Helping Oregon Green Roof Manufacturer Grow

With two targeted funding programs, Oregon BEST is helping green roof manufacturer Columbia Green Technologies speed adoption of green roofs to meet legislation aimed at reducing combined sewer overflows during heavy rains and thereby grow the Portland based startup’s national market share.

First, Oregon BEST supported a research project with Professor Graig Spolek at Portland State University's Green Roof & Design Lab that resulted in a unique modeling tool the company now uses when working with civil engineers and architects in need of accurate, quantitative data about how much stormwater a green roof in a specific geographical location will both retain and detain.

"This new tool has been very helpful – it's helped us open doors to some of the best engineering and architecture firms in the country," said Elaine Kearney, Technical Director at Columbia Green. "Being able to generate this kind of data bolsters our reputation as being innovative and technologically very forward looking."

Eric Zickler, an associate principal at AECOM, one of largest engineering firms in the world, said his firm uses many different tools to measure performance of their stormwater management infrastructure designs, but the Columbia Green tool stands out.

"Generally the calculators and modeling modules are generic and do not provide a high level of confidence in predicted performance," Zickler said. "The green roof stormwater management tool developed by Columbia Green is specific to green roofs and developed using both theory and empirical data for multiple geographies across varying storm intensities, making it a valuable resource in building our confidence in the stormwater management benefits of green roofs.”

The tool, which can generate data specific to geographic areas and weather patterns, gives Columbia Green a competitive advantage when the company interacts with potential clients. "The ability to quantify our performance with this degree of accuracy is unique, so it's a significant advantage for us," said Robin Schneider, Marketing Director at Columbia Green.

In addition to funding the PSU research, Oregon BEST also supported a student intern, who worked at Columbia Green to develop one-page stormwater overview sheets for most major metropolitan areas in the U.S. The sheets condense stormwater management policy language, incentives, and other requirements into concise, easy-to digest information that architects can use when designing buildings.

Because there are no national standards for stormwater management, each municipality has different requirements and incentives, so the one-pagers save architects expensive research time.

"These have been extremely valuable resources for both our customers and our sales team," said Schneider. "A building designer can look at a sheet and see the incentive and the credits and not have to spend time looking these up in different documents."

Green roofs and other green infrastructure approaches are gaining visibility at all levels of government as officials try to implement policies to address aging public infrastructure. Two years ago, Vanessa Keitges, CEO of Columbia Green, was selected to sit on the President's Export Council at the White House.

"We greatly appreciate the Oregon BEST support that allowed us to take advantage of the PSU rain lab and develop a tool that's helping us succeed," Keitges said. "Local cooperation between industries and academia is recognized as a model for innovation to solve global problems."

This strategic funding exemplifies how Oregon BEST helps green infrastructure firms collaborate with universities to advance and commercialize technology to grow Oregon's green economy.

"It's been rewarding to see Columbia Green leverage our investment in research and the student internship and transform that into expanded distribution and sales opportunities," said David Kenney, President and Executive Director of Oregon BEST.