Breaking through the clouds upon
descent into Portland's PDX displayed brilliant hues of yellow, orange and
red leaves sparkling along the waterways and among feathery dark evergreen
forests, set against majestic Mt. Hood.
This tallest peak in Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range serves as a backdrop to
this truly beautiful natural landscape and city skyline. Crisp October air
greeted Aramis and me as we ventured into the city for a quick visit to see
a few of the area's most prominent extensive greenroofs - or ecoroofs, as
they are more commonly referred to here.
The Rose City
Known as "The Rose City" for its famous yearly Rose Festival and The Grand
Floral Parade in early June, Portland OR could also be easily known as "The
Eco City" or perhaps even "The Green City" because of their ongoing
commitment to preserving the magnificent waterways and forests while
promoting sustainable design and development through progressive urban
policies. In fact, the Portland Oregon's Visitors Association motto is "It's
not easy being green," but they appear to execute this philosophy
Portland OR and the Willamette
Portland's population is 538,180 with 1.95 million in the metropolitan area,
yet is also a family friendly, walkable and bikable city of funky and hip
neighborhoods offering a vast array of vintage stores and eclectic boutiques
with innovative restaurants and a flourishing arts scene. In 1998,
Walking Magazine declared Portland as one of America’s best walking
towns, and this year it was voted "the best running town" from Runner's
Farmer's markets, fresh seafood, vegetarian, Asian, and Northwest cuisine
abound, and some say Portland's wine country is considered to be the next
Napa Valley. Native American, Asian, and all sorts of sophisticated,
eclectic and bohemian art culture can be explored as well as the equally
eclectic array of bookstores, coffeehouses, pubs, and of course, breweries.
Today, more than 25 craft breweries have earned Portland the nickname "Münich
on the Willamette" with a total 40 microbreweries and brewpubs located in
the Portland area. For those who don't want to walk, public transportation
is both accessible and user-friendly with the MAX Light rail trains, the
Portland Streetcar and an easy-to-navigate bus system that moves riders
through town efficiently - and all offer free service within the downtown
area. Golf, year-round skiing, fishing, and biking are all popular sports in
this outdoor oriented city. Bicycling magazine ranked Portland the
United States’ top cycling city the last two years running due in part to
their expansive bike-friendly paths.
Parks, Trails and Greenspaces
Parks, trails and greenspaces abound with 37,000 acres of parks in the metro
area, including the 5,000-acre Forest Park, the nation’s largest urban
wilderness for hiking and biking. A few of the most prominent gardens
include the 4.5 acre International Rose Test Garden, located in Washington
Park, housing more than 560 rose varieties; the world famous
showcasing five traditional garden styles on 5.5 acres designed to recapture
the ambience of ancient Japan; and the
Chinese Garden, built by artisans from Suzhou, China, and winding
through serpentine walkways of foliage, lakes, pavilions and courtyards.
Check out all the beautiful parks
The official website for Portland, Oregon is
check out this extremely informative site for everything you would like to
know about Portland. For those of you attending the Green Roof
Conference in 2004 or considering a vacation, you may request a Portland
Visitor Guide and Brochure
Ecological Design and Landscape Architecture
Many examples of sustainable design include a new 13-story apartment that
will recycle rainwater to flush toilets in all apartments which will be the
first of its kind in the state; a water quality lab in north Portland by
Murase Associates; stormwater planters at the Portland Convention Center
addition by Mayer Reed; a new park being developed in the Pearl District by
GreenWorks and Herbert Dreiseitl; and Zenger Farm is converting an old farm
in outer southeast Portland into a sustainable urban agriculture, stormwater
management, community development and sustainable design center by Pivot
Design & Consulting.
Green planning takes some creative solutions to big city problems, and
Portland is in the middle of a $1 billion federally mandated sewer project.
According to the city's Clean River Works
combined sewer overages (CSOs) occur nearly every time it rains in Portland.
