Fabricating Wellness


Fabricating Wellness


Amy Santimauro, Katelynn Smith, & Joel Bohlmeyer
University of Oregon


Brook W. Muller
University of Oregon



The jurors were impressed with this winning project which included a production cycle within the building. Water grows the bamboo, which is then used as the primary building material. The student’s emphasis on renewable energy sources, natural ventilation and sustainable materials is a clever process and program. It shows a good urban prototype by focusing on mixed-use design.


The project is located in Portland, Oregon, which is 60 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, placing it within the climate zone 4C. This zone is characterized by a mean temperature for cold season between 27 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit and a mean temperature for warm season over 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Portland sees an average annual precipitation of approximately 44 inches with very little rainfall occurring during summer months. During the cold season, Portland experiences cloud cover for nearly 80% of the time, but only 25% during the warm season.

Within the context of the city, the project is located to the east of the Willamette River, in the Central Eastside, Industrial District. The block the project occupies is bound by SE Ankeny and Ash Street to the north and south and SE 7th and 6th Avenue to the east and west. The block is subdivided into four quadrants, with our specific development occurring in the southwest quadrant. Therefore, the developed site is 100’ by 100’, but the second level garden plan is a prototype design that covers the entire 200’ by 200’ site. 

The design proposal is for a mixed-use, multi-unit residential development containing production space, commercial, and dwelling units. The net square footage of the project is 40,500 sf. However, the build-out of the second level garden encompasses a total of 40,000 sf. Production is housed on the ground level and accounts for 3,820 sf. Commercial space exists on two levels with approximately 1,400 sf of retail on the ground floor and 800sf of services on the second level. Three levels of residential lie above the community garden and account for 50% (20,250 sf) of the project’s total square footage.

Measure 1: Design for Integration
The goal of the project was to place a building’s water system at the forefront of design and rethink how water can be integrated into a community. At a large scale the building could become a catalyst to spur change within the city. At a smaller scale by creating a prototype that contains a regenerative looped system of resources and thinking about how to integrate water and energy into a building, changes how buildings are designed and built.  

Measure 2: Design for Community
This design seeks to foster the well being of the district and the people living there. Bamboo serves as the catalyst to improving the existing community and the creation of a wellness node within the industrial sanctuary. The building is located adjacent to the proposed Portland green loop and only a few blocks from the riverfront. The integration of bamboo along the green loop, in the building, and along the highway creates a cycle of growth and production that improves the air and water quality in the surrounding area, as well as, enhancing the aesthetics through biophilia in the city.

Measure 3: Design for Ecology
The regenerative looped system of resources creates an ecological system that benefits the environment, economy, and people. The bamboo is harvested for production and wastes from that process are then used to feed the bamboo growth. The building’s light-greywater is utilized by the bamboo planters located throughout the building. The excess light-greywater that isn’t used in the production shop is released and filtered through a series of bioswales finally arriving at the river. This slow release of filtered greywater and storm runoff help the river’s ecosystems to thrive in clean water and improves the health of the overall water system.

Measure 4: Design for Water
Utilization of composting toilets, shared laundry services, and efficient fixtures aid in a 70% water usage reduction. 60% of the building’s needs are offset through the use of on-site rainwater catchment and treatment. Greywater is UV treated and step-filtered through an interior, planter staircase before arriving at the second level for storage in the bamboo garden. After filtering, the light-greywater is utilized in the building’s radiant floor system and in the ground level woodshop’s water jet. Once filtered, excess greywater is released into a series of bioswales to be step filtered before returning to the Willamette River.

Measure 5: Design for Economy
Using the constraints of the industrial sanctuary in Portland’s central eastside as a way to create a relationship between production and ecology allowed the building and its program to beneficially serve the district and local economy. The production space uses the locally grown bamboo to produce goods within the woodshop that are sold through a small business, which supports the local economy. Additionally, the 2nd level wellness space brings in health and wellness businesses to the community and promotes a healthy lifestyle.

Measure 6: Design for Energy
This building employs both active and passive strategies to maximize the use of energy. Orienting the building on an east/west axis maximizes day lighting and direct solar gain. The use of natural ventilation through operable windows and stack effect that pulls air up through the atrium reduce the energy load. The solar array generates power for the building on site and is net positive creating 109% of the energy that the building needs to operate. Furthermore, the building uses wood waste from production to power a biomass system, heating water for radiant floors in the residences.

Measure 7: Design for Wellness
The design of this building is intended to flip the negative connotation of production to something that improves and benefits the lives of the people in and around the building. The 2nd level wellness space and bamboo garden benefit from improved air quality. In addition it creating a nexus of health and wellness services including a gym, spa, Juice bar and yoga studio. The emphasis on renewable energy sources, natural ventilation and sustainable materials create a healthy living environment for residents.

Measure 8: Design for Resources
In order to reduce its environmental impact, the building is designed to utilize a podium-style, cross-laminated timber system. A CLT system holds less embodied energy than other conventional metal and concrete systems, and wood can be harvested and milled locally. Furthermore, the CLT system is thermally superior to most other systems, and is fabricated off-site, increasing precision and efficiency, thus reducing job site waste. The building is cladded in locally harvested, charred, larch wood. This ensures the longevity of the material, while maintaining a low embodied energy. Furthermore, the charred exterior filters external water as it moves down the building.

Measure 9: Design for Change
Resiliency is a key characteristic of the building design. A net positive energy rating paired with a decentralized water system ensures safety and comfort in case of natural disaster. Furthermore, the design of passive systems, such as stack ventilation, and stepped-filtration lower the building’s reliance on mechanical systems for operation. Lastly, while the prescribed use of the second level is that of a bamboo garden, the project can be easily modified for the production of food in response to a crisis.

Measure 10: Design for Discovery
Transparency and highlighting of systems plays an integral role in the design. Housed within a six-story atrium, the staircase is a series of cascading planters, designed to filter residents’ greywater while providing lush greenery that serves as a source of wayfinding throughout the building. Metal grates protect residents from contact with greywater, but affords them connection and understanding of the system’s environmental benefits. At the second level, water transfers to an open-air bamboo garden for storage. The garden is open to the public and encourages users to meander its series of elevated walkways and decks to explore public services.