Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Filling the Pit

Lane Community College Downtown Center - 10th Avenue Elevation

The firm I work for, Robertson/Sherwood/Architects pc (RSA), led the team that recently completed the Feasibility Study and Conceptual Design for the proposed new Lane Community College Downtown Campus (DTC) project. The significance of this project to the future of downtown Eugene cannot be underestimated: the DTC might be the “tipping point” past which positive energy finally holds sway after years of disappointment.(1) The development would occupy the long-vacant half-block across 10th Avenue from the Eugene Public Library. Filling of that site and its notorious “Sears pit” would be a symbolic triumph for the City of Eugene, as LCC would finally succeed where so many others have previously failed.(2)

Lane Community College currently operates a Downtown Eugene Center on Willamette Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. In addition to providing a commodious new home for the programs it offers downtown, LCC envisions its proposed new facility being a signature building and a model of energy efficiency and green construction, with easy access to mass transit. It also foresees the DTC being a catalyst for the revitalization of the moribund downtown core. The College may include student housing in the mix (up to 196 beds), which would bolster the resident population downtown and add much-needed street activity that could jumpstart private-sector development in the vicinity.(3)

The specific educational programs and departments the College proposes to house in the new center include Continuing Education, Adult Basic & Secondary Education, English as a Second Language, Energy Management, the Successful Aging Institute, Senior Companion Project, Business Development Center, Enrollment & Student Financial Services, and the Center for Meeting & Learning. In addition to the LCC academic and support program spaces, the DTC would provide a presence for the Oregon Small Business Development Network, as well as a downtown Public Safety Station for the Eugene Police Department.

The Design Team
The College selected our office as the prime architect of a team that also included the SRG Partnership of Portland. SRG provided our team with the requisite design heft, particularly expertise with sustainability and higher education facilities. Some of SRG’s noteworthy projects in this regard include the University of Oregon’s Lillis Business Complex, Portland State University’s Shattuck Hall, and the Annunciation Academic Center at Mount Angel Abbey. SRG Principals Kent Duffy, FAIA, and Jon Weiner, AIA, and SRG Associate Tim Grinstead, AIA demonstrated amazing energy and design acumen in the formation of the LCC Downtown Campus design concept. For our part, RSA contributed hometown experience and familiarity with the city core (including design of the Eugene Public Library across the street from the proposed DTC site), as well as our own planning know-how. Jim Robertson, FAIA, FCSI, served as the overall principal-in-charge.

LCC directed our team and Gerding Edlen Development (the project manager retained by the College) to assemble a project budget, identify occupants, and prepare a concept-level design. All of this had to be accomplished within a very tight three-month time frame. We met this goal and, in my opinion, exceeded the College’s expectations. While the estimate for the overall project budget indicates a funding shortfall, the LCC Board of Education is determined to move forward as the College administration aggressively seeks additional support.(4)

Site Plan

Design Concept
The design concept we developed is guileless in its simplicity: the DTC design nests two “L” shaped buildings on the half-block site, one of which is devoted to academic and support functions, while the other provides convenient student housing. Thus, the plan itself is a symbol of the College’s desire to bring together living and learning to create a holistic educational environment, a balance of yin and yang.

The configuration of the buildings places active uses at the perimeter of the site and shelters a courtyard and community space within. The site plan features a plaza that would be shared by the DTC and the Library, facilitating daily “drop-off” functions and serving as a gathering area for special community events.

Aerial view looking northwest (this image and renderings below by Richard Hoyen)

As befits an academic building designed for the 21st Century, the classroom experience for students in the new DTC would be state-of-the-art. All of the proposed classrooms would feature generous daylighting and natural ventilation, as well as full Internet connectivity and incorporation of other technology as required for the academic mission. The design of the classrooms would be as flexible and adaptable as possible to accommodate current requirements for optimized facility scheduling while also meeting as yet unforeseen needs.

Learning in the classroom would be augmented by generous interaction spaces – hallways, student lounges, courtyards – where students and faculty come together in less-structured ways to exchange ideas and reinforce the DTC community. These spaces would be designed to be comfortable, enhance orientation, and encourage casual encounters.

Academic building entrance

The academic building would be four stories tall, roughly equal in height to the Library, and enclose about 85,000 gross square feet of program area. The residential building would be five stories tall (four floors of apartments over a podium occupied by the Public Safety Station and DTC support spaces) and include nineteen studio, twenty-four 2-bedroom, and thirty-two 4-bedroom apartment units. Including spaces for the City of Eugene’s Public Safety Station and the Oregon Small Business Development Network, the total building area would be 166,448 gross square feet.

