Two Containers Transform Grubby Gas Station Into Sleek Community Center


Photo June Key Delta site.

This 1960's style broken down concrete-and-metal gas service station was just another byproduct of our car-centric culture. Built in Portland's Northeast neighborhood, it languished, unloved and unused, a sad brownfield, for many years. When the Portland alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority bought and eventually got grants and raised the money to remodel the building as a community center, they set themselves an added goal - making the finished neighborhood community center squeaky green, a Living Building. Two recycled containers, a bunch of recycled glass, an architect named Mark Nye and lot of work later, look what they came up with!
Two incorporated containers visible on the building's east side. Photo A. Streeter.

Nye and the alumnae sorority members undertook a significant challenge in rebuilding to Living Building Challenge standards. Designed by the International Living Building Institute, the Challenge has different levels of difficulty, with seven different areas of importance - Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. A prospective Living Building must start a brownfield or 'grayfield' site, which the June Key site is, and must endeavor to generate energy, treat its own storm water, and be zero waste. A Living Building, according to its designers, hews to the most advanced sustainability metric currently in use for buildings.

Thus far, only three buildings have managed to actually achieve Living Building certification, though scores, including June Key Delta Community Center, are in the pipeline.

What makes the challenge so challenging is the sourcing of building materials. Certain materials are prohibited from use - substances such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), formaldehyde, asbestos, neoprene, etc. In addition, the architects and developers must endeavor to use materials from within a designated local radius.

In the case of the June Key building, two cargo containers were used to expand the usable space in the community center without actually extending the original building's footprint. One of the containers contains the building's two bathrooms, while the other has the entire kitchen fitted into it.


Finally, the glamour shot - courtesy June Key Delta site.

All the window glass used in the newly remodeled center was salvaged, as was many of the other materials.

Outside the building, the property's brownfield area has already been transformed into an urban garden.

While the money and permits to complete the Center's living systems - especially the rooftop solar panels - are still in progress, June Key Delta Community Center is in action.

Read more about Living Buildings:
First Living Building Successfully Grown
Finally, Buildings Are Going Net Zero With Composting Toilets
Convenient Truth Contest: The Living Building Challenge

Tags: Portland | Zero Waste