Location Portland, OR
Size 525,000 ft2
Built 1975
Renovated 2013
Cost $139 million
Program Federal office building


General Contractor Howard S. Wright
Architect SERA Architects
Client General Services Administration
Civil and Structural Engineer KPFF Consulting
Mechanical Engineer Stantec
Plumbing Engineer Interface Engineering
Electrical Engineer PAE Consulting Engineers
Landscape Consultant Atelier Dreiseitl
Landscape Architect of Record PLACE studio
Acoustic Consultant Charles M. Salter Associates, Acoustic Design Studio
Roof Consultant Professional Roof Consultants
Elevator System Otis Elevators

Named for former Oregonian Congress members Edith Green and Wendell Wyatt, the Green-Wyatt Federal Building in downtown Portland, Oregon, was opened in 1975 as the home for various federal agencies for the State of Oregon. Originally designed in the International Style by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the 17-story steel-framed building had a façade of a drab, precast, rectilinear concrete grid checkered with dark, recessed windows, and after more than 30 years of operation, the building was showing signs of age.

With various federal incentives in place—including those prompted or provided by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—SERA Architects and Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty Company, were selected by the General Services Administration to perform a $139 million interior and exterior overhaul of the building that started in 2009. Completed in 2013 and on track for LEED Platinum, the Green-Wyatt Building is now one of the greenest buildings owned by the GSA, with a bright glass exterior, visually dynamic solar shading, a 713-panel photovoltaic rooftop, and myriad green strategies and technologies.

“When we came in on this project, we realized pretty quickly that we could save a lot more money and do a lot more good for the local economy if we actually emptied the building,” says Matthew Braun, project manager for Howard S. Wright. “Working with our contractors, design teams, and owner, we were able to establish a workable budget and scope—and we were still able to meet all of the initiatives set forth.”

A redesign of the building required that the structure be stripped down to its steel frame, and rebuilt from there. Doing this initially allowed the building to be compliant with updated fire, life, and safety codes, as well as delivering on an owner-driven ‘Smart Buildings’ initiative, which, as Braun explains, “is a way of tying in the entire GSA portfolio to a standard operations center—open, converged, normalized data regarding the building’s performance.” In other words, Howard S. Wright was able to set a standard to allow building users to track data cataloging energy, generators, photovoltaic-supplied power, and other in-building mechanical systems.

Prior to renovations at the building, its average EUI was 78 kBtu per square foot per year, which was less than the national average but higher than the designers’ ideal. In addition to upgrading all of the building’s mechanical systems, save the two eight-year-old chillers preserved during demolition, and in order to first begin improving energy efficiency, the design called for a new building skin. The prior skin left a big gap between floor slabs and the skin itself, so Howard S. Wright expanded the slabs by a total of 27 inches, not only increasing leasable space by 12,000 square feet (roughly one leasable floor) but also increasing envelope efficiency. Further complemented by upgraded systems—radiant heating and cooling panels on the ceilings; a 13,000-square-foot, 180-kilowatt rooftop solar array producing three percent of the annual electrical needs; energy-efficient lighting operating 40 percent under Oregon code; a 170,000-gallon rainwater collection cistern, and low-flow plumbing reducing water use by 60 percent under average office building numbers—Green-Wyatt is now operating between 32 and 34 kBtu per square foot per year.

The architecture firm added cutouts on the first floor that bring daylight into the subterranean ground floor, creating one large daylit lobby.

The architecture firm added cutouts on the first floor that bring daylight into the subterranean ground floor, creating one large daylit lobby.


Certification LEED Platinum (expected)
Energy 180kW rooftop photovoltaic array, EUI reduced from 78 to between 32 and 34 kBtu/ft2/yr
Air Quality Dedicated outdoor air supply provides fresh air to interior
Water 137,000-gallon rainwater cistern
Elevators Otis elevators generate power during descent
Daylight Solar shading on west elevation reduces solar gain by 50%

Additionally, an innovative elevator system, the Gen2Mod by Otis Elevators, actually creates energy to be used elsewhere in the building while another Otis technology reduces the number of necessary elevators from eight to six. “The combined energy savings and efficient space management of the systems [in the building] is a blueprint for existing buildings around the country,” says Max Prinsen, a regional modernization technical specialist at Otis. The two extra elevator shafts are now being used for shaft space and more efficient core layouts throughout the structure.

Because the bulk of the heating and cooling needs are satisfied by the radiant ceiling panels, large HVAC ducts in the Green-Wyatt building were no longer necessary, not only allowing the duct sizes to be reduced—thus raising the ceiling height by 12 inches—but also allowing the building to use a dedicated outside air supply, which affords 100 percent air replacement. Braun adds that the team hit even more EISA standards by converting an old shooting range in the basement of the building into a 170,000-gallon rainwater cistern. The system is expected to displace more than 740,000 gallons of potable water consumption in the building every year. “This reads and feels like a brand-new building,” Braun says of the completed structure, which hopefully will set a precedent for a new type of “old” office building, in Portland and beyond.