During a CSO, stormwater quickly fills the combined sewers, which carry both
sanitary sewage and runoff from streets, parking lots, and rooftops.
The overflows carry bacteria from the untreated sewage as well as other
pollutants in the stormwater directly into the river. Currently,
Portland's Department of Environmental Services is building a pipeline on
the west side of the Willamette River, a large pump station on Swan Island,
and designing an east side pipeline. By diverting stormwater out of
the combined sewer system with these and other projects, the City expects to
reduce CSO volume to the river by 94%. All Willamette River CSO
projects are projected for completion by 2011.
Apartments in mid-
town Portland; Photo © Tom Liptan
Ecoroofs have been deemed a viable stormwater mitigation tool here since the
late 1990's due to a very informed and open city government and the
concerted efforts of a few key figures, most notably Tom Liptan, ASLA.
A landscape architect and stormwater specialist for the City of Portland OR,
Bureau of Environmental Services, Tom has been the pioneering
advocate for ecoroofs in Portland and
is largely responsible for introducing greenroofs here. People say
Tom has probably done the most to promote ecoroofs in the immediate area,
due to his passion for the subject and his position in the city. He is the
de facto leader of the movement and the go-to guy for quotes and information
(see contact info below).
In fact, Tom is
credited with installing the first designed Portland ecoroof atop his
flat 10 x 18’ garage in 1997-
see The Greenroof Projects Database,
Liptan Greenroof Garage.
According to Anthony Roy of the City of Portland's Office of Sustainable
Development, a beautiful residence with a flat roof in a wealthy
neighborhood in Portland has allowed mosses and grasses to take over, and
the result is a very nice greenroof that has been there for over a decade;
so although unintentionally, this is deemed the first - albeit "natural."
Now-Famous Garage Ecoroof in July, 2000
Listen to Tom Liptan present a free seminar at
the PSU Seminar Day,
"Greenroofs for Healthy and Sustainable Cities" on Saturday November 8,
2003 at 2
pm. He will explain what greenroofs are and how they offer an exciting
and effective technique for addressing urban health and sustainability.
Other champions include current City
Commissioner Dan Saltzman and County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey.
And Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services is a major player in funding
and promotion while the Office of Sustainable Development's Green Building
program has been instrumental in making many projects happen.
The Bureau of Environmental Services (BES)
serves the Portland Oregon community by protecting public health, water
quality and the environment, and is Portland's Clean River agency. BES
treats Portland's wastewater, provides stormwater drainage services, and
works in Portland watersheds to reduce stormwater pollution, restore native
vegetation, and improve the quality of water in area rivers and streams.
The mission of Portland’s Office of Sustainable
Development is to research, promote and integrate environmental, social and
economic health. They provide information on how to make a real
difference in homes, businesses and within the community.
Gardens; Photo Courtesy Anthony Roy
Kristin Godkin of Carleton Hart Architecture says, "Many others have been
very influential in getting people on board with projects and technology -
Anthony Roy and Greg Haines with Ecoroofs Everywhere, Pat Lando of Lando &
Associates Landscape Architecture, and Patrick Carey with the Northwest
EcoBuilding Guild in Seattle. Magnus Bernhardt of AEI gave a great
presentation on Malmö, Sweden greenroofs, and Jason King of Macdonald Environmental Planning
has given presentations at a few conferences and for groups in the area to
educate people on ecoroofs. Dave Andrews at Pro-Gro has done a bunch of
research on soils for ecoroofs and is always willing to offer advice. Don
from Squaw Mountain is the major Sedum guy, and donates cuttings for
projects pretty readily."
