A Most Sustainable, Modular Classroom

Architect Stacy Smedley at Bertschi, 6/2017

I’ve been wanting to write this post ever since spending time last summer in company of a bright, knowledgeable, talented and articulate go-getter architect by the name of Stacy Smedley. She was a lead designer of the Bertschi School Living Science Building in Seattle, and is now Director of Sustainability at Skanska USA.

Stacy gave me what time I needed to see, appreciate and ask questions about her Living-Building Challenge™ certified building for Bertschi School. My first intention was to write about its Living Science Building, but its amazing features are very well documented at the link above and elsewhere on the www. (I’ve written about other LBC certified buildings, the Brock Environmental Center and, in 2 parts, the Bullitt Center.)

One particular point of interest was that operating costs of the Bertschi building weren’t performing as expected. As reported by the students, it was using too much energy–the composting toilets were the culprits. So, some solar panels were added to the roof to get back to net zero, and certification.

SEED classroom for Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh

Towards the end of my visit, Stacy told me about The SEED Collaborative. (SEED stands for Sustainable Education Every Day.) She co-founded the non-profit in 2012 and is its CEO.

The SEED modular classroom comes net-zero-ready. Among commendables, it features non-toxic materials, generates all of its energy requirements and recycles water on-site.

As site parameters aren’t known ahead of orders, an energy model is built to predict the number of solar panels needed on the roof to have the building comply with the particular LBC certification being sought.

Many jurisdictions around the U.S. require potable water at sinks so a utility hook-up is provided for that. Other jurisdiction code requirements have caused SEED to find regional manufacturers where adaptation is less expensive than re-tooling and transporting the modulars cross-country.

SEED Classroom prototype, Seattle

How might the modular inform academic curricula for the students?

Easy. For one, leave the systems exposed–no interior walls.

In a magazine interview, Smedley said: “A kid can go up to the cistern and watch the pipe go over to the hand pump, and then to the living wall, and then to the greywater tank. They can trace it with their finger if they want to.” Then they ask “why” questions.

The answers are provided in an O&M manual for the new building systems and components as required by the particular LBC certification and its Petals. For instance, under the “Water” Petal, all the water components are described as to operating standards and maintenance, including technical data. And, for these plumbing building system components are K-12 lesson suggestions.

Here’s a video featuring Stacy and her 900 sq. ft. Living Building Challenge™ Petal Certified net-zero building project for the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.

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“Energy Sprawl”

That’s the title of a feature article in Nature Conservancy magazine’s Fall issue.

What really drew my attention to the article is the Land Use vs. Carbon Footprint graphic shown here.  Good info, easy to take in. And, something I hadn’t really considered.

The piece starts with a 2-page photo (as if to emphasize the title) showing what’s called “part” of the Port of Rotterdam’s petroleum footprint. Petroleum storage containers as far as one can see in the pix, wind turbines, railways, bridges, canals and a long trail of smoke stack effluent in the distant background. Totally industrial.

The accompanying caption reads: “Growing energy demand could threaten 20 percent of the world’s remaining natural land by 2030.” According to author Joseph Kiesecker, that equates roughly to the size of Russia. For U.S. wind power, an area the size of S. Dakota will be needed by 2040. These are dramatically larger footprints than what coal requires, and still larger than petroleum.

“But one [Nature Conservancy] scientist has a vision for getting the energy we need without sacrificing nature [italics mine]”. That’d be Kiesecker.

A plan is needed for all corners of the earth. Conservation-informed planning is one initiative of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) offered globally to regional energy companies and municipal governments.

Generally, the key is to site renewable energy infrastructure on land that’s already disturbed. Places include ag land, industrial areas and former mine sites (think mountaintop mining). Another is capped landfills. Yet another is, of course, rooftops–like those housing big box stores, schools and transportation and industrial distribution buildings.

One example cited is TNC’s work back in 2010 where it mapped out the Mohave Desert region’s most biologically diverse and unspoiled places for protection. One beneficiary of that effort is the desert tortoise. Industrial development has been steered away from its habitats there.

Also identified by the work that included industry and government reps is 1.4m acres of previously developed (old ranchlands) or degraded sites (abandoned mines) that will readily support solar infrastructure in the Mohave.

In developing countries such as India, Kiesecker points the way toward a dispersed model of renewable power generation. Rooftop use and smaller land-based facilities for solar will be key for decentralized smart grids in areas already well populated.

