Dear Yoga Union Community,
Yoga Union and its sisters (Prema Health and Fern Kitchen) are businesses with a mission to create and sustain well-being. The Breathe Building is soon to be their new and greatly improved home. Believing that the mindful, health-based models of these businesses should be reflected in the construction of the building they inhabit, my team and I began designing with a goal to build the Yoga Union Community the healthiest and most environmentally friendly wellness center in the country.
The Living Building Challenge (LBC) sets the highest standard for green building today; standards that align with the human and environmental commitments of both Yoga Union and myself. Seeing this alignment, we embarked on a journey to become the first commercial LBC project in Portland. Over the last year, we have stretched our limits in an attempt to meet their monumental challenge. The pursuit has involved tireless contributions from suppliers, manufacturers, and contractors, community members, as well as my very own dedicated team.
On this path no effort is wasted,
no gain is ever reversed;
even a little of this practice
will shelter you from great sorrow.
Bhagavad Gita 2.40
After employing a full time LBC coordinator, making substantial investments in non-toxic, sustainable, LBC-approved materials, and heroic efforts on the part of my design & construction team, I found myself at a crossroads. Should I press on to the high peaks of LBC compliance, risking financial ruin and vast timelines, or should I turn toward practicality, building not with the LBC standard but in their likeness instead.
It is better to conquer yourself
Than to win a thousand battles.
Then the victory is yours.
It cannot be taken from you,
Not by angels or by demons,
Heaven or hell.
LBC standards aspire not just for healthier and more sustainable buildings; they’re for changing the way the world builds. While I do believe in the importance of market transformation, I have also learned that gathering information from manufacturers and finding affordable and available red-list compliant materials is a herculean battle and it’s a battle that sometimes cannot be won. While in my heart I do support the greening of both our environments and our industries, they are two different objectives and have become one too many for me to take on. I feel I have to choose one or the other objective or risk failing both.
After deliberating through many sleepless nights, I have decided to re-focus resources on healthy product evaluation and selection and less on research and industry transformation. This strategy is in keeping with the original goal of creating the healthiest and most sustainable wellness center possible. I hope that you can appreciate these circumstances and continue to support my efforts as we move forward.
I will continue to pursue the healthiest building materials to use in the Breathe Building, but will no longer pursue certification through The Living Building Challenge. I will instead pursue certification though Earth Advantage. You can read more about Earth Advantage’s criteria here: www.earthadvantage.org
I am proud to say that The Breathe Building will feature the following exceptional elements:
- Active Transportation
- There is great access to bikeways and sidewalks – the Breathe Building has a walk score of 89 (“very walkable”) and a bike score of 89 (“very bikable”).
- Two frequent-service bus lines are available within 0.1 mile, earning the Breathe Building a transit score of 52 (“good transit”).
- We will install bike parking and provide shower facilities for bike commuters.
- Through Zipcar there are two shared vehicle parking spots within ½ mile of the project (one of them just 0.16 miles away!)
- Below-Grade Waterproofing
- The Tremco Paraseal bentonite waterproofing used for our basement walls uses clay (instead of toxic alternatives) to protect the building from water intrusion.
- The project utilized masonry block “seconds” from Willamette Greystone in the basement walls, which kept these materials from going to the landfill.
- We have developed a Materials Purchasing Plan to guide our decision-making process and we focus on sourcing locally or regionally produced, non-toxic, recycled, recyclable, rapidly renewable, and salvaged materials.
- Via Earth Advantage, we will highlight 8 environmentally preferable materials.
- We have attempted to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and chlorinated (CPVC) via our Vinyl Reduction Plan.
- We have ordered a TyssenKrupp elevator, which is free of toxic ingredients listed on the Living Building Challenge Red List.
- Whenever possible, we utilize salvaged lumber from the existing building. Over 85% of our dimensional lumber and beams are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified and supplied by a local company, Sustainable Northwest Wood.
- Reuse of Existing Buildings & Materials
- The project repurposed major components of two of the three existing buildings.
- For the portions of the existing buildings that needed to be demolished, the team opted for a deconstruction process so that as many salvaged materials as possible could be reused in the building.
- Construction debris was recycled or donated whenever possible.
- The project is located in an existing neighborhood, so it’s an adaptive re-use site rather than a site that will displace existing vegetation and habitat.
- We are redeveloping a greyfield site, which had 100% impervious surface prior to our project. By introducing approximately 35% pervious surface via the courtyard, we will decrease our impervious surfaces to around 65%.
- We are installing a CertainTeed roofing system with a 25-year labor and material warranty.
- We are using a light-colored top cap to reduce the building’s heat-island effect.
- Whenever possible we are utilizing eco-friendly, low-VOC sealants, caulking, etc.
- Waste Reduction
- We are actively managing a jobsite recycling, compost, and garbage system that diverts approximately 85% of our “waste” material away from the landfill.
- We are working with a local metal scrapper to recycle any un-used metal.
- When we excavated our site for the basement and footings, we delivered soils to a handful of local homes for use in their landscaping projects.
- Each tenant space will have a recycling center that allows for site-separation into four categories: mixed recycling, glass, compost, and landfill.
- Windows & Skylights
- Our windows are manufactured in the Pacific Northwest by Cascadia.
- The windows are produced without Red List toxins and are listed in the Declare database.
- The double-paned windows have a U-value of 0.26 and use low-e coatings to reduce heat gain.
