The 16-story Center for Health & Healing was the first new structure to sprout from post-industrial land along the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon
The patients are green at the new Center for Health & Healing (CHH), an outpatient clinical tower in Portland, Or. In fact, the doctors are too.
But it's not because they're ill. It's because they're working and doing business in one of the healthiest buildings there is--the nation's very first medical building to earn LEED Platinum status from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The 16-story building was the first new structure to sprout from a once-desolate, now-vibrant stretch of post-industrial land along the Willamette River in Portland, Or.
In ultra-green Portland, it's pretty much expected that all new major construction will feature a nod or two to the sustainability movement. For instance., all new projects in the CHH's emerging district must be built at least to LEED Silver standards.
But the CHH developers weren't going to settle for a token windmill here, or a bioswale there. They set out to nab the highest possible green rating as proof that even a complex, mission-critical building like a 400,000-square-foot health clinic can significantly reduce its environmental impact.
Credit: Courtesy of Interface Engineering.
Better yet, it can also be less costly to build and operate than conventional structures.
The list of green innovations is long, but the highlights include chilled beam technology instead of conventional air conditioning; irrigation systems and toilets that use nonpotable water recycled from groundwater, rainwater, and bioprocessed wastewater; and unique solar-energy collecting systems that preheat water and generate power to minimize demand on the HVAC systems.
Credit: Courtesy of Interface Engineering.
These features are all unique in their own way, but Andy Frichtl, lead engineer on the project for Portland-based Interface Engineering, singles out another component as the MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) feature most crucial to the Center's LEED rating: a microturbine-based Central Utility Plant (CUP). The CUP's five gas-powered 60 kW microturbines are used to dramatically reduce energy consumption.
Heat generated when the turbines burn fuel is recaptured and used to power a water heater that heats at 2.5 million BTUs per hour, reducing demand on the traditional boiler and converting about 80% of the energy in natural gas, he says.
The CUP also powers a radiant heating and cooling system for the atrium and first few floors by piping the building's recycled wastewater through the concrete foundation slab. The concrete's thermal properties help maintain a comfortable interior air temperature, and surplus heat is stored temporarily in the swimming pool, hot tubs, and therapy pool in the CHH's fitness center. The extra heat boosts water temperatures by about one degree, and that heat can be recovered as water vapor.
The novel system was not without its hitches. "Initially, the heat exchanger had failed and was not controlled correctly, but after a postoccupancy review and recommissioning effort, we have been able to get it operating as intended," Fritchl says.
Is it Worth the Effort?
So how much "green" did all these green features set back OHSU? Only about $1.8 million, or $4.50 per square foot. The photovoltaic system cost $500,000 and all the other energy-efficient upgrades, including the solar water-heating system, came to $1.3 million.
Given the reduction in annual operating costs, along with tax credits that increased upon LEED Platinum certification, the extra effort seems to have been a solid investment.
"When it comes to MEP systems, I think this is probably the most integrated of green structures to date in North America," Frichtl says.
Michael MacRae is an independent writer.
When it comes to MEP systems, I think this is probably the most integrated of green structures to date in North America.
Andy Frichtl, Interface Engineering
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