The revamped Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building opened up May 30 for a public look — and received glowing accolades from architects, project managers and federal officials at a mid-day rededication ceremony. The $139-million project employed union labor under a project labor agreement, and was completed on time and on budget two years and four months after site work began.
By almost any standard, it’s a remarkable makeover: The 18-story 1974 structure was stripped down to its girders and rebuilt from the ground up as a model of cutting-edge sustainability.
“This project turned an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan,” said Dorothy Robyn, public buildings service commissioner for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), at the ceremony. GSA managed the project, along with SERA Architects and Howard S. Wright construction.
It was also the largest stimulus project in the Pacific Northwest, funded by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — 90 companies, 760 on site jobs, and 652,000 labor hours, not to mention the stimulus of construction materials and the impact downtown commercial leases from federal tenants displaced during the remodel.
“It came at a critical time,” said Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “It put money in the pockets of hardworking Oregonians, and it is going to save money for the taxpayers for years to come.”
The building, expected to qualify for LEED Platinum certification, will achieve an estimated 55 percent energy savings compared to the original building, saving $300,000 to $400,000 a year in utility costs. It will also use 60 percent less potable water.
From the outside, the building’s most noticeable feature is the series of vertical steel “reeds” on the west and east façades of the building — combined with horizontal light-reflecting “shelves” on the south and east. No two sides of the building look the same, because they were designed to maximize light entering while minimizing heat gain during the summer.
Look up, and you can also see the tilted 13,000-square-foot solar canopy, which will generate 200,000 kWh a year, or 3 percent of the building’s electricity needs — and also double as a water collection surface. Other “green” features:
• A state-of-the-art destination dispatch elevator by Otis generates power as it descends.
• 10,000 radiant ceiling panels use water to deliver heat and cooling — requiring 32 percent less energy than a forced-air system, and freeing up space for higher ceilings.
• An innovative air system provides 100 percent fresh air and recovers heat from exhaust air before it’s released.
• Water-conserving fixtures reduce potable water use, and a 165,000 gallon cistern stores rainwater to flush low-flow toilets and irrigate native plant landscaping.
• Natural light is augmented by energy-efficient LED lighting systems with automated controls.
“Symbolically, it’s an image of our government committed to sustainability,” said architect James Cutler. “This building was built by hard-working Americans, not only in 2013, but in 1974.”
Some of the original steel welded columns were left visible — as were the original concrete floors, which were cut through in portions to allow light. “Hopefully this building will represent the best of our sustainable future, and the best of our hard-working past,” Cutler said.
All the craftspeople and other individuals who worked more than 100 hours on the project have their names listed in glass at the building’s entrance. Members of 24 local unions took part in the project, covered by the project labor agreement.
The building also has new art, including Louie Louie — a three-dimension depiction of the sound waves that make up the popular song which was originally recorded in Portland.
And the remodel increased usable space. Replacing precast concrete with a glass curtain wall pushed out the perimeter 22”, which in a city-block-sized 18-story building added 18,000 square feet of usable space.
The 536,000 square foot building will serve as a regional headquarters for the U.S. Forest Service, which will have the top four-and-a-half floors. Below that, three floors will be used by the Bureau of Land Management, and three-plus floors by the Internal Revenue Service. Altogether, the building will provide office space for 1,200 federal employees in 16 agencies. Tenants begin moving in in August, and the art and other features on the main floor and ground level will be accessible to the public starting Aug. 1. The National Labor Relations Board will occupy a sixth floor office starting in September.
The building is named for Edith Green and Wendell Wyatt, who represented Oregon’s Third and First Districts as members of Congress in the 1960s and early 1970s.