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PAE Living Building in Portland Opens

PAE Living Building Portland ZGF Architects Apex Real Estate Partners Downtown Development Group Eden & Co. Walsh Construction

Portland, OR – The PAE Living Building, designed to meet the world’s most rigorous sustainability standards, has opened its doors in Portland, Oregon. The five-story, 58,000 SF mixed-use building, located in the city’s historic Old Town / Skidmore district, is the first developer-driven and largest commercial urban Living Building in the world.

Created in 2006, the Living Building Challenge (LBC) is the most stringent green building certification process that exists today. Project teams must meet seven key performance areas–known as Petals–that address every aspect of design, construction, and operations to achieve a resilient and self-sufficient building.

The PAE Living Building, located at 151 SW 1st Avenue, is designed to last 500 years. The approach marries the scale and feel of a historic neighborhood with the highest possible energy performance and sustainability standards necessary for the future. The building uses less energy, water, and material than comparable buildings while delivering superior levels of occupant comfort and productivity. Critically, the PAE Living Building demonstrates how the built environment can achieve the deep and immediate carbon emission reductions required to mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change. It shows the world what a regenerative future can look like while providing the roadmap for how to get there.

“We are thrilled to deliver Portland’s first Living Building,” said Paul Schwer, President of PAE. “Our building shows that sustainable, replicable solutions for our environment are optimal for everyone, from our community to our investors. This project meets the climate goals of our state and our country 30 years ahead of schedule.”

The PAE Living Building was privately developed and funded as a speculative office building through a partnership between Downtown Development Group, PAE, Edlen & Co., ZGF Architects, Walsh Construction Co., and Apex Real Estate Partners. Its success shows the private sector that meeting the highest sustainability aspirations for new buildings is truly achievable in a developer-driven model.

“Developer-driven and market-rate, the PAE Living Building demonstrates that similar projects are not only technically possible on a dense urban site, but they are also financially viable opportunities for private investors,” said Jill Sherman, Co-Founder, Edlen & Co. “Our early investor commitments helped mitigate the risk for the third-party cash investors who could have viewed this project as too risky during the initial phase of financing.”

Every aspect of the building’s design supports occupant health, comfort, and productivity: Red List-free materials, ample daylight, views, operable windows, and a fifth floor “deckony.” A term coined by the project architect, the deckony occupies 1,500 SF in the southeast corner, giving users year-round access to an open-air lounge area.

“The design team spent considerable time thinking about the building’s responsibility to the broader Northwest landscape, the waterfront, and the Willamette River,” said Kathy Berg, Partner, ZGF. “The result is a building rooted in Pacific Northwest history that also answers the demand for a drastically more sustainable future. Its quality, resiliency, and systems are designed to address the severity of the future climate challenges we face.”

Meeting the criteria of the seven LBC Petals—Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty—which are then subdivided into 20 Imperatives each focused on a specific sphere of influence, required every element in the building to serve multiple purposes. 

All of the PAE Living Building’s needs are met via onsite water capture, and onsite and offsite solar arrays. The building uses rainwater capture, greywater treatment, nutrient recovery, and a five-story vacuum flush composting system. By producing liquid fertilizer and agriculture-grade compost onsite, the circular system uses no city water and offers another income source for the building owners.

Using just one-fifth as much energy as a comparable building, photovoltaic (PV) panels produce 110% of the electricity needed via a PV-powered battery storage system with two-way power connection to the city’s utility network and electrical grid. Designed as a microgrid, it can operate off-grid at a reduced capacity: at low power in the summer months, the building can operate for up to 100 days off-grid.

“To address the climate crisis, we must make the use of cutting-edge technology and innovative design routine, not an exception to the rule. The PAE Living Building puts these principles into action and is a model for others to follow,” U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer said.

Over the next 12 months, the PAE Living Building will record, track, and report its performance data in accordance with the requirements outlined through each Imperative and Petal. It is expected to earn a full Living Building Challenge certification in the summer of 2023. 

For more information on the PAE Living Building, The PAE Living Building: Developer-Led, Nature-Inspired book is available from Ecotone Publishing Company: https://store.living-future.org/product/the-pae-living-building-developer-led-nature-inspired/83.

About PAE 

Established 55 years ago and stretching across five offices on the West Coast, PAE provides services in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering, building performance analysis, and technology and lighting design (LUMA). We work with clients to design the nation’s highest performing and most regenerative built environments that keep people comfortable, healthy, and productive inside while restoring the natural world outside. Learn more at www.pae-engineers.com and www.lumald.com.

About ZGF 

With our origins in Oregon, attention to craft and beauty is elemental to the ZGF culture. A deep respect for the built environment evolved from reverence for the surrounding natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest landscape and a commitment to stewardship of the natural environment. Rather than reflecting a signature style, our work is derived from the particulars of the climate, context, and human experience. The instinct to build community, making places where people come together for a common purpose, is central to our work. Learn more at www.zgf.com.

About Edlen & Co. 

Edlen & Company is a mission-driven real estate investment, development, and asset management firm at the intersection of environmental stewardship, social sustainability, and responsible growth. Founded by Mark Edlen, Roger Krage, Jill Sherman, and Matt Edlen, the firm connects people to opportunity and expands the boundaries of sustainability through innovative and collaborative partnerships. Find us at www.edlenandco.com.

About Walsh Construction Co.

Since 1961, Walsh Construction Co. has worked with organizations that make fundamental contributions to the community. With four offices throughout the Northwest, we are committed to understanding and supporting our clients’ missions. We are passionate about building responsibly for a sustainable future and in the delivery of high-performance, green buildings. We place a high priority on creating healthy, durable, and highly energy-efficient buildings, understanding that a building which uses less energy will reduce environmental impacts and operating costs. We have an exceptional level of expertise in wood-framed buildings, as well as a broad spectrum of other construction types, including concrete, structural steel, mass timber (CLT), and modular construction. Walsh is committed to diversity within our own ranks, and with our business and trade partners. Internally, we build a culture of community and inclusion for our employees, one where they are empowered to demonstrate our company value of generosity by giving back to the broader community. We are about the marathon, not the sprint—we understand that partnership and innovation take time through investment in people and ideas. Learn more at www.walshconstruction.com.

About the Living Building Certification

Living Building Certification is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. A building that achieves Living Building Certification must meet all performance imperatives of seven Petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Three of the most notable requirements are that the building must 1) generate all of its own energy, 2) capture and treat all of its water onsite, and 3) meet the imperatives of the Materials Petal. Living Buildings achieve their full certification after one year of occupancy. Learn more at https://living-future.org/lbc/.