“While it is bad news that wind, solar and biofuels all have a larger footprint on the land than fossil fuels, one of the great advantages of most renewable sources is that we can put them just about anywhere,” Kiesecker says.

“Some places may be sunnier or windier than others, but renewables aren’t as tightly linked to a specific patch of ground as fossil fuels…,” he adds.

Globally, for the siting of renewable energy systems, there’s plenty of previously disturbed land or rooftop acreage the use of which would have the effect of maintaining critical conservation needs for a heathier ecosystem and planet. Let’s go there.

 

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Worried about Air Pollution? Look Inside.

The average American spends so much time indoors. Rather too bad, but that’s the reality for most of us. With the onset of winter, it’s gonna be truer.

Catching my attention lately was the quote: “According to the [EPA], the air inside our homes can be more polluted than outside air in large cities.” (No, seriously.)

Well, there’s a new-ish guide to help you determine what you can, or shouldn’t be doing when renovating or furnishing your house. It’s put out by EWG which I first blogged about several years ago.

From its website linked here: “We are a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.”

“We work for you. Do you know what’s in your tap water? What about your shampoo? What’s lurking in the cleaners underneath your sink? What pesticides are on your food?”

What makes EWG very credible is its funding sources; foundations and individuals. No funding of studies by Cargill or Monsanto ergo no potential “merchants of doubt” skewing the research or resulting conversations.

EWG’s Healthy Living: Home Guide considers health risks in every room of your humble abode. 21 categories of home improvement needs/wants are offered. Dry wall to bed mattresses.

About mattresses, the guide states: “Most…on the market are full of chemicals that can pollute your bedroom air and harm your body.” Heh, talk about a good night’s sleep gone missing?

What harmful components can be “baked in” is too depressing to list. If you see this GOTS seal, good to go. To earn this certification, the mattress cannot be made of polyurethane foam or contain a number of hazardous chemicals used in many.

Want a latex-based mattress? Could be a good choice is you find one that’s made of 100% natural latex. That would leave you sleeping on something that’s “highly resistive to mold and dust mites”. Look for the Global Organic Latex Standard, or GOLS, for certified organic latex.

Wish I’d known about this EWG work when buying a new mattress about 6 months ago. I might be afraid to look now.

If you haven’t informed yourself of what low VOCs are and in which home improvement products they may lurk, check out the guide before buying drywall, carpet, paint, caulk–a whole host of supplies the use of which might adversely affect your or your family’s health.

You allergy sufferers surely own a vacuum cleaner armed with a HEPA filter? Chances are much improved that the building where you work is being cleaned with HEPA vacuum cleaners as pros like me strongly endorse their use.

Are packaged wipes what you use to clean off surfaces? Consider getting rid of ’em. You can mix your own cleaner using a combo of tap water and white vinegar. Then apply to a microfiber cloth. If you’d rather buy green cleaners, they’re rated in EWG’s guide.

Got mold or evidence of mildew in your bathroom? In the shower tile grout? EWG’s just recommended “CLR Mold & Mildew Stain Remover”. Not perfect–gets only a “B” rating. But, wait. There’s an “A”-rated product: “Attitude Bathroom Mold & Mildew Cleaner.” Might have to go online for it.

As the article I saw in the health section of the Washington Post concludes: “True to its name, the EWG’s Healthy Home guide “…is kind of a twofer, offering quick consumer advice that can both improve indoor air quality and help save nonrenewable sources outside the home.”

What could make the guide more useful? How ’bout offering it in a smart phone app?

Done!

 

 

 

 

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Sea Level Rise and Some of Our Most Important Monuments

About a month ago, Rolling Stone Magazine published: “What Happens When a Superstorm Hits D.C.?” Its lead image-

©Rolling Stone Magazine

Another image shown in the article is of a section of flood wall along 17th St. in D.C. that must be manually installed ahead of a major storm so the Potomac Park Levee System, maintained by the National Park Service (NPS), running from near the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, becomes whole as a flood barrier.

The barrier system’s movable aluminum panels are stored in a N.E. D.C. NPS maintenance yard “amidst picnic tables and garbage bins,” as the Rolling Stone article put it. Further, they might fail at installation for reasons author Justin Nobel state in his piece.

