This piece was first published on May 29, 2024 on

One of several goals of the PAE Living Building team was to create a second-generation global model for commercial Living Buildings. The leaders of the 58,000-sq-ft project in earthquake-prone Portland, Oregon, achieved their goal in April, when the International Living Future Institute declared the five-story office building, with ground-floor retail, as the world’s largest commercial building fully certified as a Living Building under ILFI’s rigorous Living Building Challenge sustainability program.

Beyond that, the PAE Living Building also takes developer-led Living Buildings to new levels. It is the first commercial Living Building that is led by a for-profit-developer; the first with its design and construction firms as investors; the first Living Building—and among very few office buildings in the world—engineered to sail through a magnitude-7.5 quake without business interruption; and the first Living Building to produce commercial-grade fertilizer from urine. The sales revenue from the fertilizer is $35,000 per year, according to PAE, the project's mechanical-electrical-plumbing engineer.

The five-story building, which is the 35th ILFI certified Living Building, also is the first Living office building in a dense urban setting. And its location in a national historic district came with restrictions on the architecture that complicated design. “This was about hitting parameters and going beyond,” says Paul Schwer, president emeritus of PAE, also the main tenant in the building, which opened in September 2021.

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