It took just seven years for Portland’s iconic Pittock Block Building to go from a simple steel frame to being fully clad in glass and aluminum.
The rise in the value of that project’s steel was in line with the rise in the value of the stock market in general as the 21st century began. In 2019 alone, the S&P 500 went up 19.7%, hitting an all-time high.
A building that’s been around since 1911, the Pittock Block Building wasn’t exactly a fast-paced construction project. A mere 19,000 sq ft of floor space and seven years to construct isn’t something to be sneezed at, however, it does raise an important question: Is this the kind of project that could be improved upon or are historic buildings like this one perfect?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a quick and dirty job, you could always find another builder to do it for you. You could throw up some walls, put in a new roof, and call it a day. But if you really want to make a difference, you should look into whether or not a renovation is the way to go.
Let’s be honest, most of us are driven by the desire for more space. We see a room that was built in the 1940s and think to ourselves, ‘I could really use something like that.’
And that’s what inspired the Pittock Block Building renovation. The architects of the original building did a great job in keeping up with the times while also utilizing sustainable materials and technology to the fullest. The original architects designed the building using steel frames and put in place load-bearing walls with concrete blocks, which are now considered to be a bit outdated and not at all energy-efficient.
Because of this, the building’s owners were determined to make some changes and upgrades. They started by enlisting the help of a general contractor and architect. After receiving approval from the local historical society, they got to work. Using a combination of traditional construction methods and modern technology, the team renovated the entire building while keeping as much of the original design as possible.
The Renovation Process
Because this was a relatively quick and simple project, the team was able to knock it out in a matter of months. Once the foundation and frame were in place, the next step was to bring in the glass and aluminum. It took over a year to clad the exterior of the building in glass and aluminum.
And while there’s nothing wrong with the building’s original design, there are definitely some flaws that could be improved upon. The most glaring are the leaky windows and doors, lack of insulation in the walls, ceilings, and floors, as well as the fact that it doesn’t have a HVAC unit.
So, instead of having individual rooms defined by walls and doors, the team decided to go the extra mile and define the room by utilizing free standing walls, floating floors, and bi-focal pivoting walls that can be pulled down to define smaller rooms if needed.
What’s more is that the team was able to achieve a higher level of comfort than ever before. The old fashioned floor and wall construction, which was the original building design, created a rather claustrophobic environment that made the building unapproachable and uncomfortable for those inside.
Floors that were replaced, due to damage over the years as well as wear and tear, were made much more durable. Moreover, concrete block walls were swapped out for ones made of ceramic materials that allow for better airflow. Finally, flooring was replaced with ceramic tile, engineered wood floors, or terrazzo stone. And, of course, the HVAC system was upgraded to meet modern standards.
So, not only did the team manage to achieve their goal of defining more space while also making the building more approachable and comfortable, but they were also able to do so by implementing sustainable construction.
As technology becomes more and more integrated into our lives, it’s only natural that construction methods would evolve along with it. Nowadays, many businesses and individuals are driven by the desire to reduce their carbon footprints as much as possible. It’s one thing to go green when it comes to your electricity use or purchasing appliances that are more energy-efficient, but it’s another thing to go green when it comes to the materials you’re using in your home or business.
The Pittock Block Building is a perfect example of how sustainable construction can be achieved even in a relatively simple project. It wasn’t always easy and the team had to fight for every inch of floor space, but they were able to transform their seven-year-old building into a sleek, modern workspace that feels as fresh as it is innovative.