OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Oregon’s Green Building Community Sets Sights on National Research Center

02/20/2009

PORTLAND, Ore. – Leveraging Oregon’s reputation as one of the greenest states in the nation and the epicenter of green building, a group of Oregon business executives, academic researchers and government leaders is hoping to lure a national Green Building Research Center to the state.

The national center was one of a long list of goals, new materials, technologies and ideas discussed at recent meeting hosted by the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center, or Oregon BEST.

The goal of the gathering was to explore how the state’s academic research labs can collaborate with and meet the needs of local green building businesses to ensure Oregon remains a leading innovator of green building products, technologies and jobs.

Catherine Mater, president of Mater Engineering in Corvallis and the director of sustainability programs at Oregon State University’s College of Engineering, said Oregon is ideally positioned to build on its reputation to become the nation’s go-to place for green building innovation.

“We have the green building success stories, the science, and the solutions, and we have them all right here in Oregon,” she said, citing a new technology developed by OSU wood science professor Fred Kamke that transforms 10-year old hybrid poplar wood into a building material that’s structurally twice as good as the best old-growth Douglas fir on the market.

Kamke hopes to collaborate with a company that can develop his technology and produce sustainable building materials.

Almost 100 people from architecture firms, green developers, renewable energy companies, building contractors and university research labs discussed how better business-university-government collaboration will catalyze development of the green building industry in Oregon.

“Right now, Oregon has the opportunity to be the epicenter of the green building industry – right now,” said Steve Straus, president of Glumac International, a sustainable engineering firm with offices in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco. “But it’s a fleeting moment. We need green building leaders¬ – the people in this room – to step up and collaborate to make this happen.”

Many of the business people at the meeting were impressed by the breadth and depth of the green building research under way at the state’s universities.

“There are a ton of new products under development at Oregon universities that I had not heard about until today,” said Alan Hickenbottom, owner of Tanner Creek Energy, a developer of commercial and industrial scale solar electric systems in Oregon. “We need to promote Oregon, and these products, so that we become the center of the universe for this stuff.”

Dennis Wilde, principal of Gerding Edlen Development in Portland, said the meeting exceeded his expectations and helped attendees better understand the resources available at the university levels.

“Most of us from the private side had no idea how impressive the research side is,” Wilde said. “There are a lot of great, innovative areas where we can pursue some targeted research that can be quickly brought to market.”

Oregon BEST’s founding university partners are all doing green building research: the University of Oregon has a network of advanced solar energy research labs and its school of architecture. Oregon Institute of Technology is home to the Oregon Renewable Energy Center, OSU is developing and testing a wide range of new green building materials, and Portland State University has green roof and solar energy experts and is researching how entire buildings can integrate green building components.

Among the dozens of topics discussed at the meeting were:

•Integrating and implementing individual green building technologies to create living buildings that can attain a net-zero energy use.
•Using a tiny, distributed heating device that taps super-efficient microchannel technology developed at OSU and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to replace baseboard heaters.
•Involving social scientists in green building design and research to learn how occupants use buildings and how buildings function in relation to community, ecology, transportation and location.
•Creating a building science program to grow Oregon’s green building workforce.
•Designing buildings to provide ecosystems for species other than our own.
•Outfitting smart building with sensors and control systems that regulate and adjust automatically according to weather patterns and occupant behavior.
•Adding energy tags to buildings similar to the yellow stickers on appliances so buyers or occupants could see the efficiency level of a building before moving in or purchasing.
•Using recycled plastics formed into blocks for building insulation.
•Improving the durability of asphalt to enable infusing pavement with solar panel technologies.
•Boosting the insulating properties of green roofs and green walls.
•Offering incentives for using green building technologies.
•Sponsoring a requirement that a percentage of a building’s total construction costs fund innovative green building product development, in the way the Percent for Art program currently works in Oregon.