- 60% of the project’s windows are operable, providing tenants and guests with fresh air, natural light, and views.
- 2’ x 4’ skylights and solar tubes provide natural light to occupied spaces that cannot have windows.
- All skylights have insulated curbs to reduce heat loss and increase performance.
The project is now over 50% complete. Several additional sustainable features are scheduled for installation in the next few months:
- Appliance Efficiency
- We will use Energy Star rated equipment for appliances and computers and implement power management strategies.
- We will use preferable refrigerants, free of CFC and CDFC refrigerants.
- Our casework will be manufactured with Collins Pine FreeForm, a formaldehyde-free, recycled wood product
- Most countertops are made of recycled bamboo flooring, so not only is the original material rapidly-renewable, but it is repurposed as well from salvaged flooring materials.
- We are investigating the use of CertainTeed’s AirRenew drywall, which helps improve indoor air quality by trapping VOCs and is listed in the Declare database (the Living Building Challenge’s list of Red List Compliant products).
- We will install informative signage to educate occupants about sustainable features of the building.
- Our HVAC contractor American Heating is designing and installing a state-of-the-art HVAC system that will use a 98% efficient boiler to deliver hydronic (water source) heating in the concrete slab of the locker rooms and hot yoga studio and forced-air heating and cooling for the rest of the building.
- Robust ventilation, operable windows, and energy recovery units ensure a cost-effective and efficient system.
- Energy Production
- The project includes a 7000 kw solar array on the roof to reduce our need for electrical power from the grid.
- The solar panels are expected to generate enough electricity each year to offset the greenhouse gas emissions of 11, 493 miles by an average passenger car, the CO2 emissions from 5, 185 pounds of coal burned, or the carbon sequestered by 124 tree seedlings grown for 10 years.
- Entryway Systems
- All primary entrances will have walk-off mats to reduce tracking and improve indoor air quality.
- The yoga studios, Kids’ Gym, and locker rooms will be shoes-off areas.
- Our ceramic tile, linoleum, concrete, wood, and bamboo flooring selections are manufactured from sustainably-harvested, durable, rapidly-renewable, and non-toxic natural materials.
- CMU walls are insulated using a combination of 2” Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation and 5 ½” blown-in dense pack cellulose insulation for a total U-Value of the assembly of U=0.036.
- The roof has two layers of 3” polyisocyanurate foam insulation for a total U-Value of the assembly of U=0.029.
- Concrete slabs are poured over 3” of rigid Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) insulation for a total U-Value of the assembly of U=0.073.
- All insulation will have Greenguard certification to the level of indoor Air Quality Certified.
- Our courtyard will create open space for social interaction.
- We intend to use at least 25% native and climate-adaptive plants.
- We will use a high-efficiency irrigation system for courtyard and rooftop terrace plantings to reduce water consumption.
- We will use LED lights throughout the project and several of the lights fixtures are Energy Star rated.
- Lights are controlled with dimmers and occupancy sensors to save energy while providing appropriate light levels.
- We will eliminate unshielded outdoor lighting to reduce light pollution and allow for dark skies.
- We will create a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.
- Low-Emitting Finishes
- All interior paints, coatings, sealants, carpets, and carpet pads will comply with Earth Advantage VOC limits.
- All interior paints, coatings, sealants, carpets, and carpet pads will comply with Earth Advantage VOC limits.
- Low-Flow Water Fixtures
- Our faucets and showerheads are low-flow fixtures.
- Most of our faucets are automatic to reduce water consumption.
- Our high-efficiency flushing fixtures use very little water for each flush.
- We will use paint that does not contain any volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- We will repurpose salvaged beams as benches for the project.
- We will create a set of retail slat walls using salvaged lumber.
- We will install a suspended wood ceiling and teaching wall using salvaged lumber.
- We will repurpose 2” x 12” joists for door trim and wall base.
- Our fiber cement siding uses pre-consumer recycled wood and local cement to make a durable, low-maintenance siding material.
- Water Heating
- Our high-efficiency water heaters require less energy to produce hot water for our kitchen, showers, and treatment rooms.
- Water-Resistant Barrier
- VaproShield building wrap provides a robust air barrier, which reduces air infiltration to minimize wasted energy for heating or cooling. During construction we will implement airsealing details to reduce air movement.
On behalf of both Yoga Union Community Wellness Center and myself I want to thank everyone who has partnered with us in our pursuit of the Living Building Challenge. We will be following up shortly with all community members who donated their money to the project’s goals. In the future, I encourage you to follow along with our project’s green building efforts on our website: www.breathebuilding.com.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
The Breathe Building owner
you have done a super human exemplary job. Wow!
What a shining model of skillful awareness, action and service.
this has been an enormous undertaking for even the most experienced builder. you should be extremely proud.
Huge kudos and gratefulness for your efforts and thoughtfulness. I can only imagine how much you have learned about all this through this process. I for one completely trust and appreciate you and the commitment you’ve made here.
I can imagine that it might be disappointing to have to switch/compromise the certification, but for me it’s more about the integrity of your heart and the love that you’ve put into this than the certification. This building is going to be full of lots of good stuff, but more than anything love and support for all of us who will get to practice there.
The team at Earth Advantage is excited that Chris has decided to pursue certification for the Breathe Building with our program. Over the past 10 plus years over 10,000 buildings in this region have been certified to Earth Advantage standards, but this will be the first yoga studio!
Chris has assembled a great team of professionals to make this a special building. We can’t wait to see the finished product.