Mar 2015

DESIGN UPDATE – SolTerra PDX Headquarters!

We’ve spoken a lot about how quickly SolTerra is growing – we have already grown over 65% each year since our inception in 2008, and continue at a rate of triple digit hypergrowth over the next several years. With all of this incredible growth, it seems logical that we would quickly outgrow both of the offices that have seen the inception of some of our best and loftiest ideas, that saw the growth from two people in a dark room to over twenty busily working to construct the best buildings in the NW. It makes sense then, that our next construction update would be on our new Portland Headquarters building!

Located on SE 9th and Division, the Portland Headquarters, which we are calling “Division” in order to differentiate it from our ongoing projects, is only a few scant blocks from our current location. SolTerra has been in our current space since 2009, when Brian Heather expanded SolTerra from a room in his home and a small rented office space in SODO in Seattle to Portland. Though some viewed it as a risky move, it paid off- Brian cultivated a great relationship with the building’s owner, Michael Kauth, who like many were inspired by Brian’s vision and the obvious benefits of adding green retrofits to his businesses. This partnership resulted in several of our largest and most public projects to date, including a full green roof and solar electric system on the roof of the International Harvester Building, as well as several living walls, green roofs, and solar additions to other businesses around Portland owned by Michael. Over the last several years, our incredible growth has caused us to upend the top floor of Michael’s building, knocking out walls and building out new rooms just to accommodate our growth. Unfortunately, we are coming to the end of an era, and while we will be sad to leave the office of our infancy, we are ready for the next step in our story as well as walk the sustainable building walk that we have been talking for many years.

Located just a few blocks away on SE 9th and Division, SolTerra Portland Headquarters will be a five story building on an interesting triangular lot overlooking the river and the new MAX line. Its proximity to the in-construction MAX line, streetcar extension, and Tillikum Bridge, the country’s first bridge limited only to bicycles, pedestrians, and public transportation vehicles, will encourage employees and customers alike to use alternative transport. The ground floor will consist of a single 1,000 sq ft commercial space, which will likely house a small retail store or coffee shop. An 8 space parking garage will take up the second half of the ground level, which will be reserved for SolTerra fleet vehicles.

The second and third floors have been allocated to warehouse storage space and a plant nursery- between solar services, green roofs, and a handful of multi-story buildings being constructed at any given time, we have a lot of materials to keep on hand! Finally, the top two floors will be SolTerra office space- we currently employ upwards of 20 regular office folks; we are projected to hire 50 more people in the next 6 months, with at least 10-15 of those being office employees, bringing us to a working total of 35. We originally projected to only use the top floor, which fits 35 – 40 people, but based on our current growth plan, we are now thinking that we’ll need both floors in order to accommodate everyone by the time we move in. The 5th floor will feature several meeting spaces, including an outdoor partially-covered eco roof on the 5th floor specifically for outdoor meetings.

As a LEED Platinum building, Division will have the unmistakable look of a SolTerra constructed building, with exterior living walls, street level solar panel awnings, and an extensive green roof that will be open to SolTerra employees for relaxation as well as alternative work space. A 6kW solar awning will be constructed of Lumos solar panels, a frameless, glass-on-glass panel that is as beautiful as it is functional. The glass backing will allow natural light to shine through the panels to the sidewalk and cafe tables, and their frameless construction will give the array a more simplistic, clean look from the street level while still offsetting power usage in the building! Each “cut out” of the building will host a vertical living wall facing the street to soften the edges of the interesting shape of the building. The real show-stealer, however, is the eco roof. Nicknamed “the State Park” by the many structural engineers reviewing our plans. Green roofs usually top out at 4” soil depth, but our green roof will have a 1’ – 2’ base, with up to 4’ of mounding in order to support not just succulents and small plants, but full sized trees! Some of the plants currently specced for this space include manzanitas, cypress, and grape.

The SolTerra PDX headquarters was submitted for permit at the end of November- we expect the design to come back approved in the next 2 – 3 months, with an expected completion date by end of year. With any luck, SolTerra can be in the building before Christmas – even if we’ll be working in a construction zone for a few more months.

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