Living buildings a work in progress

Christina Williams, Sustainable Business Oregon

Christina WIlliams is the editor of Sustainable Business Oregon.

If you spotted any architect-types wandering around downtown this week with conference lanyards dangling around their necks, chances are good they were attending the Living Future 2012 conference hosted by the International Living Future Institute at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower.

The conference, at a much smaller scale than the annual Greenbuild Expo. Attracts the greenest of the green building practitioners.

"It's the choir," says Paula Vaughan, associate principal for Perkins +Will, a 1,600-person architecture firm that often ends up at the top of green architecture firm lists.

Vaughan, in town from the firm's Atlanta office, said Perkins uses the conference as a means to convene the sustainability leaders from within its own firm — 40 attended this year — to come, network with each other and take the enthusiasm for cutting-edge green buildings home to their own offices.

I sat in on a session about the Bulitt Center Friday morning, thinking it would be a case study in what could have been — some might say still could be — since the project is often compared to the Oregon Sustainability Center.

The discussion in the room was, forgive me, more fascinating than I expected and drove home the fact that the Living Building Challenge is still very much in its earliest days.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Bullitt Center is that it's being privately financed as opposed to the OSC's heavy reliance on public funding sources to make its $61 million budget. The Bulitt building's price tag is also considerably smaller — land, construction and soft costs add up to $29 million — though the building is also roughly half the size of what was planned for the OSC.

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