Quoting again from the article: “When the big storm hits D.C., the resulting disaster may not kill as many as Katrina, or flood as much physical real estate as Harvey, but the toll it takes on American institutions will be unfathomable. The storm will paralyze many of the agencies that operate and defend the nation, raising the specter of national-security threats. ‘Imagine,’ says Gerald Galloway, a disaster and national-security expert at the University of Maryland who served 38 years in the military, ‘the world waking up some morning to see an aerial photograph of Washington, D.C., with everything from the Lincoln Memorial to the grounds of the Capitol under-water – that certainly does not speak well for the United States’ preparedness.'”

Hurricane Isabel of 2003, a Category 2 storm, knocked out power at two sewage treatment plants upriver of D.C. with the result that 96M gals. of raw sewage was sent flowing towards the National Mall. The damage to property in MD and D.C. was worth some $1.23B in today’s USD.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a webcast of a presentation at the National Building Museum titled: “Is D.C. Ready for a 500-year Flood Event”? The short answer was: a qualified no.

But, I was rather fascinated by slides shown by Jeffrey Gowen, branch chief of facility operations, National Mall and Memorial Parks, NPS, whose responsibility includes safekeeping of the monuments shown here. Note that the blue line superimposed along the monument images represents the 100-year flood mark:

Doesn’t make me feel any better that other areas in the country are also ill-prepared. Recall that Hurricane Harvey hit the 500-year flood mark in Houston/Harris County, TX. That makes for the 3rd year in a row that region has been hit by a 500-year storm event. Estimated price tag to rebuild this time: upwards of $150B.

And, if you wonder what the 5-year mark since Hurricane Sandy shows for more effectual infrastructure on the Eastern Seaboard looks like, see my post here about restorative efforts. And, a very recent Washington Post article about the matter that’s not encouraging. What a ginormous problem.

Let’s finish protecting our vital infrastructure in D.C. before paying as much as $10B for a border wall between peaceful nations. A more meaningful commitment to our national defense, I’d venture. The vulnerable monuments described here are bellwethers for the functioning of our national government.

 

 

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What’s a Tree Pit? An Opportunity, I Submit.

For nearly 9 months of this year, I and some others have been engaged in an effort to reduce impervious surfacing at my very urban Baltimore City church.

As the church has no vacant land and city regulations prohibit removing existing concrete surfacing anywhere within 6’ of a building foundation, the only remaining prospect for supporting the city’s TMDL* Watershed Improvement Plan requirement is one where tree pit expansions enable more polluted rainwater to be captured and filtered in the pits so less running directly off sidewalks and streets into an old, overtaxed municipal sewer system that periodically disgorges harmful stuff into tributaries to the Inner Harbor.

As important, trees should become healthier and even bigger through increased watering and more exposure of their root structure to light and air.

So, good enough. Much better than nothing.

Healthier, bigger trees do a number of things, including: sequester more C02; lessen the urban “heat island effect”; lower summer temperatures and air conditioning need; capture airborne particulates; and, help reduce hillside and stream bed erosion.

From treepeople.org’s top 22 benefits comes another, the assertion that: “Trees reduce violence. Neighborhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear.” Who knew? But, makes sense, right?

Here’s a homemade movie (a .wmv file) which showcases how foundation grant money supported multiple, gainful purposes in my church’s tree pit expansion project that added an average of 36% more pervious surface in the existing pits. It stars about 30 elementary and middle school students and their teachers from 3 neighborhood public schools–the all-important hands-on green education component of the grant request and community application. And a few organizers/helpers.

The students were provided cotton garden gloves to use and keep, topsoil, LeafGro and mulch, liriope spicata to plant, and earthworms to place into the reconditioned tree pit soil. The library of each of the 3 schools received an age-appropriate book about caring for the environment. Tree pit signage was designed and fabricated for the project.

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* TMDL: Total Minimum Daily Load  Waste Load Allocations (WLAs) approved by the U.S. EPA

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Ode to summer, moving towards fall

Grand Staircase-Escalante/Douglas C. Pizac, AP

Bears Ears/U.S. Dept. of the Interior photo

Before moving on to today’s intended post, consider acting on Administration moves to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. These efforts are urged by extraction industries which rarely restore what they’ve disrupted. They can get theirs from elsewhere.

The Washington Post offered a strong editorial on the issue the other day.

