Buildings shape our world, reflections on Sustainable Building Week in Portland

Sustainable Building Week in Portland, Oct. 9-13 provided DEQ’s Built Environment program staff with an opportunity to hear from and talk to Portland’s sustainable building community about how to tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Buildings account for approximately 28 percent of Oregon’s consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions, 8 percent due to the embodied carbon of construction materials themselves. The built environment affects human and ecological health through exposure to toxics in materials, proximity to sources of pollutants and vulnerability during extreme weather events. In addition, the built environment has played and continues to play a role in the structural inequities that exacerbate the burdens of the climate crisis, environmental injustice and economic opportunities.

Sustainable Building Week was filled with over 25 events with discussions on these issues including low global warming potential refrigerants, low carbon concrete, deconstruction, mass timber, accessory dwelling units, equity and more. We enjoyed a rainy site tour of The Nature Conservancy’s Headquarters to learn about climate adapted native planting design on urban sites.

People packed into the June Key Delta Community Center in Northeast Portland for a DEQ-sponsored event on Amplifying Black Vision in the Sustainable Design Industry. Important takeaways from the esteemed panel included a focus on designing for no harm, the importance of flexibility to eliminate barriers and the message that Black joy is sustainability.

The week closed out with a keynote by Lindsay Baker, CEO of the International Living Future Institute, who urged the sustainable building industry to recognize themselves as part of a movement, to collaborate, strategize and organize together. She also shared that the world is looking to Portland when it comes to addressing the housing crisis so many communities are facing. Her call to action was for Portland to show others how to prioritize care and community as we work on this urgent issue.

The mission of DEQ’s program is to build relationships, influence policy, and support work that accelerates progress toward eliminating harmful impacts of the built environment, enhancing the well-being of people and place (both natural and human-made), and creating a more just future for all beings.

Learn more about the built environment through videos (English, Spanish) here.

By Amanda Ingmire, Architect and Senior Policy Analyst, Built Environment Program

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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