Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center

Designers: Holst Architecture PC | City: Portland, OR | Project Type: architecture, renovation, LEED
Date Visited: 12.13.12

Locations: 721 NW 9th Ave # 200 Portland, OR
Size: 70,000 sq. ft
Cost: $12.4 million
Official Opening Date: September 2001

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Ecotrust, a conservation organization, redeveloped and restored a historic 1895 warehouse into the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, the first historically renovated building in the nation to be awarded a LEED Gold award for green design. Nestled in Portland’s revitalizing Pearl District, the objective of the Natural Capital Center was to bring together a diverse community of tenants to “create a vibrant gathering place for environmentally and socially responsible ideas, goods and services.”

The warehouse was originally constructed in 1895, in a Romanesque style inspired by architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Nearly a century later, in 1998, Ecotrust purchased the warehouse, renovating the main building and deconstructing the second building–a wall from that building was preserved as a historic remanent on 10th Avenue. 99% of construction debris was reused or reclaimed, with 75% of the existing construction shell reused. The renovated building was opened to the public in 2001.

The center is home to a mix of non-profit, agency, and business tenants gathered around common themes of promoting green and sustainable living practices. Other than Ecotrust, some of the Natural Capital Center’s tenants also include the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development, Patagonia, Hot Lips Pizza, and ShoreBank Pacific, the nation’s first environmental bank.

Open entering the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, visitors are given the opportunity to “hike” the building. “Field Guides” of the building are available as an informational resource for visitors to take a self-guided tour of the building’s many green initiatives. The guide covers ten major points: history, transportation, bioswales, green building/architecture, community, energy, materials, ecoroof, neighborhood, and certified wood. Though not all these areas of interest are publicly accessible, each section of the field guide clearly detail out the sustainable aspects and environmental benefits of the center, from reclaimed materials to the measures taken to protect the Willamette River from stormwater runoff.

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