Several greenroof manufacturers and providers have been involved with early
ecoroofs, in particular the Garland Company, W. P. Hickman and Famos, but it
appears not any one company has had much impact locally. Many area
ecoroofs have also been designed with non-proprietary systems using local
The U.S. Leader in Economic Incentives for Greenroofs
Arguably, Chicago and Portland head the list of cities who are actively
promoting the development of greenroofs. But, currently the city of
Portland, OR, is leading the way in the U.S. with aggressive sustainable
design measures that include economic incentives. In July, 2002, the
City of Portland Office of Sustainable Development (OSD) introduced
"Portland LEED," the first
U.S. Green Building Council
(USGBC) approved local supplement to the USGBC Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design rating system. In early 2003 the City of Portland
developed a 12-page Questions and Answers brochure on green roofing, see
measures are in place in Portland to make ecoroof construction easier on the
wallet, and a third is being worked on. First, "All building projects
in the city that will result in at least 500 square feet (46 square meters)
of impervious surface are required to implement stormwater pollution
reduction and flow control measures, and ecoroofs are one of the acceptable
measures." Second, builders can now increase their floor area ratio
(FAR) when they include a greenroof to cover a minimum of 60% of the roof
surface. In March 2001 Portland created a FAR bonus which grants an
additional three square feet of floor area per square foot of greenroof to
be added to the footprint of the building.
third measure plans for Portland to reduce stormwater utility fees for
buildings with greenroofs by July, 2006. The City's "Clean River
Incentive and Discount Program" is aimed at ecoroofs atop commercial,
industrial, institutional, multi-family and single family residential
properties. They had hoped for the program to be in place by now, but
logistics regarding the current utility billing system need to be worked
out. Replacement of the system has delayed implementation of the new
discount program. For more links and complete information, see
Rain greeted us on our quick visit to three Portland area greenroofs,
starting with the
Multnomah County Multnomah Building where we were
graciously escorted on a guided tour by Brian Carleton, principal of
Carleton Hart Architecture and Alan Proffitt, Project Manager Lead with
Multnomah County (click
see the entire design team).
Multnomah County Multnomah Building ~ Upon exiting the 5th floor
elevator, the greenroof truly took my breath away as the panorama of
wildflowers, grasses and sedums were immediately visible from the vast
expanse of picture windows. Completed in July, 2003, the greenroof
encompasses the total fifth floor area of 15,420 sf, with planted area of
11, 893 sf. Designed as Portland's first public greenroof
demonstration garden, the Multnomah Building project converted an existing
flat roof into a powerful green opportunity for education for a number of
user groups. Descriptive interpretive signs allow for easy access to
Greenroof; Photo Courtesy Carleton Hart Architects
Macdonald Environmental Planning, p.c. was the Landscape Architect for the
project, with Jason King, ASLA , acting as Project Manager (Jason has a
couple of other ecoroof projects in Portland). Three distinct
opportunities for education were addressed as part of the process in the
development process for the Multnomah Building Greenroof: 1) public
accessibility 2) interpretive activities, and 3) free sharing of data
between professionals. The desire is for the specifics of these aspects can
form a basic model for incorporating education into future greenroof
projects of any scale.
Overhead View of the
Multnomah County Greenroof;
Photo Courtesy Carleton Hart Architects
plan view shows the flow of the serpentine raised bed hardscape which also
serves as a seating wall for visitors. Since the greenroof itself is
not accessible, this bed displays representative project plant material.
Six inches of lightweight growing mix accommodates succulents, perennials,
annuals and grasses. Water entering drains for a portion of the roof
will be monitored for a number of factors to quantify the greenroof benefits
and increase public knowledge.
Ecotrust's Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center ~
Ecotrust is a
conservation non-profit based in Portland working to support the emergence
of a conservation economy within its bioregion - the Pacific coastal
temperate rainforest - which extends from San Francisco to Anchorage,
Alaska. Ecotrust's mission is to build Salmon Nation, a place where
people and wild salmon thrive, and they offer a toolkit with GIS services,
several publications and online resources.
Deck and Fireplace, Flanked by Ecoroofs
Photo Courtesy Sydney Mead
In 2001 they restored the Natural Capital Center providing a conference and
gathering place for the discussion, creation, and distribution of
environmentally and socially responsible ideas, goods and services.
three-story building, originally a warehouse built in 1895, was restored using
several green building strategies.
