Old or new, it can still go green

Of the News-Register
How old is the green building movement?
That's hard to say. But even a hundred years ago, downtown Newberg and McMinnville planners were very "green" in some ways, according to board members of the Green Building Guild of Yamhill County.
They staged a tour last week of a perfect example - the Chehalem Parks and Recreation District's 400,000-square-foot Chehalem Cultural Center, which recently underwent a partial renovation running more than $3 million. And in the process, they drew more than 100 guests, including many prospective members.
In the pre-automotive days of the late 1800s and early 1900s, towns radiated outward from a central core, ensuring easy walking access to key services, said Larry Anderson, who served as Newberg's city engineer before launching his own engineering business.
He said towns were built with energy conservation in mind, and so were public buildings. They were designed to be easily heated and to be lit largely from natural sources through large windows.
Anderson, who sits on both the Green Guild and parks district boards, said the Cultural Center should tell us this: "The green development trend isn't really an advance. It's more of a retreat."
He said today's conservation-minded and community-minded builders are turning out simpler, sturdier and more individualistic houses. They create true neighborhoods, in contrast to mass-produced subdivisions full of cookie-cutter residences.
Jim McMasters, who heads the parks district, led the tour. Along the way, he highlighted both the attention to period detail of historical significance and the emphasis on conservation detail, noting they by no means need to be mutually exclusive.
While maintaining its historic windows and architecture, he said, designers equipped the former school with a solar water-heating system, tons of insulation between and around rooms and state of the art water and power systems that are computer controlled to reduce waste.
These and other features were aimed at meeting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's internationally recognized certification standards. It is possible to accumulate points for a wide array of sustainable elements, including access to mass transit.
Touring the facility, Amity builder Ted Nickell, a charter member of the Green Guild, recognized numerous ideas he pioneered over his 22 years in the business.
"It looks like the rest of the world is catching up with me," he said, laughing. "When I started, I was the lone ranger."
Also along for the tour was a former apprentice of Nickell's - McMinnville native Nathan Cooprider, who specializes in green design with Salem's Nathan Good Architects.
"Ted is really a green building guru," Cooprider said.
Nickell's specialty is super-insulation, as Cooprider well knows.
"R-106, R-60, R-107" they chant, in almost holy reference to the insulation figures of a new West Linn home giving full meaning to Nickell's ideas. It's so energy-efficient that when 30 school children recently visited, they raised the interior temperature from 68 to 72 through their body heat alone.
Anderson said body heat is something that any good designer and builder factors in these days, particularly when it comes to public buildings. He said the body heat from a typical grade schooler is capable, if fully harnessed, of heating 30 cubic feet of space an hour.
Plans call for the Chehalem Cultural Center to house more students and more bodies as more of its space is renovated over the coming years. However, that will take millions of additional dollars, so there is no set timetable at this point.
Mike Ragsdale, who chairs the parks district board, said that the district has just unveiled plans for something even more ambitious - revitalization of the four-block area surrounding the new center.
"I think what you guys are doing here is awesome," marveled contractor Shan Stassens, who joins his wife and business partner Wendy on the Green Guild board.

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