the interior that make this building truly green.
Each of the EGWW’s four curtain walls is uniquely designed to present a different face for each solar circumstance. A balance of warm light and cooling shade is achieved with reeds that reflect light deep into the building while filtering the sun’s direct rays.
Deciduous vines bridge the gap between natural and built environments, climbing up the aluminum reeds to provide additional screening, as well as habitat and color.
These shading elements reduce heating and cooling costs so well that the building now relies on a high-efficiency radiant system in its ceilings. This new system made it possible to raise ceiling heights and increase natural light to the otherwise deep floor plate.
Getting rid of the inefficient HVAC systems alone recovered 7,700 square feet of leasable penthouse space. EGWW now boasts an energy savings of 60 to 65 percent over a typical office building.
Capping the structure is its large, angled photovoltaic canopy, which shades the upper floors while also supplying around four percent of the building’s total energy needs.
The canopy roof is also a huge water conservation piece at EGWW.
On rainy Portland days, it collects rainwater and feeds it into a 165,000-gallon underground storage tank created from a former rifle range. That water is used to flush toilets, water plants, and provide makeup water for the mechanical cooling tower. This feature is expected to save more than two million gallons of water annually — enough water to fill three Olympic-size swimming pools — while mitigating the negative effects of urban runoff.
EGWW also has an impressive story of reuse.
More than 3,300 tons of precast concrete that made up the building’s original bulky and inefficient exterior is now road bed. Another 3,500 tons of removed materials were given new life: doors went to a village in Africa, water fountains to a church, and strips of mahogany were reborn as bike fenders at a local shop.
As for new materials used in the renovation, nearly 30 percent contain a high-recycled content.
For employees working in EGWW, the high marks for sustainability may be impressive. But it’s the bright, open and comfortable new work spaces that steal the show.
EGWW was certified LEED Platinum earlier this year.