Portland is lauded as one of the greenest cities in the nation and for good reason.
We’re growing incredibly fast. But that rapid growth means the city has had to implement some intentional practices to keep everyone healthy and the future golden. These concepts don’t mean a resurgence of recycling and community gardens. We’ve got that stuff down already. Instead, new green building practices are in place to maintain our forward momentum, and benchmarks are helping us track our progress.
The Importance of Green Building Practices
Why are green building practices so important? Multnomah County Government explains a few of the many benefits of green building practices. There are a lot of really good ones we could talk about. But here are a just few benefits to consider:
- Portland has increased the ease of biking and walking. That’s a score. We have an incredibly bike-friendly city, which reduces the number of cars on the road, which reduces our carbon emissions.
- We’re improving indoor air quality. And that keeps people healthier, happier, and more productive. Another win!
- Requiring sustainable construction practices and low impact building materials is another huge help. How? These practices lower construction’s impact on the habitat, air, soil, and water system. And improved efficiencies lower operation costs for building owners and tenants alike.
- Each of these practices helps keep more money in our local economy, which keeps us thriving as a community.
Without the concerted effort of a few key organizations (and a whole lot of determined citizens!), we’d never be able to reap so many of the benefits of these green building practices. Here are a few of the efforts Portland has been working on:
The BPS Pursues City-Wide Carbon Reduction
The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) develops creative and practical solutions to enhance Portland’s livability, preserve distinctive places, and plan for a resilient future. (That’s an exciting mouthful straight from their own mission statement.) And their approach is definitely working. According to BPS, Portlanders have reduced carbon emissions by 21% since 1990, which means we’re on track to reduce carbon emission by 80% by 2050. It’s going to take everyone working together to make it happen, though. That means we need to think about things like where our cars go and how often. In addition, we need to consider things like how we live, what we buy, and what it takes to get these products to the store.
Most importantly, we have to be conscious of where we live. Did you know that 22% of emissions come from our homes? As a result, the more efficient we are with our electricity, heating, cooling, and energy seepage out doors, windows, and roofs, the fewer emission issues we’ll have.
Oregon Institutes Mandatory Energy Scores for the Residential Real Estate Industry
Oregon instituted a brand new practice this year in the real estate industry that evaluates each home’s energy efficiency. As a result, everyone is becoming more and more aware of how our own personal habits affect the entire city. (And boosting the popularity of green homes.) If you’re selling, you can read more about how to get a great Energy Score here.
The LEED Rating System and Energy Score Improves Commercial Building Practices
As part of Portland’s commitment to reduce emissions, they rolled out energy score on commercial buildings prior to rolling out the residential program. In addition, a LEED rating system is in place to ensure new construction builds are meeting our current emissions goals. (LEED is a third-party organization that evaluates commercial buildings, educational establishments, and high rise residential buildings.) Everything is based on a point system. Not only does this system measure efficiency and carbon footprints, it also raises standards to improve airflow quality and reduce pollution. As a result, these green building practices improve our city. Additionally, they increase our quality of life! There are pros and cons to all regulations, but it seems this movement is just getting started and I have no doubt the efficiency of these programs will continue to improve.
The Portland Plan Makes Things Even Greener
The Portland Plan, adopted in 2012, outlines 142 specific actions that will help us build a greener city. A progress report came out this past February, and it states that we’re doing pretty well. Hats off, Portland! Here are a few of the wins that help make Portland even greener, taken straight from the report:
- 32% of Portland is covered by a tree canopy.
- In 2016, about two-thirds of Portlanders lived in complete neighborhoods with good access to essential services and infrastructure. This is due mostly to the new residences downtown in neighborhoods that are extremely walkable.
- Portland has seen rapid job growth since 2010, and more than 19,000 new housing units built in just five years.
- In November 2016, Portland voters made history by passing Portland’s first ever affordable housing bond. The $258 million bond passed with 62 percent of the vote, and will allow the City to build and preserve an additional 1,300 units of affordable housing. It is the largest General Obligation Bond ever passed by Portland voters.
- The Portland Development Commission (PDC) has targeted five traded-sector clusters in our region and crafted a strategy around supporting them. One of these five clusters is clean technology.
- Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) prioritized funding for improvements to Gateway Discovery Park and Luuwit View Park in East Portland that will serve nearly 1,800 households who do not currently have ready access to a park or natural area. Construction on the two new green spaces broke ground in 2016.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty proud of this city. We’re working hard together, and it’s paying off already. Keep it green, PDX. We like you best this way!