The architectural vocabulary of the DTC would provide an aesthetic counterpoint to the Library. The elevations of the Library contrast mass and void, brick and glass, whereas the skin of the new DTC academic and residential buildings would be handled in a more consistent manner. Transparent and opaque surfaces alike would be servants to the definition of taut, cubic volumes. The Library’s 10th Avenue façade curves away in a broad arc from the corners of the half-block it occupies. By broadly enfronting 10th, the LCC design would provide a visual datum against which the arc of the Library’s façade is measured.

Interior courtyard

Sustainability Objectives
LCC’s sustainability objectives for the DTC include obtaining LEED Platinum certification for the academic building and LEED Gold for the residential building. Initially, the project team also explored the possibility of pursuing the Living Building Challenge; however, our study determined that balancing the requirements of the LBC against other objectives set by the College meant that Living Building status would be out of reach. We came to this conclusion because:
  • The LBC does not allow any type of combustion to be used in the building. A goal of the project is to house LCC’s Energy Management Program and use the building as a laboratory for the study of different types of heating and cooling systems. Because gas-fired equipment would be used, there would be a direct conflict with the Net-Zero Energy imperative.
  • The LBC requires that a project protects access to sunlight for adjacent properties, so that all development can strive to be a Living Building. This imperative is in conflict with the density and height needed to meet program requirements.
While the project may not meet the Living Building Challenge, it would still achieve very high levels of sustainability. The key strategies include the use of:
  • Passive cooling and ventilation for 75% of the academic building
  • Daylighting
  • Solar shading
  • Super insulation
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing
  • An “off the grid” demonstration restroom
  • Bioretention cells
  • Green roof
  • Photovoltaic arrays
The project would also actively demonstrate and teach sustainable building strategies. It would accomplish this by making the most of the presence of the Energy Management Program’s laboratory (which would expose students to a variety of high-efficiency systems), visible demonstration components (such as the green roof and “off the grid” public restroom), and sharing of data via extensive energy monitoring and controls.

View looking northeast from intersection of Charnelton Street and 10th Avenue

Moving Forward
A broad spectrum of Eugeneans (including the Eugene Downtown Neighborhood Association) have publicly expressed strong support for the project because they view its success as critical to downtown once again being our community’s vibrant, bustling, living room. They argue that a new LCC Downtown Center would encourage other investments in the neighborhood. There is optimism that it can be part of the cure to what has ailed downtown for so many years. For these supporters, the City of Eugene’s proposed use of urban renewal funds to help ensure the project’s success is a key to realizing the vision shared by many of a thriving downtown center. There are those who oppose the City’s use of tax-increment financing on the grounds that it diverts limited tax dollars from other needs, but proponents of the LCC project believe that its promise should trump those concerns.(5)

While the College’s Board of Education lauded our team for the quality of our Feasibility Report and Conceptual Design, there is no guarantee that we will be selected to move forward with the design of the new Downtown Campus. The College is committed to conducting an open selection process at each stage of the project; therefore, it intends to issue a Request for Qualifications for the next phase of work. My hope is that we will once again be selected to complete what we have started, which is to produce nothing less than a signature urban landmark for Lane Community College.

(1) In his best-selling book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, author Malcolm Gladwell explains how ideas, products, messages, and behaviors can “spread like viruses.” With the LTD station and Eugene Public Library already occupying this corner of downtown, a new LCC Downtown Campus might finally bring about the convergence necessary to trigger desirable, dramatic, and rapid changes to our urban fabric. The project might provide that necessary push to tip our citizenry toward believing that a genuine downtown is possible in Eugene.

(2) These failed attempts most recently include a 2005 scheme to locate offices for the Oregon Research Institute on the site (ORI instead opted to build in the University of Oregon’s Riverfront Research Park), and responses to a 2008 Request for Proposals issued by the City of Eugene to prospective developers seeking to maximize the potential of the “Sears Pit.” I previously blogged about the virtues of the 2008 RFP and the opinion voiced by some that the site should be left as a green open space.

(3) LCC commissioned a housing market study by a national consultant. The consultant determined that including apartments targeted at specific subsets of the student population could be economically viable.

(4) Including “soft” costs, the total project budget is estimated to be $35 million for the academic building, plus an additional $15.6 million for the residential building. Project manager Gerding Edlen and Portland contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis worked with the design team to assemble the budget.

