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january 2014
guest feature article

2013 Was a Record Year for Ecoroof Construction in Portland, Oregon


By Casey Cunningham
Landscape Architect
City of Portland’s Sustainable Stormwater Division

All Photos and Graphics Courtesy of the City of Portland






2013 was the biggest year yet for ecoroof installation in Portland, Oregon.  Forty-one extensive ecoroof projects were installed across the city in 2013 totaling 135,000 square feet of new soil and vegetation.  The previous high was set in 2008 with 120,000 square feet, followed closely by 116,000 square feet in 2012.

 The new Walmart Portland Supercenter in Delta Park Center.


The new Walmart at Delta Park opened in November, 2013 with the largest contiguous ecoroof in Portland, measuring 37,000 square feet.  The City of Portland will monitor stormwater runoff from this roof to gain insight on how ecoroofs on warehouse-type buildings perform compared to the smaller ecoroofs that have been traditionally monitored.  Portland State University will study the energy and temperature benefits the ecoroof provides both inside and outside of the building, while avian and macroinvertebrate studies are planned to help identify how wildlife use a large vegetated roof near the Columbia River.

 The Performing Arts Building at Reed College.

College and University Ecoroofs:

Reed College recently completed its first ecoroof on the new Earth Advantage gold-certified Performing Arts Building.  The ecoroof boasts plant species native to the state and rare to ecoroofs, including succulent cacti, lewisias and sedums, as well as ferns, and will be monitored by the College’s Biology Department.  The ecoroof masks views of the parking lot from the adjacent outdoor seating terrace, visually connecting with the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden across the street and the West Hills beyond.

Portland Community College also installed its first ecoroof, retrofitting 4,600 square feet of conventional roofing with new soil and vegetation over classrooms adjacent to the Willamette River.  Portland State University capped a new housing building in downtown Portland with 5,400 square feet of extensive ecoroof, adding to their growing stock of vegetated roofs.

The Emery Apartments in the South Waterfront district.

Mixed Use, Residential and Municipal Ecoroofs:

New ecoroofs include the mixed-use Linden Apartments in southeast Portland, with over 25,000 square feet of vegetated roof, 17,000 of which is extensive and planted with a variety of sedum species.  The Emery Apartments at South Waterfront is another mixed-use development with 9,300 square feet of extensive ecoroof planted in grasses and succulents.

A new single-family residence in southeast Portland.

Over 16,000 square feet of ecoroof area was built on single-family residential structures in 2013, the most we’ve had for this building type.  Nine of those houses were constructed with 100% ecoroof coverage, which is a promising new trend.  One of these was a retrofit and the rest were new construction.  It was also the strongest year for municipal ecoroofs, with two 10,000 square foot ecoroofs installed on new buildings at the City of Portland’s Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant.

One of the ecoroofs on the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Non-Profit and Community-Driven Ecoroofs:

The new seven-story MacDonald West Apartments brings affordable housing to Old Town and is capped with 3,500 square feet of ecoroof.  The new Outdoor Adventure play area at the Portland Children’s Museum looks over an amphitheater with a stage covered by 750 square feet of ecoroof, nestled against the conifers of Washington Park.  The new NE 72nd Avenue Community Garden in Cully Park includes two small ecoroofs.  A coalition of 15 organizations drove this community-led project which brings open-space, education and economic opportunities to a park-deficient neighborhood.

  A developing park in northeast Portland includes the 72nd Avenue Community Garden seen here.

Ecoroof Costs:

Ecoroof costs continued to vary widely across the design spectrum in 2013.  Based on the project reports we received from recipients of the Ecoroof Incentive, costs (which don’t include membranes or other elements common to all roofing projects) ranged from under $3 per square foot to over $40, with the median project costing between six and seven dollars per square foot.  The median ecoroof size was 2,300 square feet.

The Linden Apartments in southeast Portland.

Ecoroof Incentives:

The Ecoroof Incentive helped fund many of the 2013 projects.  The incentive offered five dollars per square foot of ecoroof built, beginning in 2008 and ending in 2013.  Since the late 1990s, over 560 extensive and intensive greenroofs have been installed in Portland, totaling more than 38 acres.  The development of supporting policies like the ecoroof Floor Area Ratio Bonus, the Stormwater Management Manual, the City Green Building Policy and the Ecoroof Incentive helped build the momentum that led to a record-breaking 2013.

We invite you to attend and stay tuned for more info on the sixth annual Portland Ecoroof Symposium to be held on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 - more information coming soon from the Portland Ecoroof Program.

Casey Cunningham

Publisher's Note:  Also read Casey's March 16, 2012 Guest Feature "Portland Builds Over 100,000 Square Feet of Greenroofs in 2011."

In September 2011, the City of Portland BES participated in's inaugural Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit.  Read my Sky Gardens Blog post about it, and see their awesome "The Portland Ecoroof Program: A Cross-section of the Green Roof Movement in Portland, Oregon" video presentation on our GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube.

Casey Cunningham
Landscape Architect
City of Portland’s Sustainable Stormwater Division

Casey Cunningham has been a landscape architect with the City of Portland’s Sustainable Stormwater Division for eight years.  He designs green streets and other low-impact, vegetated systems that manage stormwater while improving wildlife habitat and adding green (=dirt and plants) to urban spaces.  Casey monitors ecoroofs for their value to birds and insects.

Contact Casey at:

The opinions expressed by our Guest Feature writers and editors may not necessarily reflect the beliefs of, and are offered to our readers to simply present individual views and experiences and open a dialogue of further discussion, debate and research.  Enjoy, and if you have a particular comment, please contact the author or send us an email to:


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