BEST Facilitates $1.6M Investment In Green Building Research

The Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) has facilitated a $1.6 million collaborative investment in green building research at two Oregon universities that positions the state to establish a research center of national prominence and offers Oregon’s green building businesses access to advanced research tools, expertise and better trained employees.

The investment, at both Oregon State University and Portland State University, funds a network of new, shared laboratories and equipment for developing and testing new green building materials, technologies and entire buildings.

But the investment goes beyond university labs, officials say. It builds a transformative, multi-institutional research model for Oregon that helps fuel the state’s economy, improves education and ultimately creates jobs. The shared facilities will serve Oregon’s growing green building industry, attract green building companies to Oregon and help the state’s universities deepen graduates’ experience with green building.

The investment also demonstrates the State of Oregon’s unique leadership role in green building research and project execution. “Nobody else is pursuing green building research and development in the multi-institutional way that Oregon is,” said David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon BEST. “This initial investment is the beginning of what will become a center positioned to influence the green building agenda at the national level.”

The public-private partnership being facilitated by Oregon BEST creates the opportunity to pursue funding for a federally-funded national research center. A national center located in Oregon would potentially attract millions of research dollars to the state’s universities.

“This is what Oregon BEST was set up to do – expand research funding for our state’s universities, where faculty can collaborate with companies like ours to develop the next generation of green building materials, technologies and designs,” said Dennis Wilde, a principal at Portland, Ore.-based Gerding Edlen, one of the nation’s most respected green development companies. “Oregon has an unprecedented opportunity to be the green building capitol of the U.S., and investing in a shared research network will help Oregon seize that leadership opportunity and compete globally with anyone.”

Oregon BEST used a portion of its public funding to align additional investment from the Engineering and Technology Industry Council (ETIC), the Miller Foundation Grant Fund at PSU, the Oregon University System and university research offices. Future plans call for expanding the network of Oregon BEST research facilities to other university partners, including the University of Oregon and the Oregon Institute of Technology.

Distributing the investment across more than one university enables Oregon to pool research expertise and equipment, positioning faculty research teams to be more competitive nationally when seeking research funding.

“By working together with PSU, we become much stronger,” said Scott Ashford, head of the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering. “By collaborating between campuses, Oregon becomes a force to be reckoned with in the green building sector. This modest investment facilitated by Oregon BEST will enable us to bring in many times this amount of money from outside Oregon.”

The OSU portion of the investment is $920,000, including $400,000 from Oregon BEST, $470,000 from Certificates of Participation (via ETIC), and $50,000 from the OSU Research Office. It establishes the Oregon BEST Green Building Materials Laboratory at OSU, a collaboration between the College of Engineering and the OSU College of Forestry. Research in the shared facility, which will be accessible to and open for research by industry partners, will focus on innovating new green building materials, including: hybrid poplar wood engineered to be three times stronger than old-growth Douglas fir, new types of concrete and pavement that are more durable and environmentally friendly and recycled plastics used as building insulation.

At PSU, the total investment is $651,000, with $218,000 from Oregon BEST, $351,000 from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation (via PSU's Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices) and $82,000 from the Oregon University System.

The funding will establish the Oregon BEST Green Building Research Laboratory at PSU, where researchers from other OUS institutions and industry can use a suite of infrared cameras and thermal characterization equipment to test everything from green roofs and window glazings to interior moisture levels and a building’s surface temperatures. When the equipment is used in conjunction with other federally funded research projects, it will facilitate a broader investigation of the impact of buildings on the urban environment.

Housed in a new LEED Gold building at PSU, the lab will also feature sensing and logging capabilities that can monitor indoor environmental quality and track how buildings respond to a range of activities and conditions, including how occupant behavior impacts building energy use. Some of the sensing equipment will be available to be loaned to industry partners to do onsite testing of new materials and technologies.

“It is great to have Oregon BEST helping facilitate collaboration between the campuses and industry – bringing together the different pieces of the puzzle to create something greater than the sum of its parts,” said David Sailor, a professor in the PSU Dept. of Mechanical and Materials Engineering who will direct the new Oregon BEST lab at PSU. “By working together and collaborating across boundaries, we can start solving bigger problems, and Oregon BEST is key to making that happen.”

The distributed, shared research network model was pioneered in the state by the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) several years ago, and has demonstrated significant success in leveraging a relatively small investment into large-scale funding from a variety of federal sources.

Investing in a distributed network of shared facilities focused on green building research enables Oregon to maximize resources and funding to attain national prominence, Kenney said.

“By teaming up and investing funding strategically, we maximize the impact of the research,” Kenney said. “Here in Oregon, we have a tremendous set of university resources and research expertise that most states can’t assemble: world class architecture, engineering, forestry, computer science control systems, energy research and more. When we combine this expertise with the growing concentration of green building professionals here in Oregon, we extend our national leadership position.”

About Oregon BEST:

The Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) brings together Oregon’s significant R&D strengths in the key emerging areas of renewable energy and green building products and services, with the goal of increasing research and accelerating public/private partnerships to transform that research into on-the-ground business opportunities and Oregon jobs. Oregon BEST partners include the Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, as well as numerous private businesses, government agencies and non-governmental organizations.