Portland – Meeting with Dennis Wilde, Gerding Edlen

Another invaluable introduction from Rob Bennett. To understand what this property development company is about, I have taken the following from their website:

Gerding Edlen Development Co. LLC is a full service real estate investment, development and assetmanagement firm that has been pioneering the standards of excellence in Green Real Estate investment since 1996. Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Gerding Edlen also has offices in Washington State and California.

Since 1996, the firm has developed more than 60 green projects totaling nearly $5 Billion in real estate value throughout the Western United States. Gerding Edlen is one of the largest developers of LEED® Certified Properties having developed 40 of some of the most pioneering and complex Certified (or registered) projects since the inception of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Gerding Edlen exists to do one simple thing: to create vibrant, sustainable and inspiring places where people can work, learn and live. Creating places that offer fresh air, foster creativity and incorporate art and culture help us achieve this goal.

Impressive. And so too was Dennis Wilde. Dennis started life as an architect and urban planner. In fact he studied at Pennsylvania State University under Jon Lang who has been teaching at UNSW - a small world! He went into real estate development over 25 years ago.

We met with Dennis at a café in the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Center for Health & Healing, located in the 38-acre South Waterfront Central District. Gerding Edlen also developed the many residential towers in this project - one of which Dennis and his wife have chosen to live in. This is a really interesting development that concentrates on health and well being rather than sickness, and provides a place that makes the hospital location at the top of the hill (connected by aerial tram) less of a problem to get to. The area is connected to the centre of town by the free city shuttle and good cycle paths.

In this project the doctors only wanted LEED silver to start with. After the initial design charettes, Gerding Edlen were able to convince them they could make platinum within budget. And they did!

The city was very helpful in the getting the project happening. For a very worthwhile fee ($100K), they sat in on the design meetings to help flag any issues that might be a problem and help find solutions. A new permit process was initiated to help deal with such complex projects. Portland City Council has helped change the face of the game - sustainability is now an expectation.

The company has been doing work up and down the west coast. LA can be very difficult to work in as entitlement process takes a long time and frivolous law suits can delay projects. Oregon, however, is usually early in and late out of recessions, so they need to have an expanded work zone.

While people have generally given up nationally, progress in sustainable built environments is being made locally and regionally in the USA. Cascadia bio region is particularly strong in this regard.

Dennis is very interested in net zero energy - and has been very supportive of the Building Living Challenge (see pervious blog for info about this) which promotes such ideas and more. While LEED has been a fantastic tool, people now feel then need to move beyond "less bad" buildings onto ones that can make a positive contribution.

In line with this, Gerding Edlen have developed some passive houses in Beaverton, and have installed ERVs (energy recovery ventilation systems) in a 16 storey building. Passive houses need thoughtful design and a very efficient envelope, with lots of work on the details and junctions where leaks happen.

I asked about the highly glazed buildings that seem to be prevalent in the north west. He noted that architects and developers are pushing high levels of glazing, as this is what the purchasers want. They are moving from double to triple glazing to help deal with the issues. At the moment they are at least 45% of the wall area, which he would prefer at 35%. Dennis prefers not to take the glass to the floor for this and general comfort reasons.

We had a tour of the area and were most impressed with the quality of the spaces between the buildings as well as the designs of the buildings. We also noted with interest that pools and gyms were NOT included with each apartment building - they were able to use those in the wellness centre! What a great way to end our time in Portland!


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