Elephant Lands project earns 2 green building honors

June 5, 2015 - 3:45pm

Elephant Lands earns PBJ 'Better Bricks' award and $107K in Energy Trust incentives

The Oregon Zoo's efforts to improve animal welfare and sustainability — funded in large part through the community-supported 2008 zoo bond measure — drew major kudos this week, as the zoo received two high-profile honors in four days for green building at Elephant Lands.

Yesterday, the zoo's Elephant Plaza building took runner-up honors for Sustainable Project of the Year at the Portland Business Journal's 2015 Better Bricks awards ceremony, held at the Sentinel Hotel.

The Elephant Plaza building is the first commercial project in Oregon to use cross-laminated timber, a material made from planks of wood cross-hatched together into large sheets. Cross-laminated timber offers a strength and versatility in design not achievable with standard wood construction — and the sustainability potential has many excited about the growing industry.

"We hope this will open some doors for future commercial projects to use this product and support economic development throughout the state," said Heidi Rahn, who oversees projects funded by the zoo bond measure. "We're very grateful to our partners, who have helped us incorporate sustainable design innovations throughout this project — especially our general contractors Lease Crutcher Lewis, SRG Partnership and Equilibrium Engineers."

Steel and concrete take a lot of energy to produce, said Emily Dawson, an SRG architect and designer of the zoo facility. Over the life cycle of a building, lumber — which stores carbon — can have a positive environmental impact. In addition, since cross-laminated timber is comprised of smaller planks, it can use wood from fire-prevention work such as forest-thinning and the clearing of damaged trees.

The zoo's commitment to sustainability has been noteworthy in other parts of Elephant Lands as well: On Monday, Energy Trust of Oregon awarded Metro, the zoo's governing agency, $107,886 for energy-saving measures incorporated into other areas of the new Elephant Lands habitat.

"Either of these recognitions would be great on its own, but two in one week is especially gratifying," Rahn said. "They not only highlight the Oregon Zoo's commitment to sustainability, but also its responsibility to the community."

The measures cited by Energy Trust include rainwater collection from the roof of the new Forest Hall indoor area, an energy-sharing system for buildings at the zoo, a solar array for generating electricity and another for heating water.

The rainwater-collection system directs Portland's ample precipitation into a 5,000-gallon tank at Elephant Lands. Water from the tank — filtered before it goes in — is then used for toilets and washing down the exhibit.

Buried 12 feet deep in the northern section of the habitat, rows of Slinky-like coiled pipes will store heat created as a byproduct of cooling the polar bear swimming pools for use at Elephant Lands.

The solar array on top of Forest Hall will generate about 20,000 kilowatt-hours of power annually without generating carbon dioxide. And the solar-heated water will warm 1,500 gallons without natural gas.

Lastly, Forest Hall uses natural ventilation to let in fresh air on pleasant days. About 75 percent of Forest Hall's ventilation-fan usage can be eliminated when the building's passive vents are open.