Follow my suit by calling your representatives in Congress to demand these monuments be saved–just as they are–for future generations to learn from and enjoy. Consider helping the Public Lands Defense fund of The Wilderness Society which seeks financial support for legal challenges.

♠♥♣♦

American Conservationist John Muir

When thinking about the elixir of hiking in the fresh air along a mountain ridge in the Sierra’s, I can’t help it that my thoughts sometimes return to appreciation for the iconic conservationist, John Muir.

In Meditations of John Muir: Nature’s Temple, which I’ve quoted from before, comes #24: “The Very Best Bed Imaginable”.

It is from this tree, called Red Fir by the lumbermen, that mountaineers cut boughs to sleep on when they are so fortunate as to be within its limit. Two or three rows of the sumptuous plushy-fronded branches, overlapping along the middle, and a crescent of smaller plumes mixed to one’s taste with ferns and flowers for a pillow, form the very best bed imaginable. The essence of the pressed leaves seems to fill every pour of one’s body. Falling water makes a soothing hush, while the spaces between the grand spires afford noble openings through which to gaze dreamily into the starry sky. The fir woods are fine sauntering-grounds at almost any time of year, but finest in autumn when the noble trees are hushed in the hazy light and drip with balsam; and the flying, whirling seeds, escaping from the ripe cones, mottle the air like flocks of butterflies. Even in the richest part of these unrivaled forests where so many noble trees challenge admiration we linger fondly among the colossal firs and extol their beauty again and again, as if no other tree in the world could henceforth claim our love.

pine bough bed

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National Monument/Parks – Some Good/Bad News

Some Good News

Sand to Snow National Monument

Sand to Snow National Monument recently deemed “safe”. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has just recommended no changes be made to the monument’s protected status.

Whew! One down. 20 national monuments to go, including Giant Sequoia and Vermillion Cliffs. (Was there public comment as was just added by the Administration to the 1906 Antiquities Act order?)

Sand to Snow was declared a national monument about 18 months ago by former President Barrack Obama.

“The 154,000-acre monument extends from Bureau of Land Management lands on the Sonoran desert floor up to over 10,000 feet in the San Gorgonio Wilderness on the San Bernardino National Forest.” (source NPS)

The San Gorgonio Wilderness is visited by some 50k hikers a year, making it the #1 visited wilderness area in Southern CA. Consider that 24m people live within a 2-hour drive of this beautiful recreational area.

These lands protect sacred heritage and endangered species. At the base of San Gorgonio Mountain lived The Serrano and Cahuilla Indian people. The Serrano were discovered living in this area by a Spanish explorer in the 16th century. They lived in dome-shaped roughly 12′ x 14′ shelters framed by willow poles and long sticks and covered with brush and yucca fiber. The shelter floors were typically dug about 2′ below the ground to help mitigate extreme temperatures.

The San Gorgonio and other mountains offered medicinal plants, basket-making material and deer and other animals for hunting and other food sources for California Natives, as they are called. The San Gorgonio Pass served as a major trade route that led from Arizona to the CA coast.

This preserve includes 30 miles of the more than 2,600-mi. Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Featured in hiking circles, the “Nine Peaks Challenge” is known as a grueling all-day 27-mile hike that rises over 8,300 feet in elevation across 9 peaks. Cross country skiing is one of the major winter activities in the San Gorgonio Mountains.

The management of this monument is shared by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Some Bad News

The 2011 NPS voluntary ban on sales of plastic water bottles in some of its parks has been lifted.

23 out of America’s 417 national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, had opted to restrict bottled water sales.

Litter bugs–ignorant or uncaring of the hiker’s montra “leave no trace”–will be in greater evidence again in the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, among ’em.

Of course the International Bottled Water Association lobbied the Trump Administration, claiming harm and foul that bottled sweetened drinks were allowed while bottled plain water was not.

“The decision came three weeks after the Senate confirmation of Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist [whose law firm] represented Deer Park brand owner Nestlé,” as reported by The Washington Post (8/18/17).

Zion National Park in Utah had begun to sell reusable water bottles. Its water filling stations (which I appreciated and repeatedly used in both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks earlier this summer) “serve as exhibits, giving visitors information about the impact of disposable bottles, as well as the safety and purity of Zion’s water and the importance of staying hydrated in the desert.” 5k pounds of plastic were estimated to be diverted from the waste stream in that park in 2015.

