What does it take to turn Portland’s largest office building into a high-performing green building? Decades-long commitment and many incremental changes along the way to sustainability
by JP Crowe
Portland’s iconic U.S. Bancorp Tower, nicknamed “Big Pink,” is the largest Class-A office building in Oregon. At 42 stories and over 1.2 million square feet, this downtown landmark accommodates approximately 5,000 people on a daily basis. It is, therefore, no small feat that this past April, U.S. Bancorp Tower attained LEED Platinum certification for Existing Buildings.
This is no overnight success story. Since taking over ownership and management of U.S. Bancorp Tower in 2000, Unico has been committed to transforming it into a high-performance green building. Big Pink first achieved LEED Silver certification in 2009. LEED Gold was achieved six years later in 2015, and finally, in 2018, we achieved LEED Platinum. We were honored to celebrate this outstanding achievement in October at a LEED plaque ceremony presented by USGBC’s Kimberly Lewis, Senior Vice President of Market Transformation and Development.
Improving the performance of a building of this size has required a multifaceted approach that involves the implementation of projects large and small: HVAC equipment upgrades, LED lighting, plumbing fixture retrofits, incremental improvements in energy management and new waste diversion tactics. A sustainable building today is a smart building that uses a real-time data analytics platform to diagnose issues quickly and maintain a constant state of ultra-high efficiency.
Such an achievement doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our success has been made possible by rich collaborative partnerships with a local network of sustainability partners including The North West Energy Efficiency Alliance, The Energy Trust of Oregon, Energy 350 and forward-looking utility programs from PGE and Pacific Power. Improving the business case of energy-efficient upgrades has been a crucial aspect of our success, which has been made possible by the incentive programs from The Energy Trust of Oregon.
Unico Sustainability, a division of Unico Properties LLC, a subsidiary of Unico Investment Group LLC, was an early adopter of the LEED performance score, which uses the Arc platform for validating building performance. This data-driven approach measures the sustainability of an existing building, capturing dynamic performance metrics. The transparency of this framework enables the property management team to benchmark current performance and consistently improve the operations of the building.
Over the past 12 months, U.S. Bancorp Tower has achieved a 17.4% reduction in overall energy consumption and a 6.5% decline in water usage. We have realized a new-time high of 56% solid waste diversion from landfill to recycling, which equates to one million pounds of waste diverted from landfill over the last year.
As a company, Unico has taken up the Architecture 2030 Challenge for its entire portfolio, to adopt and implement a 50% reduction in energy consumption by the year 2030. In 2018, U.S. Bancorp Tower achieved this goal 11 years ahead of schedule, successfully reducing its Energy Use Intensity by 53%.
Originally published by the U.S. Green Building Council.