RBC Submits Proposal to Dismantle Portland Building for Reuse

Love it or hate it, the Portland Building is in need of some dire repairs, and the first step to get the 15-story downtown municipal office building up to code is to deconstruct the structure, skimming it of its reusable parts. The building is not coming down completely, rather it is being partially deconstructed to make use of the materials that back in 1982, architect Michael Graves sparked great controversy with the use of such a wide variety of surface materials and colors. Considered the first icon of postmodern architecture, Graves refused Modernist principles and values, but with its infamously small, tinted windows, most are excited for the deconstruction and renovation to begin. Opinions about the building and architect range greatly. We sat down with Douglas Lichter, the ReBuilding Center’s DeConstruction Services Manager, to tell us a bit about the background of this monumental deconstruction project.

We asked Lichter why the ReBuilding Center is involved in such a huge demolition project, “We saw it as an opportunity.” Salvaging items from the building for reuse, such as bicycle racks, fountains, toilet accessories, and the exterior lights, allows the ReBuilding Center to divert waste from the landfill, create jobs, and give history-lovers a chance to get their hands on these significant items.

The Portland Building is home to the iconic Portlandia statue by Raymond Kaskey. It appears in the opening sequence of Portlandia, the eccentric sketch comedy show. The statue is located outside the building, above the entrance and is the second largest copper repousse in the country after the Statue of Liberty! One of the items up for potential reuse is a Portlandia reproduction that lives indoors, safe from the elements. Among other exciting items, there is a beautiful salad bar adorned in copper and oak, and many quality, retro light fixtures. Anyone who’s been in the Portland Building has probably noticed the cool blue-green tiles; the indoor tiles are protected due to historic value but the hope is to secure the outdoor tiles.

Recently the ReBuilding Center has linked up with Maarten Gielen who owns Rotor Deconstruction in Brussels, Belgium. Lichter and Gielen met at the Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) Conference in May of last year where Gielen was a speaker. Knowing that Gielen was extremely knowledgeable about deconstruction and had an eye for architecture (he runs Resells Architecture), Lichter knew Gielen would be a nice addition to the team. The ReBuilding Center also linked up with Core Recycling, a division of The City of Roses Disposal, who are well known for ensuring that what-would-be discarded waste be reused, recycled, or reduced.

The 362,422-square-foot building may be memorable from the outside, but when asked what the inside looked like, Lichter said, “It’s kind of a boring office building, with the exception of the elevator lobbies.” Getting into more detail, the building seems to have more or less character depending on the floor. Plagued with water damage, lack of natural light, and a few environmental deficiencies, the building is due for some repairs. The ReBuilding Center is poised to take on the project, bringing nearly 20 years of experience to the art of dismanteling for reuse. The materials will then be available for sale to the public at 40-90% of market and retail values. Proceeds (after operational costs) fund RBC’s Community Outreach Program and ReFind Education.

Presuming the General Contractor and the City Of Portland accept the ReBuilding Center's proposal, RBC estimates the process could take from two to three and half months, with hope of completing the project by the end of 2017. The basic proposal is presented in three tiers: 1) what the City of Portland wants to keep; 2) what RBC wants that the City of Portland doesn’t; and 3) materials that the ReBuilding Center may be able to sell.

Possibly the most controversial building in Portland, and certainly one that stands out amongst the rest, Portland embraces progressive DeConstruction Services to make use of the iconic materials. Renovations will help significantly with energy efficiency and shed much-needed natural light on the employees.