How to lead the nation in sustainable built environment innovation
By Johanna Brickman
Oregon has earned an international reputation as the U.S. epicenter of sustainable built environment research, innovation, design and manufacturing.
A combination of visionary public policy, innovative research, professional expertise, and a committed populace has led to Oregon’s ability to boast a wide range of achievements, including more LEED-certified buildings per capita than any other U.S. state.
The growing number of green building design, construction, and development firms with roots here in Oregon reads like a who’s-who list of innovators. Oregon firms win green building work across the U.S. and around the world because place of origin matters. Bringing sustainable built environment expertise from Oregon today is like hiring top gas and oil industry experts from Texas.
Portland’s award-winning light rail system and bicycle network are among the best in the nation. Oregon ranks No. 5 in the nation in wind energy generation and No. 3 in geothermal energy development. Our systems-thinking approach has led us beyond leadership in the installation of solar panels and green roofs as individual components: Oregon university researchers are first in the nation to explore what benefits accrue when green roofs and solar panels are installed in close proximity — the panels shading the plants and the plants cooling the panels, in synergy. Other Oregon researchers have developed a successful prototype for production of off-the-shelf solar awnings that provide shade and generate power, light shelves that use rainwater to bounce sunlight and create soothing ripple reflections on the ceiling, and a low-cost heat exchanger made of a plastic membrane that operates at 80 percent efficiency using outgoing exhaust air to heat (or cool) incoming ventilation air. And all of this is only the beginning.
Johanna Brickman is Program Manager of the Sustainable Built Environment Program at Oregon BEST (the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center), whose mission is to connect Oregon businesses with green research and lab facilities at Oregon universities.
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