first urban high-rise in the nation to successfully integrate a wind turbine array for the production of wind energy.

Twelve West Portland, Oregon

Twelve West

Wind Steals the Spotlight: Rooftop turbines draw attention to this new mixed-use high-rise in Portland, but it’s the less visible systems and design choices that make it a beacon of green.

ZGF Architects

By Nadav Malin

Twelve West is best known in the neighborhood for its four rooftop wind turbines but, as developer Dennis Wilde of Gerding Edlen Development points out, those “are just a bit of frosting.” The more meaningful green strategy of this building is not so easy to see. That’s partly because it’s hidden inside the walls and systems, with predicted savings of nearly 50 percent in both energy and water use. Also less obvious is how the project revitalizes its surroundings.

A classic example of urban mixed-use development, Twelve West has retail spaces on the ground floor; an architectural office for the building’s designers, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF), on the next four floors; then 17 floors of apartments topped by roof decks; and five levels of parking below the building. It has become an instant anchor for the West End, an up-and-coming neighborhood between Portland’s flourishing Pearl District and its central business area. Thanks to this project, chilled water from Portland’s district cooling system is now available in this part of town.

Sandwiched between the roof decks and wind turbines are vegetated areas and 1,360 square feet of solar hot water panels, which produce about 24 percent of the tower’s domestic hot water needs (and more than 15 times as much energy as the turbines). The 6,000-square-foot roof garden is irrigated with stored rainwater from an oversized fire-suppression tank in the underground garage that also provides for 90 percent of the office’s toilet-flushing needs. (Oregon health codes didn’t allow for use of reclaimed water in the apartments.)

That rainwater reclamation system almost didn’t make the cut, according to Wilde, until the city agreed to a 30 percent reduction in systems development charges based on the anticipated reduction in stormwater runoff. That $205,000 savings brought the simple payback on the water reuse system to about nine years, and allowed Twelve West to help solve Portland’s combined sewer overflow problem. The owners are still on the hook to prove that this system reduces runoff, however, as the city can reverse that gift if they don’t.

Those high-profile turbines supply a tiny fraction of the building’s projected energy load, yet they were a labor of love for the designers, who spent untold hours over two-and-a-half years figuring out how to make them work, even after learning that their contribution would be minimal. Working with turbine manufacturers and leading wind energy experts, ZGF architects Craig Briscoe and John Breshears discovered how little is known about what it takes to make rooftop turbines successful.

As the only high-rise-mounted turbines in the U.S., this installation has already become a key testing ground and scientists will begin analyzing their performance data this summer. One result that is already clear, however, is that “the real world performance of the turbine array has been stellar in terms of noise and vibration,” says Briscoe. Managing those concerns was another aspect of their research, and it led them to the SkyStream (relatively quiet turbines) and to isolation pad specialists in New Jersey for help in minimizing vibration transfer through the base of the masts. In spite of all that effort, “you never know if you’ve been really successful acoustically until you get to measure the actual sound and vibration with those subjective but sensitive instruments that we call ‘occupants,’ ” notes Briscoe.

Significant energy savings are predicted, in spite of floor-to-ceiling glazing in the architectural offices and apartments, notes Breshears, a decision that was driven largely by marketing demands to maximize the visibility of the firm. Wilde agrees and points out that in the apartments the glass walls actually make people uncomfortable: “It looks bitchin’ cool in the photos, but once you move in it’s more congenial to have higher sills.”

Of all the challenges, perhaps trickiest was having the firm as its own client, notes Breshears. “There were definitely too many chefs in the kitchen.” They did enjoy subjecting themselves to the sort of creative exploration usuallly reserved for clients, with a firm-wide meeting devoted to answering questions like: “If ZGF were an animal, what animal would it be?” After that meeting, however, the core design group had to be isolated from the rest of the firm and allowed to work. Underfloor air, chilled beams at the perimeter, and a dearth of finish materials all contributed to the results.

Financially, the project is an unmitigated success, with apartments leasing ahead of projections and two retail spaces leased and under construction. The entire building is LEED Platinum, and the architects anticipate achieving a platinum rating for their interior fit-out as well. Perhaps more importantly, both residents and architects are happy with their space, according to Breshears. Unlike their old offices, the new ones are “light-filled, not glarey, spacious, and comfortable,” he says, adding: “Conversations and interactions are happening now that wouldn’t have happened in our old, cramped space. And that’s changing how we do our jobs.”