(5) To use urban renewal funds for the LCC project, the City of Eugene must amend the Central Eugene Project Urban Renewal Plan to increase its maximum indebtedness. The current spending limit of $33 million has nearly been spent (the largest portion was spent on the Library). The City Council will vote on May 24, 2010 on the adoption of the ordinance; if approved by the Council, it would then be forwarded to the voters as a referendum.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Envision Eugene

The City of Eugene has launched a program to identify "efficiency measures" to accommodate anticipated population gains over the coming decades. Entitled “Envision Eugene,” it is the second phase of the current planning process for future growth in our community. The first phase was completed last week when the City Council accepted the draft land need figures generated by the Eugene Comprehensive Lands Analysis (ECLA). The Envision Eugene website was launched recently as a tool for sharing information.

The following is excerpted from the project website:

Envisioning how and where we grow in the future must begin with the framework set by Oregon planning law. Before we can consider expanding the urban growth boundary, we must complete an analysis of ways to develop more efficiently within our current boundary.

The principle of compact development is central to Eugene’s growth management strategy. Growing compactly means using resources and land more efficiently, reducing the need for public investments in things like streets and water lines, and creating vibrant communities where people want to live, work, and shop. However, our growth management strategies must enhance our quality of life. When we reach our community’s maximum tolerance for additional development within the UGB, we must look outward to avoid compromising the quality of our existing neighborhoods. . .

. . . Eugene’s land assessment project (ECLA) will set the status quo scenario for how much land we would need to accommodate our 20 year population projections if things happen in the future as they have happened in the past. With Envision Eugene, we have an opportunity to look at alternative futures that are different from the base case scenario and that may lessen the need to expand the city outward. These alternatives look at how Eugene could grow by asking:
  • What if we increased the amount of infill development in certain places and in certain ways?
  • What if we incentivized mixed use development in identified locations?
  • What housing options exist for people moving into the community or for people moving within Eugene?
Eugene's Urban Growth Boundary

The City’s timeline for having a preferred growth scenario adopted by the City Council is February 2011. To meet that deadline, the City must conduct community workshops and complete its technical analysis by July 2010. The project kickoff meeting is Tuesday, May 4 at the Eugene Hilton Hotel & Conference Center, 66 East 6th Avenue. There will be two public sessions that day, one from 4-6 pm and a second between 7-9 pm. Plan on attending one of these sessions and add your voice to this important community conversation.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

April AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

The Prospect (2006). This and other photos from the website of Jonathan Segal, FAIA

Life is about showing up. That is a key to success, according to Jonathan Segal, FAIA, presenter of our April AIA-SWO chapter meeting program.

Since the early 90s, Jonathan Segal has shown up in a big way: he is now widely known as an AIA Honor Award-winning architect, enterprising developer, and detail-focused builder who has invigorated downtown San Diego with his high-design residential and mixed-use projects. Speaking before a packed house of AIA-SWO members and guests at The Actors Cabaret, Jonathan left no doubt that his winning formula is as much dependent upon his personal charisma, willingness to take risks, and brazen chutzpah as it is talent and wherewithal.(1)

The talent is amply evident. AIA-SWO President Michael Fifield recognized Jonathan’s design aptitude early on at the University of Idaho in the 1980s, where Jonathan studied under Michael (then in his first position as a professor in architecture). Since that time, Jonathan has made his mark in San Diego and La Jolla with a series of successful projects executed in his signature SoCal Modernist idiom, each progressively sleeker and more confident in its execution.

The Union (2008)

Perception is reality. Early in his career, Jonathan shrewdly recognized that others’ perception of his success could facilitate its actual realization. This knowledge served him well by helping to secure financing for projects that bankers might otherwise have shied away from, especially those pitched by an audacious young architect. It’s why he has a penchant for stunningly beautiful German and Italian sports cars. It’s better to look good than (necessarily) be good. His talk to AIA-SWO this past Wednesday was an unabashed demonstration of the power of the medium as the message. Decorously attired in a conservative suit at its outset, by the evening’s conclusion he was calculatingly tousled with silk tie loosened and sleeves rolled up as if to say “we’ve got work to do.” Jonathan is a consummate performer.

Respect the Architect. In part, that was the point of his performance. We architects have abdicated far too much control over the shaping of our built environment. We are no longer the “master builders” of yore and legend. To the detriment of our cities, architects have been emasculated by a broad spectrum of parochial interests: developers, politicians, real estate brokers, bureaucrats, contractors, property managers, and close-minded neighborhood groups. In order to rebuild the respect that has eroded, Jonathan believes that architects must once again play a leadership role in determining how urban development takes place. It isn’t enough to carry out someone else’s pre-established vision for a development; we earn respect by being in control of what to build. We need to roll up our sleeves and seize the very real opportunities that are out there waiting for us to act.

