ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
When the mural went up on the side of the new SolTerra headquarters around eclipse time, that’s when it became real.
The image of a woman in a pose of gratitude, with more than 1,000 plants for hair, is a towering advertisement for SolTerra. It’s not just that the firm will shift production of the living wall planters, which are like felt pockets, into the new building. It’s also that the five-story windowless wall on which the painted image sits is one of the green features of the design. The building at Southeast Ninth Avenue and Division, where the road bends away from the Ford Building and goes north now has a 70-foot-tall image painted by London-based muralist Fin DAC.
SolTerra develops, designs and acts as landlord in multiple buildings, including the Woodlawn apartments in North East Portland. But this building is SolTerra’s new headquarters, so CEO Brian Heather and his team wanted it to showcase their ideals.
The southwest-facing wall masks an “unconditioned space,” as Heather calls, it. A stairwell opens to the elements. It feels like a 1960s housing project, but yesterday’s Brutalism is today’s environment-friendly design feature.
“It reduces the amount of space to heat and cool,” the 33-year-old Portlander says. “You’re interacting, you get a more outdoor experience. And we’re trying to get people to use the stairs.” The 35,000-square foot building has a robust energy recovery system that focuses on air quality. The more times the air can be cycled within the building the more energy can be conserved.
The toilets will be flushed with grey water, although the plants in the living wall will be watered from the tap, for reliability, sake. They are on a complex timer system.
Walking through the building on a recent tour, Heather pointed out other features that SolTerra’s in-house architects were proud of. There will be solar panels on the canopy at street level, and on the canopy on the roof deck. (SolTerra started out as a solar panel installer and grew.)
That roof deck is getting a bamboo-poly resin finish, and will hold 250 people. The concrete roof is designed like a waffle, with concrete up to two feet thick, designed to hold 300 pounds per square inch. Part of that is the lace leaf Japanese maple tree which was just being installed last week in a steel planter about 10 feet in diameter. SolTerra’s in-house horticulturalist Angela Jones says the tree came from a specialist nursery in Boring and estimates it to be 50 to 75 years old. The rooftop will have an infinity edge of greenery, like an infinity pool.