The Oregon Conservation Center (OCC) in Portland, Oregon has reopened a new 15,000 square foot nature-centered expansion and renovation courtesy of LEVER Architecture. A redevelopment project of The Nature’s Conservancy’s existing headquarters, the building better reflects the mission of the organization which acts to conserve nature for nature’s sake and to enrich human lives through conservation.

The original, dull landscape and 1970’s-era building were not representative of the organization’s identity as a global nonprofit headquarters. The building’s exterior has been reenvisioned and entirely clad in a combination of materials vulnerable to weathering, such as a new steel rainscreen facade that will weather over time, Juniper siding, and Cedar decking both harvested from nonprofit’s conservation sites.

With The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to sustainability, renovating the original, uninspired office building was important for the project. Targeting LEED Gold certification, the new rooftop photovoltaics produce 25 percent of its electrical supply and the use of efficient building systems and fixtures reduce electric consumption by a further 54 percent, and water consumption by 44 percent.

Photo of a wood floorplate being lifted into place

CLT being lifted into place during construction of the Oregon Conservation Center. (Shawn Records)

In an effort to articulate The Nature Conservancy’s impactful work, LEVER’s design reflects the ecology of the region with special attention to three of the organization’s protected habitats: the Rowena Plateau, the Cascade-Siskiyou region, and western hemlock and cedar forests. Managing partner of the renovation’s developer, project^, Tom Cody, describes the project as an “ecological and innovative hub” with respect to reused and recycled materials, and landscape architecture firm Lando and Associates’ incorporation of Oregon’s indigenous plants. The new design values a connection to the region’s natural surroundings, offering visitors and staff a greater and more accessible bond to the outdoors.

Central to the upgrade is a new, highly visible 2,000-square-foot building addition built with domestically-fabricated cross-laminated timber panels, the first of its kind built in the U.S. and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The addition contains a community room and roof garden terrace, ideal spaces to hold gatherings and public events. Additional programmatic elements include open-plan layouts, meeting rooms of various sizes, staff cafe and lounge, and dedicated storage space for equipment used in the field.

“The Oregon Conservation Center truly embodies the mission of sustainability, stewardship, and inspiration that we serve at The Nature Conservancy,” said Jim Desmond, Oregon state director at The Nature Conservancy. “Against this inspiring new backdrop, we can now better convene with partners in a highly collaborative environment featuring elements of our important work around Oregon.”

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