According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for an enormous amount of global energy use, resource consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States alone, buildings account for nearly forty percent of national CO2 emissions and out-consume both the industrial (thirty percent) and transportation (twenty-nine percent) sectors. When compared to traditional building projects, green buildings save energy, reduce waste, and lower the long-term costs associated with operating a building.

It’s no wonder that green building is gaining in popularity. Nationally, the green building sector is outpacing traditional building projects and is expected to rise. And Lane County is no exception; business owners are using green building practices to save money on construction costs and to create unique spaces that are practical, beautiful, and efficient.

Materials Matter

Michael and Angie Marzano, owners of Hot Mama’s Kitchen + Bar (HMKB), a new restaurant slated to open this summer at Oakway Center, made green building practices a priority. Whenever possible, the Marzanos chose products and materials that were either reclaimed or manufactured with sustainability in mind.

  • To cut down on toxic chemicals typically used in construction projects, Low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) paints, sealants, and adhesives were used.
  • Booths, chairs, and tables were purchased from a chain restaurant that had gone out of business.
  • The bar top was made using reclaimed teak, ensuring that no live trees were cut down.
  • Tile, made by Fireclay, a California-based company that uses post-industrial and curbside glass, granite, and porcelain, was used behind the bar and in bathrooms.

“We want HMKB to be a reflection of who we are and what we stand for,” said Michael Marzano. “We want to prove that you can reuse kitchen equipment, furniture, and construction materials to create a beautiful, upscale environment and save money while you’re at it.”

Emily and Bryan Jensen, of Thinking Tree Spirits, wanted to create a space that is aesthetically interesting and cost-effective. The couple was hands-on when it came to remodeling their space located at 88 Jackson Street. During the demolition process, they took care to salvage items such as exterior siding, sound and thermal insulation in the walls, wiring, plumbing, and glass. Several of these items were reused at the distillery and the rest was salvaged and reused in other projects in the Eugene area. In some cases, they traded materials found in their project for materials salvaged from other projects.

“We used the old exterior siding to create the bar face, sliding office door, and post coverings in the tasting room,” said Emily Jensen. “These pieces, along with our Thinking Tree, make the space both inviting and interesting.”

The Thinking Tree, created by local metal artist Jud Turner, is a life-sized tree made of repurposed iron pipe, valve handles, broken pressure and temperature gauges, piano keys, and many other found and salvaged materials.

For the Jensens, reuse played a huge role in their equipment as well. “The mash tun, where grain or molasses is mixed with water and other ingredients, is a 1960s dairy tank built by Van Vetter of Seattle,” said Bryan Jensen. “The reflux still and the distillery’s primary still’s ‘thumper,’ where Vodka & Gin are refined or the traditional Caribbean style Rum is finished, are stainless steel kettles reclaimed from a storage facility in Salem.”

Even the distillery’s primary still, lovingly named Floyd, is a reclaimed, jam-mixing tank from the 1940s.

Built for Efficiency

A common impression is that building green is too expensive. However, studies show the costs of green buildings are similar to typical development projects.  And by integrating green design from the outset, costs over the long term are less.  

With long hours of operation and equipment running continuously, efficiency was a priority for the Marzanos. “HMKB’s commercial vent hood uses variable frequency drive (VFD) to manage fan speed based on need, while the kitchen exhaust recovery system captures and repurposes heat straight from the stovetop below,” said Michael Marzano. “We worked with Rowell Brokaw, a local architectural firm, to create an equipment platform to decrease the metal and ductwork needed for venting the kitchen and heating equipment and to increase equipment efficiency.”

The restaurant is designed to make the most of natural light. LED fixtures and lighting controls will save twenty-five percent on lighting costs compared to halogen or track lighting.

The Jensens agree that saving on operating costs was imperative. “Energy use is an important factor, and water use, even more so,” said Bryan Jensen. Water plays a key role not only in the distilling process, which adds to the flavor of the Spirit, but also in the heating and cooling process.

“The distillery’s proudest accomplishments are  two closed-loop systems, one for steam that heats the kettles and another that cools the stills then recycles the waste heat back into the process,” said Jensen. “By preheating the mash strike water and/or rejecting waste heat into an in-ground floor heating system that stretches from the Tasting Room and back to the Plant, we’re reducing about 50,000 gallons of discharge water per year at design-production capacity. The cooling system saves an additional 125,000 gallons of wastewater per year.”

A Game Changer

The green building business is booming. By 2018, green construction will directly contribute 1.1 million jobs and $75.6 billion in wages in the United States. The industry’s direct contribution to U.S. gross domestic product is also expected to reach $303.5 billion from 2015 to 2018. LEED building construction projects are estimated to contribute 386,000 jobs and $26.2 billion in wages by 2018.

Locally, contractors including RE:think Business, Essex General Construction, are seeing all kinds of green building projects including the new Mahonia building.

Julie and Charlie Tilt of Hummingbird Wholesale broke ground on the new Mahonia building this winter and set out to create a project unlike any other in the area—a commercial straw-bale building. The couple is utilizing locally sourced straw, a waste material, in an innovative design that is low in embodied energy and high in insulating properties.

The Tilts are working with BRING and other reuse retailers to source as many materials as possible. The building is expected to be completed in the fall of 2017 and will house additional space for Hummingbird Wholesale and office space for non-profit organizations and other like-minded businesses.

Additional Benefits

As green building begins to take its place as an important industry, the improved indoor environments are being recognized for their numerous benefits. For example, studies report that green buildings which utilize natural light show an improvement in employee productivity and a decrease in workplace injuries and absenteeism. More benefits will likely become known as the industry grows.


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