Renovation for Vestas preserves warehouse, adds green touches
POSTED: Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 11:30 AM PT
BY: Sue Vorenberg
Daily Journal of Commerce
Don’t judge a building by its cover.
When renovation work for Vestas American Wind Technology wraps up at the former Meier & Frank warehouse in the Pearl District, the exterior will look much like it did when the building opened in 1928.
The interior, though, will be filled with energy-saving, high-tech green features that could help the building qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification, said Keith Skille, associate principal and project manager with GBD Architects.
“It’s an old warehouse, and part of what we wanted to do is maintain the feel of the building on the outside, but we also designed it to be LEED platinum,” Skille said. “When we started designing it, it was one of the largest historic renovations in the country to go for LEED platinum.”
The warehouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was formerly part of the Meier & Frank furniture store later purchased by Macy’s.
Gerding Edlen Development bought the building in 2007 after it had sat empty for about a decade, and intended to upgrade it into a mixed-use office and retail space.
Gerding Edlen hired GBD to design the retrofit, but work was put on hold when the recession hit. Then Gerding Edlen secured Vestas as a tenant in August 2010.
GBD finished the plans for the site and Skanska USA in November started retrofitting the building with structural upgrades as part of the $24.4 million construction contract.
Gerding Edlen is still looking for a contractor for the interior work, added Paul Kisling, the company’s senior project manager.
Vestas has signed a 15-year lease for the property with an option to buy after five years, said Andrew Longeteig, a spokesman for the Danish wind turbine company, which has its American headquarters in Portland.
Right now, Vestas’ Portland operations are spread across four buildings. The company hopes to consolidate those operations into the 183,000-square-foot warehouse once work is finished, hopefully in spring 2012, he said.
“It will be in an exciting neighborhood and it will be great to have all our employees under one roof,” Longeteig said. “The fact that we’re reusing a building goes along with the theme of our company, which is sustainability and renewables.”
So far, Skanska workers have started working on the outside shell of the building and have begun adding new sheer walls to meet seismic standards, said Joe Schneider, project executive.
The company also will build a 23,000-square-foot wood-frame penthouse atop the four-story building. Work on that part of the structure should begin in late spring or summer, he said.
One of the more interesting features inside the building will be the energy-efficient, under-floor heating-and-cooling system. Workers will be able to open or shut vents at their desks and control temperature individually, Skille said.
“It’s like a salad spinner, with a grill on the floor that you can adjust at each work station,” he said. “By running it through the floor, you don’t have to add a bunch of ceiling ducts, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on sheet metal, and it’s easier to control.”
Skanska workers will install the system and raise the floor by 18 inches. The site will have one grating every 80 to 90 square feet or so, with higher density in conference rooms.
Another benefit of the system is that it preserves the warehouse’s original look, Skille said.
“It’s an old warehouse, and part of that is we wanted to maintain the feel of the building, so we didn’t want to bugger that up with a bunch of ducts,” Skille said. “Also, the windows in the building were fairly high up, and raising the floor makes them more accessible.”
Electrical and other systems will run through the floor, leaving the interior rooms with a fairly open and airy feel.
Gerding Edlen also is installing a large atrium with skylights at the center of the building at Vestas’ request, Kisling said.
“It adds a certain openness that their corporate culture wanted,” Kisling said.
Other environmentally friendly aspects will include LED lighting and natural light sources, a 160,000-gallon cistern that will collect rainwater for use in toilets and for landscaping, and photovoltaic cells on the roof that can provide 10 percent to 15 percent of the building’s energy needs, Skille said.
PV system details are not worked out yet, and Skille said he’s not sure if the group will buy it or arrange for a company to install it and sell the power to the building tenant.
“Hopefully we can get those locally, though, either way,” he said.
To encourage alternative transportation, GBD also designed a bicycle room that can accommodate between 75 and 80 bikes. The area also has showers and changing rooms for employees, he said.
“And we’re widening the sidewalks around the building, putting in trees, doing curb extensions and generally greening it up to make it more pedestrian friendly,” Skille said.
The renovated building will be able to accommodate up to 600 employees. Vestas has 400 employees in Portland now, and plans to hire another 100, at least, in the next five years, Longeteig said.
“It allows us room for growth, whereas our facilities now do not,” he said.