Resiliency: Our Sustainability Celebration + Design Week Portland events

by | May 5, 2017 3 Ideas, Sustainability

In a first for SERA, we coupled our 2017 Sustainable Action Celebration with a Design Week Portland session in back-to-back events last week.

Our celebration comes on the heels of the AIA’s recent report “The Habits of High-Performance Firms,” which highlights SERA’s four AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten project wins. The report attributes our green portfolio of work to the culture of sustainability we foster in our offices.

Our Director of Sustainability Mark Perepelitza outlined some of those efforts in his introduction, which include everything from purchasing 100% carbon offsets; to our public stance on building standards and carbon emissions legislation; and now the holistic planning of our future Portland office.

Rebecca Grace and Mark Perepelitza kick off our Resiliency-themed SAC Celebration. At SERA, we build in layers of durability and adaptability through strategies that allow our places and spaces to thrive during periods of normal operation.

In considering more broadly what sustainability means in 2017, the theme of this year’s celebration was Resilience – the idea that our buildings and communities should seek positive ways to prepare for immediate and long-term stressors, whether it’s a Cascadian Subduction Zone earthquake or slower transformations like gentrification, sea-level rising, or an economic downturn.

Led by Rebecca Grace, the Sustainable Action Committee debuted a new 360-degree graphic linking the guiding principles outlined in last year’s Sustainable Action Plan update (PDF) to a proposed framework for resilient design at SERA. The diagram provides a visual snapshot of a project’s resilience in three main categories: Sustainable Placemaking, Human Health and Wellbeing, and Resource Management.

Here’s how a few of our projects were rated on resilience by their project teams. Dotted lines indicate the level of resiliency before SERA intervention; the yellow lines mark the achievements of the completed project.

Following the SAC Celebration, the public was invited in for our Portland Design Week session applying our approach to resilience to the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. Through a series of active visioning exercises, SERA staff served as facilitators and graphic note takers (for those less inclined to draw) and together with our guests we dove in with markers and maps.

SERA employees lead a mapping exercise with guests for our Design Week Portland session.

All together, these exercises elicited a number of bold but entirely achievable ideas that could help to bolster our community’s resilience. As you can imagine, we covered a lot of ground, and are now working to formalize this information into something that can be shared publicly.

Please stay tuned for this forthcoming update!

Thanks to our Sustainable Action Committee and Design Week volunteers, led by Rebecca Grace and Josh Cabot, for two wonderful events!


  1. Drake Wauters says |

    Fashion cycles applied to architecture could also be a major stressor. So many projects are based on the root desire to update subjective aesthetics but outwardly defended with objective concepts. The resulting cost to society in climate and wealth is massive. If we were frank about the drivers to replace our built environment so frequently, we would find that modest renovation and adaptive uses would be the vast norm rather than a sidebar.

  2. Sustainability comes in many different forms, and often how the construction fits into the environment its built in plays a huge role. The building should merge gracefully with the natural surroundings, whether that means being built with earthquake zones in mind, or in an aesthetic way that optimizes sunlight filtering into the home. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Josh Cabot says |

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment, Mary. Context matters tremendously, and often I/we find that the constraints introduced by a project’s surrounding environment often create the conditions for the most interesting design moves. Design is a lot of fun in a “yes, and” mode, where design elements pull double and triple duty, for instance something like a tensegrity structure could be designed that flexibly distributes seismic stresses while also using its lattice-like framework to create a compelling volume for bringing in daylight…hmmmm, time to sketch!

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