Following the ban, NPS announced it will offer both bottled plain water and water stations throughout its system.

I’ll follow the young fella in line here, thank you very much…

NPS photo by Michael Quinn

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Giants of Sustainability – Sequoias

Most of you have Bucket Lists, I assume?

On mine was a visit and numerous hikes in Yosemite National Park.

And, to see what’s called the largest (most massive) living tree on earth. By trunk volume–no branches.

© Richard G. Williams

That’d be the “General Sherman” tree in Sequoia National Park, roughly 2-1/2 hours’ drive southeast of Yosemite.

The General Sherman is 36′ in breadth at the base; 102 ft. in diameter. This image maybe shares the sense of it? Way beyond elephantine.

2,000 years old is the minimum age estimate for The General Sherman. Probably closer to 2,700 years old.

Definitely B. C., into what’s called the Archaic Period in No. America. The Chumash People occupied this area when The General Sherman was a youngster in what’s called the Millingstone Horizon period in CA.

At 275′ tall, it isn’t the tallest sequoia. The tallest tree in the world at 376′ is the Coast Redwood, a sequoia specie.

The oldest sequoia known was 3,266 years old when it was cut down. (Imagine cutting down a tree equivalent to a 33-story building?)

While estimating the age of an existing giant sequoia isn’t anything too sure, once it’s down, ring counting proves the age.

These giant sequoias need about 1k gal. of water daily according to the NPS park ranger who described The General Sherman when we and another 60 people stood in front of it. Their root systems are shallow; only 12-14′ deep. A mature sequoia’s root system can occupy about an acre of land. Its egg-shaped cones are surprising small, and its branches start about half way up the tree.

One of the sequoias we saw had fire marks on its bark about 75′ up. So, a very, very long time ago it survived a fire threat as a young tree.

The bark of a Giant Sequoia helps protect it against fire. In a mature tree it measures some 3′ in thickness. It has a fibrous feeling to the touch; kind of like the short hair on an American boxer dog, for example. Some of it comes off in your hand if rubbing the bark. (So I stopped, wishing no harm to the tree.)

But the softness of this bark can serve as a perfectly nice cushion which this youngish couple took advantage of, no doubt at the end of a beautiful day of hiking and exploring.

The ranger also said there’s a large tannin content to the tree’s wood that wards off damaging insects or fungal disease.

Giant sequoias are a sight to behold! Get out! Go see ’em. Invigorating!

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A Magnificent, Suitably Scaled Historic Hotel in Yosemite

“El Capitan,” Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park was formed in 1890. Who signed the first legislation that protected key parts of the park?

President Abe Lincoln. In 1864 he gave the Yo-semite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias to the state of CA.

The National Park Service’s first director, Stephen T.  Mather, was said to personally favor Yosemite National Park at the creation of the NPS in 1916.

Clare Marie Hodges – first female park ranger in the National Park Service, 1918 at Yosemite

What other national parks were in existence by that time and run by the U.S. Department of the Interior? Well, Yellowstone, for one, opened as a national park in 1872. There were 12 others in existence before accounting for national monuments and reservations.

Back to Mather. He pushed aggressively for concessions and accommodations upgrades at Yosemite where overnighters were mostly tent campers. In July 1925, successful West Coast architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood was selected by concessionaire Yosemite Park and Curry Company to design what came to be a hotel in the Arts & Crafts style. His lodge for Bryce Canyon National Park was just opening then.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (nee The Ahwanhee Hotel)

Underwood’s final design is a Y-shaped hotel with 3 3-story wings flanking a 6-story central tower. Native American flourishes are added to the Arts & Crafts style in what’s sometimes called “National Park Rustic” or “Parkitecture”. First floor ceiling heights reach to 34′. Grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead’s firm.

To minimize the chance of fire, the selected building materials were mostly of steel, granite or concrete. The exterior is granite and concrete–the concrete is stained to look like redwood.

Cornerstone laid on 8/1/1926. No building materials were allowed to be taken from the 748,036-acre (3,027.19 km2) park–as it was and is protected.

The hotel, named Ahwanhee after what the Ahwahneechee people called the Yo-semite Valley, had its official opening July 16, 1927. Cost: $1.25m. Original cost was $525k, supposedly guaranteed.

