Sponsored by Oregon Business

Change agents

| Print |  Email
Articles - June 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

0612 Tactics 02
SERA co-designed an innovative new energy-saving shaded facade to transform the circa-1974 Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt federal building.

The trio of principals and the broader SERA team also share a belief that architects are providers of service rather than product. “Not every solution presented as an architectural problem is necessarily one that should result in a new building,” Smith says. “Sometimes it’s a decision not to grow, or to renovate. The biggest value we give to clients is strategic advice how to think their way out of a problem.”

For example, on the Green-Wyatt federal building co-designed with acclaimed Bainbridge Island architect James Cutler, Cutler is the more famous name, but SERA is the reason a massive government project with all the accompanying red tape will finish construction more than a year early and use less than half the energy or water of a comparable office building. The firm even permanently located an employee at the building site, something usually unheard of for architects. “There was never a challenge, a change or a constraint that they responded to with excuse or irritation,” says Pat Brunner of the General Services Administration, the entity supervising the Green-Wyatt project. “Every problem was an opportunity to excel.”

Taking a cue from Sheldon and Eggleston, the succeeding generation at SERA also get involved in public policy, regularly sitting on government panels and volunteering in the community, which in turn can lead to business, as when a casual discussion over drinks with the Portland Development Commission about the then-soon-to-be vacated (and seismically unstable) Meier & Frank building led to an innovative public-private partnership with the Nines Hotel ultimately moving in.

A few years later, the hotel’s local developer hired SERA to design another downtown hotel that became the first LEED-certified property in the Marriott chain. Now the firm is working on Marriott hotels in the Pearl District, South Waterfront and Denver, all as a result of spearheading innovation at Meier & Frank. There are also new condos planned for Northwest 23rd Avenue, a 16-story student-housing complex at Portland State University, affordable housing in Sacramento, and a major renovation of the Oregon Department of Transportation headquarters in Salem.

“We’ve gotten more conscious about noticing trends and trying to identify them early and participate,” Brockman says. “Many times the job is not what you thought it would be the week before. That’s easier to implement for a firm used to constant change.”

Brian Libby is a Portland journalist. Reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


More Articles

100 Best Nonprofits: Working for equality inside and out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Striving for social equity is the mission of many nonprofits, and this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon survey shows employees are most satisfied with their organizations’ fair treatment of differing racial, gender, disability, age and economic groups. But as a national discourse about racial discrimination and equity for low-income groups takes center stage, data show Oregon’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For still need to make progress on addressing these issues within their own organizations.


Living the dream

Friday, August 21, 2015

smugglespearsthumbRenee Spears, founder and owner of Portland-based Rose City Mortgage, is hot to trot to sell pot.


Grain Food

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Power Lunch at Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Store and Restaurant.


Inside the Box

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Screening for “culture fit” has become an essential part of the hiring process. But do like-minded employees actually build strong companies — or merely breed consensus culture?


Counterpoint: CLT not as green as people think

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
photo-flickr-glasseyes viewthymbBY GREGG LEWIS | OP-ED

The issue of green-washing remains a significant challenge to those of us who would like to see the building sector in this country do more than make unverifiable claims of sustainability. Transparency about the impacts of a given material is the only way to allow designers to make intelligent choices when selecting building products.


Child care challenge

September 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.


The God complex

Linda Baker
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
093015-zydellren-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

The media coverage about Pope Francis must have put me in a Biblical frame of mind. Because after touring the latest phase of the South Waterfront development, a mind boggling 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space that will spring up north of the aerial tram over the next few years, I couldn’t stop thinking about the massive project as a modern day creation story.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02