Control is everything. Largely self-educated about the intricacies of property development and management, Jonathan has excised the client and general contractor from the project equation. He develops and builds his own projects, using each to leverage successive ventures. Along with his wife, he retains ownership and control of their properties. This means rental apartments and only the occasional fee-simple, for-sale development – no condominiums. He is free to experiment with concepts, materials and spaces unfettered by a client’s preconceptions, resulting in projects such as Kettner Row where he explored the notion of “convertible” housing (featuring units above separable ground floor spaces that can be changed as needs to dictate for use as shops, offices, or granny flats). Control also means the freedom to cut out the middlemen, and increase profits. In the process, he has created innovative, superior housing at lower costs than comparable projects in San Diego.

Kettner Row (1997)

Keep it small. Jonathan wants to be an architect, not a manager, so his practice has always been small, its structure as simple as possible. He has long-time collaborators but for the most part they are consultants, not employees. This arrangement keeps his overhead low and his office mutable. The same model is applied to his role as builder, serving as general contractor while working with a coterie of trusted subcontractors. Reducing the numbers of parties involved has the side benefit of minimizing contractual liabilities; regardless, Jonathan strongly recommends that architects carry professional errors & omissions insurance.

Sustainability is a business decision. Being in control of all aspects of his personal and professional life is important to Jonathan. This has included where he chooses to live and work, which have typically been one and the same place. He has designed, built, and consecutively occupied several of his projects, the latest being the Q in downtown San Diego, his largest project to date. The Q typifies Jonathan’s brand of sustainability. He is not a tree-hugger who wears patently green credentials on his sleeve. He is not a fan of LEED and the codification of sustainability. Rather, he and his wife walk the talk by living and working in the Q, saving the cost and hassles of commuting while minimizing their carbon footprint. For Jonathan, truly urban living is a conserver of valuable time that if squandered would forever be lost. In this regard, sustainability just happens to be congruent with the bottom line: time is money.

The Q (2009)

People are willing to pay for better architecture. That’s the real bottom line and Jonathan has been happy to oblige. It’s an affirmation of our highest aspirations as architects. His work is proof that intelligent, skillful design and profitability are not mutually exclusive. He’s developing his own architecture and making very, very good money while doing so.

Nothing makes Jonathan Segal more proud than to be an architect. Of the many hats he wears, it is the architect’s that he prefers most.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record: Michael Fifield’s 2010 lineup of monthly chapter meeting programs has been stellar. Next month, Michael has arranged a panel that will focus on the City of Eugene’s efforts to address issues related to land use and design implications. With the City’s launch of its “Envision Eugene” study of growth needs, it’s important that AIA-SWO’s voice is heard. Be sure to attend our May meeting, become informed, and help shape our city’s future.

(1) Jonathan Segal packs in hundreds of registrants at $795 per head to each of his enormously popular one-day Architect as Developer seminars (700 attended his Los Angeles presentation; do the math). Michael Fifield brought him to Eugene to speak for the price of as many beers as Jonathan could consume.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Matthew Knight Arena Sneak Peek

Update: For my review of the completed arena, check out my February 5, 2011 post by clicking the following:

Matthew Knight Arena under construction - April 10, 2010 (all photos by me unless otherwise noted)

According to the University of Oregon Athletics Department, construction of the new Matthew Knight Arena is on budget and on schedule. The 12,500 seat multi-purpose facility will be ready for the start of the next Pac-10 Conference basketball season in January 2011, when it will replace venerable McArthur Court.

I’m one of many Duck supporters who have resisted the siren song of progress. Yes, Mac Court is older than dirt (well, not quite; it hosted its first basketball game in 1927). It has obstructed views and cramped seats. It lacks adequate restroom and concession facilities. It has numerous barriers to accessibility. The structure’s antiquity and lack of amenities seriously inhibit its continued viability as a venue for NCAA Division 1 competition.(1)

And yet, there is no doubt that Mac Court is one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable. At its most raucous – shaking, rattling, and rolling – the old building itself is worth several points to our home team. Stacked tier upon tier, the crowd literally is on top of the court. It can be ear-splitting and intimidating. Crazed fans cheer wildly, jump up and down, and otherwise urge the Oregon Ducks to victory. Mac Court has (had) an atmosphere unrivaled in college athletics.

