Monday, November 10, 2014

OHSU Center for Health and Healing

Team Delta from the CE111 Introduction to Civil Engineering class visited OHSU Center for Health and Healing at 3303 S.W. Bond Avenue on Wednesday, November 05, 2014.  The purpose of this visit was for students to learn the different types of facilities the building incorporated into their energy savings plan.  Our host was Scott Germeshausen, Chief Operating Engineer.    The visit lasted approximately one hour.  Travis gave us a tour of the build.  His tour focused on power plant, solar panel, green roof and the water treatment system.        

Observations and Information

Scot began the tour in the lobby.  The OHSU Center for Health & Healing is a 400,000 square foot 16-story medical office building.  The building achieved double-platinum certifications for LEED New Construction (LEED-NC) in 2007.  The Center for Health & Healing is currently the only building of its kind nationwide.  With a unique mix of medical offices, research labs, outpatient surgery as well as a full service retail gym, pharmacy, optical shop and restaurant, the Center for Health & Healing was the first non-residential building to open in Portland's South Waterfront district.  

The floor is heated by hot water tube and cooled by the constantly opened lobby door.  The thermal expansion of the floor caused cracks in the terrazzo floor.  This was only a cosmetic problem, not structural problems.  The design lacked sufficient expansions in the terrazzo.  More expansion joint was added which fixed the problem.  This was one of the many lessons learned.    

The building is 61% more energy-efficient than required by Oregon code.  The south-side façade on the 15th and 16th floors form a 6,000 square foot trombe wall which is a giant solar air heater, warm air from it is circulated through the building in winter.  This idea takes advantage of the basic properties of heat which rises to the top floor.  Scot pointed out that it’s technically not a trombe wall.  The architect was concern that the interior light behind the glass façade would leak light and cause light pollution at night.  However, it was discovered that the light did not emit much lumen.  The dark glass could have been clear to gather more of the sun’s energy and heat.  It was too expensive to change out the dark glass. 

Scot showed us the chilled beams that combined convective cooling systems with displacement ventilation.  This technique cuts energy use by 20-30% under conventional Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems.  The difficulty with this system is the condensation that could collect and drip from the chill beam.  The technicians put a system in place to maintain the correct temperature to prevent condensation.       

The sunshades on south façade double as a solar electricity generator.  Scot pointed out that the solar panel does not generate much energy.  It works more as a passive solar shading device that blocks out high angle summer sun while allowing low angle winter sun to light the interior space.  The building system also includes an integrated day-light system, naturally ventilated stair towers.  The stair tower has louvers and dampers that automatically open and closes, adjusts to allow the heat to escape and block the cold air from entering. 
The gas-fueled co-generation system powered by five 60-kw microturbines is the first of its size to be installed in Oregon.  It is located nearby, outside of the building.  Heat and power production on site saves roughly 9 million points of CO2 carbon emissions per year (equal to operating 900 cars.) 

An onsite waste-water treatment plant keeps 15,000 gallons of waste-water a day from reaching the city’s overburden sewer system and a special engineered bio-swale filters and cleanses rainwater before it flows into the Willamette River.

The eco-roofs had some interesting challenges as well.  The sedum could not be installed because the construction of the roof was not finished.  Sedums had to be transplanted on a farm green house.  The technicians believe that clovers from the farm contaminated the sedum.  Clovers are a problem because they can take over the sedums grows.  Because clovers require more water from the irrigation system than sedum, the browning shows against the green sedum.  The rain water is recycled and green roof reduces the heat island effect and is the overall storm water strategy.  Walker Macy led the design of the roof gardens.  The building is topped off with an non-accessible eco-roof on the 17th floor.  The total area of extensive green roof  is 7,802 sf and intensive green roof is 6,970 sf, not including walking surfaces.


There are problems and challenges in any innovative building project.  Because it is the first to be down, OHSU Center for Health and Healing was an experiment.  The owner and the architects took risk which later benefits the environment.  The success of this building also encouraged other building project and raises the public’s attention.  There are improvement and revisions to change in hind site.  For example, the waste water treatment plant was small and it’s reaching it’s capacity to serve the building already.  The building used more water because it is a lab and sterilization equipment uses much more water than anticipated.  The possibility for a larger waste treatment plant to serve the whole campus would have been more efficient. 

Developer Dennis Wilde, a principal at Gerding Edlen, posed a challenge:  Reduce the capital costs for the building’s mechanical system by 25% but make it outperform the Oregon energy code by 60%.  The mix of swimming pools, surgery suite, research lab each with cooling and ventilation demands far beyond the norm made Wilde’s challenge more difficult.  Wilde believes that we habitually building building full of mechanical equipment that’s seldom used.  Why not get creative and make the parts serve more than one function.  For example, a roof that provides beauty collects rain water and reduces heat.  Another example is plumbing system that recycles its water and filters the waste water on site.  The Center for Health and Healing is a lesson in the architecture of integration.             


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