Ecotrust's Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center was awarded the first gold
level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for any
building in Oregon in December, 2001.
Vollum Natural Capital Center Ecoroof; Test Plot for Growing Medium.
Photos by Linda S. Velazquez - October 29, 2003
Sydney Mead, Natural Capital Center Programs Manager, showed us around the
third floor outdoor area which houses a deck and fireplace - see above - and
wrap- around ecoroofs. She told us how certain plants
and growing substrates are being monitored by volunteers and have been
adjusted to better see which varieties and mixes are best suited to the
climate. Volunteer plants, such as clover, have been left for further
study of survivability, and areas have been roped off designating different
Brewery Blocks ~
Developed by Gerding/Edlen Development Company, Renée Worme,
Project Management, graciously allowed Aramis and me into their offices
almost at closing time to get a view of the expansive M Financial Plaza
greenroof (Block 4).
M Financial Plaza
Greenroofs, designed by Perron Collaborative;
Photos Courtesy Perron Collaborative
Recently completed in March with Perron Collaborative as the ecoroof
designer, the growth media depths fluctuate within the
13,000 sf custom greenroof, ranging from 2" to 12" for an undulating effect.
The plants have done well and the design is quite pleasing, visible to
hundreds of people in neighboring offices. Gerding/ Edlen is also
developing nearby Block 5 with ecoroofs, and the Broadway Housing Project -
Like most major
cities, intensive greenroofs have existed in Portland for years. For
example, the Terry Shrunk Plaza is a landscaped park above a parking garage
across the street from City Hall dating back to the 1970’s. I sent out
a questionnaire to the major players on the ecoroof scene and received some
interesting information, presented here. Just
about every architecture and design firm in Portland is addressing
sustainability these days, and many are designing with extensive greenroofs.
At present, approximately 25 or so are complete or in various construction
stages, with a handful more expected by Spring 2004 - and numerous others
are in the initial stages of design. The applications to building
types and sizes run the gamut from single and multi-family residential,
lodging, city government, fire station, food co-op, university, and
commercial to numerous kiosks and test plots.
The current proliferation of extensive greenroofs are too many to
name here, but here are a few - look for case studies of these soon under
Broadway Housing Project & Eco Roof ~ The largest ecoroof in Portland
is currently being installed on Portland State University's (PSU) Broadway
Housing project. OTAK Architects is providing design services for Gerding/Edlen
Development and PSU on this 212,095 sf, ten-story, mixed-use building located
adjacent to the PSU campus. Currently under construction, the student
housing/classroom/retail building will provide 384 studio apartment units,
15,230 sf of retail space at street level, and 17,910 sf of classroom space at
the second level.
Judd Janes, Project Manager, says "In keeping with both the developer and
University’s goals for sustainability, this project is pursuing a LEED™
Silver rating. Key sustainable features of the project include an 18,201 sf eco
roof, high-efficiency fixtures, and locally and sustainably harvested materials
The ecoroof's environmental benefits include decreasing stormwater runoff,
energy savings due to the roof's insulating properties, and reducing pollution
The ecoroof also helps earn points in several
LEED™ categories. The City of
Portland also offers a 3 to 1 building
square footage bonus if actual ecoroof area exceeds 60% of actual roof area, a
target this project achieved.
Courtesy The Garland Co.
Hamilton West Building ~
In 1999, the
City of Portland, Oregon and the Portland Housing Authority added an 8,500
square foot greenroof atop a 10-story apartment building - the first of its
kind in Portland. The ecoroof covers 60% of the roof. The
building was designed by OTAK Architects, the greenroof system used is the
Garland Company's GreenShield program and the waterproofing is Garland's
StressPly Plus polymer modified membrane. Many low growing sedums,
such as Sedum oreganum, and other succulents provide groundcover with some
native wildflowers and grasses for accents. The roof was irrigated the
first year for proper plant and root establishment and is flourishing nicely
- see the case study under Projects.
