Bring on the Next Big Idea in Green Building

Sep 28, 2007

A challenge from Gerding Edlen’s green guru Dennis Wilde.

M Financial Green Roof
A green roof atop a building in the Brewery Blocks mitigates stormwater runoff.

Dennis Wilde, Gerding Edlen’s own green guru, talks to the Portland Business Journal about what it means to be a sustainable company, pushing the envelope, and making biodiesel out of sanitary waste.

One of the fun aspects of my job is pursuing ideas that on the surface sound a bit crazy, like they can’t be done. My colleagues refer to me as our green guru; it’s my job to be in search of the next green idea that we can utilize in Gerding Edlen Development’s mixed-use, sustainable developments.

For example, our five-year goal is to develop buildings that create more energy than they consume and consume more waste than they produce. We want to leave as small an environmental footprint as possible for the health of our planet and the success of future generations.

We’ve been early adopters of green roofs, energy efficiency measures, low VOC-emitting finishes, dual-flush toilets, FSC flooring, bioswales—even on-site sewage treatment, and other features that today are commonplace in green developments. This has helped push forward Oregon’s sustainable economy and given growth to local industry by creating demand for these products.

The Brewery Blocks in Portland, Oregon is one example of Gerding Edlen’s transformative mixed-use, sustainable urban developments.

Today, we’re in the process of completing work on The Casey in the Pearl District, which is on track to be the best nation with sophisticated energy recovery ventilation as one of the energy saving strategies. This system help the building attain a 50 percent energy savings over code, which is a significant accomplishment.

This is why we are always on the lookout for creative concepts to push us closer to our five-year goal.

We’re moving toward having PVC-free buildings in the future. We’re making inroads on getting PVC removed from electrical wiring, plumbing and roofing. Just because a product isn’t currently available, doesn’t mean it’s not possible to make it. Our philosophy is to be persistent, to be agents of change.

But often the environmental solution is not as simple as creating demand. For example, we are currently trying to determine if we can do anything with the remaining small amount of sludge left over after sanitary waste is treated in a bioreactor—perhaps turning it into biofuel? We are hoping to find a business partner to help us do this.

At the onset of all projects we sit down with our partners for an eco-charette. With The Casey, we determined with GBD Architects and Hoffman Construction that we would shoot to create a LEED Platinum building certified by the U.S. Green Building Council that will consume half the energy of a standard building.

Solar Panels atop The Casey

The Casey will include a condominium-market first in Portland—ERVs, or energy recovery ventilators in each home that will provide controlled ventilation and the ability to filter, humidify, dehumidify, heat or cool the incoming fresh air. In addition, The Casey has photovoltaic panels that supply solar energy to the building’s common areas. Consumption of electricity in the building will be notably reduced, which results in cost savings and reduces the building’s carbon footprint.

Working in partnership with GBD and Hoffman, we’re trying to determine how we can move beyond Platinum. We recognize we don’t have all the answers and that we have a long way to attain our environmental goals. What we are sure of it that Oregon has no lack of talented, inventive, green-entrepreneurs. And that together we can create profitable, sustainable businesses.

So bring on the new ideas. We’re all ears.

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