Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The City of Portland’s Green Investment Fund

A competitive grant program supporting innovative green building and sustainable site development

In 1999, Portland City Council established a green building program to promote development practices that balance the needs of our growing community with environmental stewardship. A year later, the Office of Sustainable Development (now called the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) developed the Green Investment Fund (GIF), a competitive grant program that provided close to $700,000 to over 80 innovative and resource-efficient building projects in Portland.

In 2005, the GIF evolved into a collaboration between the city of Portland’s Bureaus of Planning and Sustainability, Water and Environmental Services, and the Energy Trust of Oregon, Inc. This partnership increased funding for the program to $2.5 million over five years. In each year of the grant cycle, up to $425,000 is available to projects, with the remaining $75,000 going to administering the program and monitoring the performance of funded measures. The GIF has made anywhere from three to eleven grants each year with awards ranging from $12,000 to $225,000 per project.
The GIF awards innovative, comprehensive and transferable projects that excel at:
  1. Whole building system integration
  2. Energy efficiency and on-site renewable power generation
  3. Material use reduction, recycling, salvage and reuse
  4. Water efficiency
  5. Rain and stormwater management and improving watershed health
  6. Community connectivity.
Since 2005, the GIF has provided grants to 34 of the most innovative and renowned green buildings in Portland, including:
  • The design and installation of a bioreactor that captures, treats, and reuses 15,000 gallons of wastewater daily for toilet flushing, cooling tower make-up, and irrigation
  • Infill projects that showcase residential approaches to rainwater harvesting, green roofs, and salvaged material reuse
  • The restoration of a historic farmhouse and surrounding property into an educational center demonstrating rainwater harvesting and reuse, on-site renewable power generation, and advanced energy efficiency upgrades
  • Research on the insulation value of ecoroofs, methods to reduce air infiltration through historic double hung windows, and the feasibility of capturing and reusing excess heat from the coffee roasting process
  • The transformation of a former gas station into a community center constructed with recycled shipping containers, reclaimed glass panels and salvaged building materials. The center will also capture rainwater to reuse for toilet flushing and irrigation. This project is on track to become one of the first Living Building Challenge projects in Portland.
In addition to financial assistance, GIF projects are eligible to participate in the "devTeam Portland" program offered by the Bureau of Development Services. As a benefit of the GIF program, staff from devTeam Portland help grantees navigate the city permitting and construction process. These development liaisons provide a single point of contact between the development team and the ity permit review and inspection staff. Since GIF projects often involve new technology, complicated site conditions and alternative building techniques, the devTeam services have proved to be very helpful in resolving permitting and code-related issues.

Projects that receive funds are also required to undergo monitoring and verification for at least one year post-occupancy. The city hires a consultant to confirm installation of GIF-supported strategies and gather performance data on key conservation measures. The resulting reports provide a legacy of information that will help future development projects incorporate and improve green building strategies.

Providing financial incentives is an important way that cities can support green building activities. Even small grants can reduce the perceived risk that some residents and developers may experience when attempting to change building habits. On the residential side, grants in the $3,000-$5,000 range can help cities promote and evaluate strategies such as rainwater collection, ecoroofs, construction waste recycling, low-flow water fixtures, and low toxic building materials. For larger multifamily or commercial projects, grants should be enough to support significant innovations in energy efficiency, comprehensive stormwater management, water conservation, and aggressive recycling and reuse activities.

Due to constrained budgets and changing priorities, the GIF will no longer be accepting new proposals after 2009. GIF collaborators remain committed to the projects currently in the program and will continue to pay out grant obligations, monitor projects and provide technical assistance as needed. Despite the sunset of the program, the GIF has proven to be a powerful tool for advancing green building and sustainable site development in Portland.

To view previous RFPs, project updates, photos and monitoring and verification reports, visit www.portlandonline.com/bps/greenbuilding or call 503/823-7082.

Green Investment Fund Collaborators

The city of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) was created in 2009 when Portland City Council merged the Bureau of Planning with the Office of Sustainable Development. The Bureau of Planning has had an exceptional record of guiding Portland's growth and development toward the thriving, livable city that it is today. The Office of Sustainable Development has pioneered many policies and programs that integrate environmental, economic, and social benefits. This new bureau will ensure that sustainability principles are thoroughly integrated into the core of Portland's planning, urban design, and government operations, strengthening Portland’s position as the global epicenter of sustainable practices and commerce.
The Bureau of Environmental Services is Portland’s Clean River agency, treating Portland’s wastewater, providing stormwater management services, and working in Portland watersheds to reduce stormwater pollution, restore native vegetation, and improve the quality of water in our rivers and streams. Details on the city’s sustainable stormwater management practices can be found here.

The Portland Water Bureau operates the system that delivers high-quality drinking water to more than 787,000 people in the Portland metropolitan area. In addition to protecting public health, the Portland Water Bureau delivers conservation programs for residential and commercial customers.

Energy Trust of Oregon, Inc., is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable energy development. The organization’s mission is to change how Oregonians produce and use energy by investing in efficient technologies and renewable resources that develop new sources of clean energy, help Oregonians lower their energy bills, stimulate the economy and protect the environment.

Alisa Kane is the green building coordinator for the Portland Office of Sustainable Development. She can be reached by e-mail at akane@ci.portland.or.us.