Oregon Sustainability Center

building partnerships : advancing best practices : creating green jobs

The OSC’s Top Five : a closer look at the project’s guiding principles


Last week’s charrette unearthed a profusion of ideas for designing the Oregon Sustainability Center. In the interest of developing a unified point of view, the project team has distilled those ideas down to the following guiding principles, which will drive the project forward in the coming months.

  1. Appropriately scale systems for optimal performance.
  2. Make less do more.
  3. Design for resource equity.
  4. Integrate natural systems to benefit all species.
  5. Recognize that people are the life in a living building.

We asked a few members of the project team to elaborate on these concepts. Here’s what they had to say.


1.     Appropriately scale systems for optimal performance.
As we consider systems that may be incorporated into the OSC, we need to determine the scale or size of the system that will provide the most cost- and resource-efficient delivery of services. Some systems make sense when applied at a building scale, while other systems may make more sense at a district scale, providing services to many buildings. We will evaluate best scale/performance options for the following systems:

•    Stormwater Management
•    Rainwater Harvesting
•    Wastewater Treatment
•    Treated Wastewater Distribution
•    Earth-coupled Energy Systems
•    Renewable Energy


2.    Make less do more

One way to significantly reduce the environmental impact of the OSC will be to reduce the total amount of materials used in the project, thereby reducing the resource investment in the manufacture, transport, installation and maintenance of those materials.  For this to be successful, those materials that are incorporated into the building must provide as many functions as possible. One example: Design a single structural system that…

o    Is exposed as a finish material for ceilings, floors and walls
o    Provides distribution of heating and cooling
o    Serves as a conduit for plumbing, electrical and telephone/data
o    Provides thermal mass for night-flushing and passive cooling


3.    Design for resource equity
As we evaluate resource budgets for the building, and in order to meet the Living Building Challenge, we must not only consider our own needs for resource use, but also ensure that we consider the needs of other species.  For instance, the Living Building Challenge requires that the building use only the water that falls on the site.  This can be used to provide the water budget for the building, to meet the needs of the occupants and equipment.  However, when we consider “water equity”, this begs the question: Is it fair to other species if we use all of the water that falls on the site, and what if every building did this?


4.    Integrate natural systems to benefit all species
Inclusion of natural systems is essential to the success of the OSC.  Dr. Judith Heerwagen’s presentation at the charrette and her ongoing work clearly show the value of incorporating biophilic design approaches into the workplace environment.  Literal, facsimile or representative systems from nature provide psychological as well as performance enhancements for humans.  At the same time, natural treatment systems for stormwater, wastewater and air quality provide an ecosystem service without significant chemical inputs and energy use.  Through thoughtful design, these systems can also provide habitat for other species and further enhance the local ecosystem.


5.    Recognize that people are the life in a Living Building
The Living Building Challenge represents a dramatic paradigm shift in the way that buildings are designed, built and occupied.  A vacant building can exist without any resource inputs, but once occupied, a building requires resources to support the health and wellbeing of the occupants.  The existing building stock does not provide occupants with information on building performance so that they can make informed decisions about resource use.  A Living Building provides occupants with a feedback loop on individual resource use and overall building performance as well as providing appropriate choices to support occupant comfort and well-being.  This approach necessitates the active participation of the people in the building to ensure that resource budgets are met for energy and water use in order to meet the net-zero energy and water prerequisites.  With this new approach, occupants become part of the essential functions of the building.

Thank you to the team at SERA and GBD for the illustrations. You can download the full collection here. And thank you to Ralph DiNola of Green Building Services for his extensive input.


Filed under: Design Progress, Project History

One Response

  1. […] revisiting the OSC’s top five guiding principles, which emerged from the design charrette held in early April, and reviewing the building site […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: