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Higher Ed Board committees approve next steps for Oregon Sustainability Center, and new academic programs

Contact: Di Saunders, OUS: Cell – 971-219-6869; Office – 503-725-5714

PORTLAND, September 10, 2010 –Two State Board of Higher Education Committees, Academic Strategies and Finance & Administration, met yesterday and today at Portland State University to review new academic programs, and review agreements that move forward the Oregon Sustainability Center project, among other items considered by the Board.

Oregon Sustainability Center
Jay Kenton, OUS vice chancellor for finance and administration, provided a project update on the Oregon Sustainability Center, and requested the Board’s Finance and Administration Committee to proceed with schematic design on the OSC. Kenton said that this is both a real estate development project and an economic development project which will drive economic benefits into Oregon. The OSC, which is being designed as a triple net zero project, will grow green jobs and promote innovations in sustainability as it generates its own electricity through solar power, collects and uses rainwater, and treats its own wastewater, resulting in zero carbon emissions. The OSC is a joint effort between many partners, including the Oregon University System and its campuses, City of Portland, Portland Development Commission (PDC), Oregon Living Building Initiative (OLBI), and several private partners. Development and building of the OSC will involve many Oregon contractors and use of local materials. Kenton said that part of the OSC will be an education component which will attract people from around the world who will see this as a replicable model and will come to learn how to build sustainable buildings in their countries, while connecting these individuals with companies and contractors in Oregon who will in turn gain more business in green building and energy related areas.

Kenton noted that Oregon is considered a leader in sustainability nationally and internationally, and the OSC will add to this reputational capital. The OSC will be the first sustainable building of this magnitude and size in the world that is triple net zero. He said that fully half of the carbon generated from OUS comes from its buildings; since the OSC will generate no carbon, the building will be a big step in reducing Oregon’s carbon footprint as 50% of all state buildings reside on OUS campuses. Besides the academic research which will be done in the OSC by faculty and students, the building will be a research project in itself, going beyond examining the systems in the building to looking at human elements and how working in a net zero environment affects workers and behavior. Lindsay Desrochers, vice president of finance and administration at Portland State University, said that this is a complex project and an exceptionally bold move that brings with it a significant research agenda. She noted that the OSC project is already helping with recruitment of new faculty and there is excitement among current faculty around the potential of the building. She said that with this project, the OUS, PSU and the other campuses have aligned their economic development work with the City of Portland.

A study of the OSC was recently completed by Gerding Edlen Development (GED) in collaboration with architects and engineers to determine the feasibility of building an urban high-rise facility that could meet the Living Building Standards. The study determined that construction of the 200,000 square foot OSC was feasible. To validate the report, Balzhiser and Hubbard Engineers of Eugene were hired as part of the due diligence process for the project. They also determined that the project was feasible, and the few issues on which they challenged the original study’s assumptions and calculations were then worked through with GED, reducing the size of the building to 150,000 square feet from the original design. Kenton said that conditional tenant commitments are being garnered from the respective tenants/co-owners in the facility. The estimated cost for the building is $69.4 million, plus costs to move the Streetcar so it passes through the building plaza area and to build an exhibition center in the building. Kenton said that while the OSC will have a cost premium for tenants because it is the first of its kind, that over time costs will align with the market, similar to what was seen with the first LEED buildings which initially also had a cost premium which has since gone away.

With the feasibility study work and conditional lease or buy commitments in place, Kenton said that the project is now ready to move to the next and final phase of due diligence, which is the schematic design process. GED will work in conjunction with the project development team (including OUS, PDC, City of Portland, and OLBI) to competitively procure a general contractor to be part of the schematic design team. After some discussion, the Finance and Administration Committee approved the following: authorized the Chancellor or designee to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Portland Development Commission to equally share up to $1.0 million in total costs required to perform schematic design for the Oregon Sustainability Center; to engage Gerding Edlen Development to perform this schematic design work, with the understanding that they would competitively procure the services of a general contractor to be part of the team to accomplish this work; and to use up to $500,000 from the Chancellor’s Office fund balance to fund the schematic design process and to plan for use of up to an additional $2.5 million of Chancellor’s Office fund balance for the project assuming it is constructed.

In other action and discussion at the meetings, the Academic Strategies and Finance and Administration committees:

  • Approved the following new academic programs, all of which are effective in fall 2010: Oregon Health & Science University – Ph.D. in Cancer Biology; Oregon State University – B.S. in Athletic Training, and Master in Natural Resources.
  • Received the Senate Bill 442 Report to the Oregon Legislature.
  • Received the Joint Boards Study of Semester Conversion, but asked for modifications of the recommendations, and agreed to keep open the possibility of a pilot for semester conversion.
  • Received the Joint Boards Study of Rural Access and Success.
  • Received the Board of Higher Education’s Study of Enrollment Management Functions.
  • Accepted the Quarterly Management Report for June 30, 2010.
  • Accepted the Pooled Endowment Fund Investment Transition Plan proposal from the Oregon State Treasury with the understanding that the new asset allocation will be substantially complete by February 28, 2011.
  • Authorized Portland State University to execute a land lease with the PSU Foundation, or its designee, for the development of this student housing project, as outlined in the September 10, 2010 Finance and Administration Committee docket.
  • Authorized the Chancellor, or designee, to seek approval from the Legislative Emergency Board at its next meeting for an additional $2 million Other Funds project limitation for renovation of the University of Oregon’s Gilbert Hall (renamed Anstett Hall in May 2010).
  • Approved Western Oregon University’s request to construct Family Housing and authorized the Chancellor, or designee, to seek authorization from the state Legislative Emergency Board for an Article XI-F(1) bond limitation in the amount of $4.8 million for issuance of bonds to finance the project.


Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities and one branch campus, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services, and lifelong learning. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the statutory governing board of OUS, is composed of twelve members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Oregon State Senate. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu.

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