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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Mar/Apr 2002 : What Makes It Green : Jurisprudent Design


What Make's It Green?
Jurisprudent Design

Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR, is considered one of the country’s top environmental law schools. The school is situated next to a state park and overlooks a forest of evergreens. Naturally then, a green building would be only fitting for such a green environment.

The law school is located about one-quarter mile from the main college campus. Construction was completed in January on remodeling of the existing 25,000-square-foot library and an additional 40,000 square feet for library use, classrooms and offices. One of the primary goals of the architects, Soderstrom Architects, P.C., Portland, was to create a building that interacts with nature. The way in which the wind blows, the angle of the sun and the slope of the hillside all affected the design.



Six Submissions to the annual "What Makes It Green?" exhibit.

“We did not want the expansion to intrude into the forest and necessitate cutting down many trees,” says Jon Wiener, partner, Soderstrom Architects. “So we placed the building on an old service drive and created a three-story structure to minimize the size of the footprint. The curved façade of the building is in response to the slope of the site. We also extended the existing circulation paths and enhanced special outdoor spaces.”

As they worked to preserve the site, the architects also strived to include its natural beauty in their design. A two-story reading room in the renovated library overlooks the forest. Soaring windows bring in the view as well as an abundance of natural light. Solar activated sunshades and carefully selected high-performance glazing reduce glare. The use of artificial lighting is minimized with daylighting controls and curved ceilings that bounce daylight into the center of the building.

Because of the region’s mild climate, natural ventilation was the obvious choice for maintaining a comfortable environment within the building. Therefore, the architects ensured the building’s correct orientation on the site in order to take advantage of the breeze whenever possible. Operable windows, along with an automated vent at the roof monitor that opens when the HVAC system shuts down, minimize the need for artificial cooling. The HVAC equipment features a water-cooled chiller rather than air cooled, and high-tech controls maximize efficiency. Moreover, sunshades, glazing and a reflective roof membrane help reduce both heat gain and heat loss.

To protect indoor air quality, toxic construction materials were avoided. Instead, the architects chose low VOC paints and glues and installed high quality air filters in the HVAC system.

Many construction materials came from renewable sources. Ceiling tile and gypsum board are made from recycled newsprint; wood veneers are from certified sustainable forests; linoleum, made from linseed oil and wood flour, was used for the flooring; and fly ash, a waste bi-product, is in the concrete. Furthermore, 98 percent of the construction debris was sorted and recycled.

This project reduced the number of parking spaces at the Law School, thereby encouraging more students to use mass transit. There is a bus stop adjacent to the site, and the college provides a shuttle service to off-site parking, as well as downtown Portland and student neighborhoods. By reducing the dependence on private cars, pollution is reduced.

Reducing pollution also included dealing with storm water. The site’s steep slope ruled out swales, so an underground tank was used. The tank allows sediment to settle and the water temperature to cool to appropriate levels.

Around the site, non-native, invasive plants, such as ivy and blackberries, were removed from the forest and replaced with indigenous evergreen plants. Small areas of eco-roofs symbolically integrate the forest into the building.

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