The Great Lounge

For 2-1/2 years from 1943, the U.S. Navy converted the hotel to an R&R hospital. The Great Lounge became a dormitory for 350 men.

Ahwanhee Dining Room

Today this hotel, just lately (and hopefully, temporarily) renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, offers 93 rooms, including 6 suites. In 8 close-by bungalows are another 24 rooms. Room rates in-season are what one might expect: high. Reservations for its 350-seat dining room should be made well in advance.

View from our table

During my wife’s and my visit, we ate a late lunch in The Ahwanhee Bar, just off the hotel lobby. We shared a platter of smoked salmon and trout with capers, a mild horseradish sauce and toasts. The view from our table was delightful, thank you.

Many other views are breath-taking at this iconic and historic hostelry.

 

 

The Ahwanhee Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987–just where it belongs as to protection for its interiors as well as exteriors.

And, this building is very sustainable for its 90 years of embodied energy which I wrote about in a previous post.

One of the hotel’s earliest guests was photographer extraordinaire Ansel Adams. At the Ansel Adams Gallery in the village are low-cost reproductions of his originals taken in the park and elsewhere.

P.S. Suggested activities in the park include climbing to the top of Vernall Fall, and an evening being entertained by actor Lee Stetson who masterfully portrays John Muir as explorer, Yosemite National Park creation advocate and storyteller.

Lots of crowds when we visited a month ago, but with a tip gained from a van tour guide one day, we found a sparsely peopled trail the next day. Hiking down the trail, a loaded mule train came barreling up the trail with absolutely no warning. We pressed ourselves into the bushes alongside the narrow trail as it swept past us. Exciting!

 

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An Urban Oasis – in Portland’s Pearl District

What a delight was in store for us when finding Tanner Springs Park in downtown Portland’s Pearl District several weeks ago!

This 1-acre urban park, occupying a city block, was created back in 2010 by a team of landscape architects led by internationally-acclaimed Atelier Dreiseitl, of Ueberlingen, Germany, and GreenWorks PC, Portland. It was a brownfield site previously.

Tanner Springs has just about everything one could want in a park: a active spring, wetlands, public art (in this case, an artwall), benches, a meadow, water features, boardwalks, cobblestone paths, native shrubs and trees–even block-long stairs, inset with green grass, down into the park for sitting or laying on when the sun’s bright and temperature warm.

And, people–young, old and between.

This park is a marvelous demonstration of local ecology, stormwater management, other measures of sustainability and public input.

Interpretative signage reveals that the .45 sq. mi. Pearl District was once in its entirety a wetlands, a lake and wildlife habitat adjacent to the western edge of the Willamette River. The park sets about 20 ft. above the original lake.

The varying lengths of railroad tracks used in the wave-like artwall along NW 10th Ave. are recycled from long-gone city rail yards. A local glass company furnished panels of recycled, fused glass which were hand painted by Herbert Dreiseitl with indigenous animal and insect imagery and interspersed with the rusted steel railroad tracks.

The programming of the park provides for a mix of active and passive spaces layered on top of the functional rainwater infiltration and detention wetlands. A portion of the park’s pathways are raised boardwalks jutting through a pond featuring water lilies, then leading to narrow, meandering cobble walks among planted wetland grasses and lawn space for gathering and limited activities.

The park slopes downward over 6 ft. from street level along NW 11th Ave. on the west side eastward to NW 10th.

A signature stormwater feature is the glass rain pavilion pictured in closeup here. It’s a doff to Portland’s weather, but captures rainwater and directs it into the park. From the leaf-shaped glass roof the water is channeled into various runnels and spouts, including the one seen in pix of the stairway. Water from the sidewalk pavement simply runs off onto grassy steps and further down into the park for filtration.

Notable is the fact that the design team reached out to the Pearl District stakeholders–apartment dwellers, condo owners, businesses–for input on design features, including public workshops. What residents wanted, and got, is a place that feels natural, quiet, and restorative.

Works that way for tourists too.

© Dreiseitl

Tanner Springs Park’s restorative effect contrasts with Jamison Square, linked by boardwalk along NW 10th Ave. 2 blocks away, where a large-scale water feature invites children, their parents and others to get their feet wet and frolic. In several words: far more active, and even a bit noisy in a fun way.

Note: all photos in this blog post © Richard G. Williams unless otherwise noted.

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