Location Portland, Oregon (Willamette River Valley)
Gross area 552,00 ft2 (51,300 m2)
Cost $138 million
Completed July 2009
Annual purchased energy use (based on simulation)26 kBtu/ft2 (290 MJ/m2), 50% reduction from base case
Annual carbon footprint (predicted) 6 lbs. CO2/ft2 (30 kg CO2/m2)
Program Multi-family residential, commercial office, retail, and restaurant

Owner Gerding Edlen Development, Downtown Development
Architect ZGF Architects
Engineers David Evans and Associates (civil); Glumac (mechanical); and KPFF Consulting (structural)
Contractor Hoffman Construction

LEED Scores

Structural system Streimer Sheet Metal Works Dri-Design Systems (stainless steel rainscreen cladding)
Metal/glass curtainwall Benson Industries Stainless steel spandrel panels
Concrete Hoffman Structures
Wood IPE Hardwood Bamboo Revolution
EIFS, ACM, or other Streimer Sheet Metal Works Dri-Design
Windows Quantum
Glazing Viracon VEI-59
Doors Benson, Oregon Door and Bamboo Revolution
Low-slope roofing Snyder Roofing (using Carlisle green roof)
Cabinetwork/custom woodwork JS Perrott &Company
Paint Kelly Moore and Miller Paint (low-VOC interior)
Wallcoverings Homasote Pinnacle
Special surfacing Skyco/Nocoscreen Solar Shades; Knoll Textiles Blackout Drapery; DesignTex Corfu
Paneling JS Perrott & Company, Specialty Metal Fabricators wood screens stainless steel panels
Specialty Metal Fabricators Wood Screens Stainless Steel Panels
Flooring Haworth Teccrete, Floor Factors Bamboo, Aacer Flooring LLC White Oak
Carpet Shaw Carpet Tile
Furnishings Artek Custom Workstations
Office furniture Herman Miller File Cabinets, Mayline Flat Files Herman Miller Aeron Chairs, The Joinery Custom Bookshelf, Work Table And Meeting Table
Reception furniture JS Perrott and Company Reception desk
Fixed seating Cassina Sofa
Chairs Moroso Take a Line for a Walk chair, Ralph Pucci J. Rison A Chair
Tables Knoll Studio Saarinen Tulip Table, Brent Comber Shattered Wood Tables
Conveyance Lerch Bates Inc.
Lighting Ledalite Direct/indirect office lighting
Downlights Kurt Versen
Other lighting Focal Point, Architectural Lighting Works, Bartco, Lithonia, Ilight Technologies, Designplan, Sistemalux, Zumtobel, Louis Poulsen, Vode, Visual Lighting Technologies, iol Lighting Services Inc, Lightolier, Artimede
Task lighting Haworth Brazo
Controls Lutron Ecosystem
Solar Hot Water Heliodyne
Chillers Lindab overhead Chilled Beams
Wind turbines Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7
Other: VMC wind turbine base isolators; Trox
FBK underfloor air distribution system Trox
Water treatment Siemens Water Technology
Perimeter floor heat Titus
Skystream 3.7 wind Southwest Windpower
Turbine wind turbine base VMC
Isolators Rainwater Treatment System Siemens Water Technology
Building System Stormwater Siemens Building Technology
Office Air Handlers Contech Hunt Air

Twelve West

Succeeding financially even in lean economic times, Twelve West is anchoring new development in Portland’s neglected West End neighborhood.

Twelve West

Floor-to-ceiling windows compromise energy efficiency but increase the visibility of the architectural offices from the street below.

Twelve West

The apartments are leasing ahead of schedule.

Twelve West

Twelve West

The curtain wall gives the building a thin and planar structural aesthetic. Operable windows, balconies, and fritted reflective panels create a lively enclosure with a sense of movement.

Twelve West

ZGF’s reception area is used for multiple functions with moveable furniture and doors opening onto an outdoor deck. The large reception desk in the lobby was crafted out of salvaged Oregon walnut and hand-crafted locally without any fasteners.

Twelve West

Apartment residents can enjoy the fire pits and built-in barbeques on the 7,000-square-foot roof.

Twelve West

Twelve West

Twelve West


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