McArthur Court (photo courtesy of GoDucks.com)

I harbored serious doubts that the ingredients that together constitute the old gym’s character could be replicated in a larger, modern building. The last thing any Duck fan wants to see is Mac Court replaced by a cavernous, sterile, NBA-style arena.(2) So, it was with hope and anticipation that my wife and I attended the second of three open houses at Matthew Knight Arena co-hosted this past weekend by the Athletics Department and the project’s general contractor, Hoffman Construction.

View from the arena floor toward the northeast corner.

I’m pleased to report that the architects – TVA of Portland (design architect) and Ellerbe Beckett from Kansas City, MO (executive architect) – paid heed to the request for a design that matches the intensity and intimacy of “The Pit.” The new seating bowl is remarkably compact. It doesn’t appear that there will be a bad seat in the house, regardless of level or seating category. While there are only two distinct tiers, they’re very steep. Fans will be right on top of the action just as they seem to be in Mac Court. It’s hard to believe that the place will hold 3,500 more screaming students and fans than the old building does.

View inside the arena bowl toward the southwest corner.

It is still too early in the construction process to fully imagine the fan experience. However, I do expect to be blown away by a level of opulence and trend-setting design that $200 million and all of Nike’s savvy afford. The new arena will feature the same flash and sizzle that is the trademark of Oregon’s other lavish athletics facilities. According to the stats sheet handed to us at the open house, Matthew Knight Arena will include 22 restrooms (9 men, 9 women, 4 family), 8 elevators (is there even one in McArthur Court?), 45 concession points of sale, 2 Duck Stores, 201 flat screen TVs, and a 4-sided video board. When it comes to the U of O and especially the building named in memory of his son, Phil Knight wants nothing less than the best.

Site plan depicting Matthew Knight Arena, Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes, and the Ford Alumni Center (image from the UO Alumni Center website)

The new arena looms large on its east campus site amid smaller-scaled neighbors. Its sleek metal and glass exterior envelope is quickly taking shape. It contrasts markedly with the predominant collegiate brick palette, but alongside the Ford Alumni Center (essentially an annex to the arena) and the recently completed Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes(3), the landmark Matthew Knight Arena has become the de facto gateway to the campus when approaching from the east along Franklin Boulevard. In this capacity, the triumvirate of new buildings recasts the University as aggressive and forward-looking rather than mired in tradition.

View from Franklin Boulevard looking southeast.

The arena is on target for LEED Silver certification, which would make it among the first LEED-certified sports facilities in the nation.

I’ll withhold final judgment about the new arena until I actually see my Ducks play a game there. Even then, I may not be able to take its true measure until after many seasons worth of use, after Matthew Knight Arena has acquired its own brand of charm and the kind of patina that is only conferred by a long and storied history.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

There’s one more chance for the public to tour Matthew Knight Arena at this stage of its construction, next Saturday, April 10 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. After that, those who attend the 2010 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference this October here in Eugene will have an exclusive opportunity to tour the building just prior to its completion. We hope to have members of the TVA team on hand to discuss the design process and the shaping of this exceptional project. Just another reason to make your plans to attend the Conference!

(1) The future of Mac Court is uncertain. Whether it has a second life or not remains to be seen, but the University has completed a preliminary study that explored various options for adaptive reuse. One such option is to radically reinvent the arena as the new home of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, surely a challenging design problem. As Don Kahle wrote on his blog dkSez, the future is calling the AAA to reuse the past and preserve Mac Court as a place.

(2) I think that Portland’s Rose Garden sucks because, like many of the current crop of multipurpose arenas constructed for NBA franchises, it is simply too big for basketball. Plunking down serious money for the privilege of seeing 7-foot tall players reduced to looking like ants scurrying across a tiny swatch of maple flooring is not my idea of entertainment value. Ironically, the Rose Garden was also designed by Ellerbe Beckett.

(3) I’ll blog about the Jaqua Center after the June AIA-SWO chapter meeting, which will take place at the Center. Designer Eugene Sandoval of ZGF Architects will lead a tour of the building, which has been the subject of intense debate at the University because of its extravagance and exclusivity.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Design Spring’s April Meeting

Design Spring (formerly EEP) is the local group of emerging architecture, engineering, landscape, and design professionals. Its April 14, 2010 meeting program will be The Process of Structural Engineering – What Engineers Wish Architects Knew, presented by Samantha Corbin, Project Engineer with M.R. Richards Engineering, Inc.