Sokol Blosser Barrel Cellar ~ SERA
architects designed a wine storage facility at a local vineyard that has a
greenroof akin to an earth shelter - see below. In December 2002, Sokol
Blosser became the nation's first winery to be awarded the prestigious LEED 2.0
Silver Level Certification by the US Green Building Council. The new cellar,
with barrel capacity of 900 barrels, features a chamber located underground to
take advantage of the natural cooling properties of the soil. The cellar also
features a living roof, covered with the same wildflower cover crops used
throughout the vineyard to encourage biodiversity.
Greenroof Related Organizations and Designers
stated earlier, most designers now are either exploring or actively
promoting sustainable design in general and greenroofs in particular.
The following list is by no means complete, but these names appeared most on
Carleton Hart Architecture designed the Multnomah County Building and
are committed to ecological alternatives, especially greenroofs.
Their areas of expertise include housing, master planning, religious
facilities, special care, renovation, revitalization, community centers,
mixed-use, and feasibility studies.
Courtesy Anthony Roy
is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the regional use of
vegetated rooftops through low cost community-based projects and public
education. To date, Ecoroofs Everywhere has designed and installed
five residential scale ecoroofs; a sixth will be installed on November 8
with a seventh project planned for early spring 2004 - please read about
their mission and happenings on the Home Page under Guest Feature Article.
Ecoroofs Everywhere has done a ton to promote ecoroofs in the area - through
community education, visibility, and installations - all with little or no
Pat Lando of Lando & Associates Landscape Architecture has several area
projects, and is also an early Portland advocate. Their design
practices embrace sustainable landscapes with an emphasis on native
vegetation and cost-effective 'green' technologies, and services include
ecoroof consultation - specification, design, and specialty inspection.
Macdonald Environmental Planning p.c. is a design-oriented firm involved
in a wide variety of projects, primarily in landscape architecture, master
planning, and environmental consulting. They were the landscape architect
for the Multnomah County Building Green Roof, and Project Manager Jason
King, ASLA has completed a number of other ecoroof projects in the Portland
Pivot Design & Consulting is dedicated to sustainable and
regenerative design strategies and technologies that integrate community
development, architecture and site planning. Current projects include
habitat enhancement at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, the
development of an urban farm park in Portland, and greenroofs and site
design for a watershed research center in Nashville, Tennessee.
Portland State University (PSU) has been actively involved in not only
building greenroofs on campus but encouraging study of them since the late
1990's. Several students are working on various projects.
The 2nd Annual International Greening Rooftops for Sustainable
Communities Conference, Awards and Trade Show
The City of Portland, OR is proud to co-host next year's 2nd Annual
International Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference,
Awards and Trade Show with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities on June 2, 3, and
4. Steven Peck, Executive Director of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities,
expects over 750 international experts and delegates from diverse fields to
share knowledge about the benefits of greenroofs, new research findings,
policy developments, and the latest in greenroof products and services.
Greenroofs.com will once again have an exhibit booth - make sure to stop by
if you attend! Greenroof tours will be available, this time organized
through walking, cycling and self-guided tours. New for 2004 will be a
greenroof training course and an international business opportunities
reception. For complete Conference information see
www.greenroofs.ca/grhcc and stay updated here, too. Greenroofs.com is
proud to be a member of this industry organization and we look forward to
welcoming new members at the Conference. If you would like information
on trade show booths, sponsorship or membership, please email
Contact info for the City of Portland, OR:
Bureau of Environmental Services - Phone 503.873.7267
Office of Sustainable Development - Phone 503.823.7616;
To learn more about Portland OR, click
on the following books:
Next month I will be exploring the bustling city of London, England and
examining their greening initiatives. Join me as I visit some
greenroofs and area experts in academics, business and ecological