Sam’s presentation will give emerging professionals in related fields an inside view of structural engineering. She'll explain the structural engineering process, point out things design professionals can do to make a job run smoother, and highlight issues to keep in mind for future projects. Sam will also touch upon a laundry list of structural design subjects, including:
  • What structural engineers do
  • Design Codes
  • Tools Used
  • Newton's Laws of Motion
  • Free Body Diagrams
  • Load Path
  • Load Combinations
  • Vertical Loads
  • Lateral Loads (wind/seismic loads, out of plane load on walls)
  • Diaphragms & Collectors
  • Shear Walls
  • Cantilevered Columns
  • Retaining Walls
If you’re interested in attending, RSVP to Gabe Greiner at gabriel@2-form.com so that the organizers can have enough pizza and drinks on hand for everybody.

Here are the meeting details:
  • Date:  Wednesday, April 14, 2010
  • Location: Balzhiser & Hubbard Engineers’ Conference Room, 100 W. 13th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97401
  • Pizza and drinks - 5:45pm (please bring $5 for pizza and a few dollars more for drinks)
  • Presentation begins - 6:30pm
Design Spring’s leaders have been working toward the goal of seeing the group reach its full potential. Behind the scenes, they have been brainstorming and planning a webpage, logo, programs, mentorship ladders, a Pecha Kucha-style night, and study groups. The leadership group meets the first Monday of every month and welcomes anyone who wishes to become more involved. Email Gabe Greiner (gabriel@2-form.com) or Mariko Blessing (mblessing@robertsonsherwood.com) for more details.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Indigenous Design – Emerging Gifts

Many Nations Longhouse, University of Oregon (photo from the Jones & Jones firm website)

Well-known Native American architect Johnpaul Jones, FAIA, will give a free lecture on April 15 at 5:00 PM in 177 Lawrence Hall on the University of Oregon campus. He will shed light on the rich, complex, and ever-evolving indigenous architecture of North America and discuss its potential influence upon the wider planning and design community.

Projects designed by Johnpaul Jones include the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., the Agua Caliente Tribe Cultural Museum, The Evergreen State College Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, the Southern Ute Tribe Museum, and Troth Yeddha' Park at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His Seattle-based firm, Jones & Jones Architecture and Landscape Architecture, also designed the Many Nations Longhouse on the University of Oregon campus.

I attended a talk by Johnpaul Jones at the 2008 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference in Honolulu. There, he described his design philosophy, recounting how his Cherokee-Choctaw ancestry has connected him to the natural world, animal world, spirit world, and our human world. His reverence for the earth and native traditions has translated directly to all of his firm’s projects, often blurring the line between landscape architecture and architecture.

Jones is an alumnus of the UO Department of Architecture and was honored with the school’s Ellis F. Lawrence Medal in 1998. He is also the recipient of the University of Oregon Distinguished Service Award from his alma mater for “not just designing buildings, but creating places that incorporate both the practical and the spiritual, and for heightening human sensitivity to cultural and environmental issues.”

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Oregon Carbon Calculator

My carbon footprint.

Rudy Berg of the SW Oregon chapter of the Northwest Eco-Building Guild regularly keeps many of us here in Eugene informed of events, articles, or links of interest on the subject of living and designing sustainably. One of his recent e-mail blasts introduced me to the Oregon Carbon Calculator.

The Oregon Carbon Calculator is a new interactive tool on the DEQ website that lets Oregon residents measure their carbon footprint and discover ways to improve it. The tool calculates all direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from personal transportation, household energy use, and consumption of food, goods and services.

It’s fun and easy to use. You’ll find out how your household's carbon footprint compares to households of similar size and income here in Oregon. You’ll also learn how you can take action to reduce your carbon footprint from a number of specific ideas and strategies.

I calculated that the total carbon footprint for me and my wife is 75% of comparable households in the state. Good for us. However, it’s still 380% of the global average. The per person resource demand in this country is about 8.5 hectares versus the world average of about 2.2 hectares. We’re running an ecological deficit, with a footprint larger than our biological capacity.

There are numerous other online tools (such as Carbon Footprint) for assessing the size of one’s carbon footprint but I had not previously sought them out. Thanks, Rudy, for informing me about the Oregon Carbon Calculator.

The Oregon Carbon Calculator is made possible through Oregon DEQ's support of the CoolClimate Network, a program of the University of California, Berkeley, and through financial support by the California Air Resources Board and the CoolCalifornia.org partnership. Oregon DEQ selected this calculator for its approach and depth in calculating human impacts to climate change.