October 24, 2011

LC Students’ Alternative Fall Break Service Featured in the Woodburn Independent

Check out this article, courtesy of the Woodburn Independent, highlighting our students’ great work in the community!
  • Photo by Doug Burkhardt, Woodburn Independent
  • Photo by Doug Burkhardt, Woodburn Independent

Check out this article, courtesy of the Woodburn Independent, highlighting our students’ great work in the community!

On the cutting edge

College students assist on one-of-a-kind building in Woodburn

By: Doug Burkhardt

Published: 10/11/2011 11:44:48 AM

Photo By: Doug Burkhardt PCUN building

WOODBURN — A construction project in Woodburn is not only showing off the benefits of building with advanced “green” technology, but also how to grow a community in the process.

The new “CAPACES Leadership Institute,” under construction at 300 Young Street, will contain offices and meeting space for the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) organization — Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United.

According to the PCUN website, the CAPACES Leadership Institute will be “a permanent part of the Oregon farmworker movement … The Institute will build the leadership capacity and political consciousness to sustain and expand that movement and to propel a host of related struggles, such as immigrants’ rights.”

Gene Wixson, construction manager for Green Hammer, the Portland company that designed the PCUN building, said the 2,650 square foot office building will be the first in the nation certified to a “passive house” standard.

“The shell of the building has insulation on all sides. Even the foundation doesn’t touch dirt anywhere. There is a layer of foam on the bottom and all the way around — no place does the foundation touch dirt,” Wixson explained. “There are double walls, the roof is super insulated, and there are triple pane windows.

It’s a super tight building. Its energy efficiency is so advanced it eliminates the need for a conventional heating or cooling system. It’s remarkable from an energy perspective.”

According to Wixson, the technology involved in the Woodburn structure is just beginning to be used in the United States.

“The technology is just coming over from Europe,” he said. “There are over 20,000 of these buildings worldwide, but we’re just starting (to build them) in this country.”

Jose Marquez, building foreman at the construction site, said the innovative nature of the building was part of the appeal of working on it.

“It’s 100 percent insulated, with eight inches of foam all around,” he said.

“It has double walls and spray insulation in between. They’re going to keep building more of these buildings. If I get experience here, I can have a job later. I’m having a lot of fun and the building is looking good so far.”

As impressive as the new building will be, PCUN representatives pointed out there is much more going on than simply constructing an innovative and extremely energy-efficient building.

Marquez, who is also a PCUN member, said the new facility is vital to the organization’s future.

“As PCUN has grown, members realized there is no leadership succession,” he explained. “They want to train the younger generation to take over leadership, and they realized they needed a building to offer training, classes and office space — a training headquarters for the Latino community in Woodburn and Salem.”

Marquez said the completed facility will offer three or four classrooms — depending on how the space is configured — as well as three offices and a lounge.

“We want a place to train the next level of leadership, and we want to engage the community and volunteers,” added PCUN’s Abel Valladares.“We want to build a community and a movement.”

On Thursday, a group of a dozen students from Lewis & Clark College in Portland descended on the construction site for several days of volunteer service during their fall break. The students said they were intrigued at the prospect of working on the inventive, ultra high-performance building — as well as providing support for the PCUN organization.

“Before I started school I did a service trip and was introduced to PCUN,” said Lewis & Clark student Jeff Turre. “PCUN is the most incredible service organization I’ve seen. It is honest and true to its people. PCUN has really had an impact on me. It’s a very positive organization.”

Turre, a psychology major who lives in Portland, said he is amazed at the efficiency of the new building.

“It’s incredible this is happening here. It’s generating a lot of interest,” he said.

Kirsten Fix, assistant director of community engagement for Lewis & Clark, said she believed the Woodburn project was a natural fit.

“This year we’re working with PCUN, an organization that touches on a lot of issues — like immigration and social justice,” Fox explained. “It was a good fit for this year. We’re intrigued by the environmental and social aspects of this project.”

Lise Harwin, public relations director for Lewis & Clark, explained that for the last three years, students volunteered on projects for Habitat for Humanity in Bend.

“This is a total departure,” Harwin said. “It’s a really great learning experience for the students.”

“Habitat for Humanity is great and we really believe in it,” Wixson added. “But this is an opportunity to participate in a one-time deal. It’s a great opportunity for the students. It’s an amazing high-performance building they usually wouldn’t be able to participate in. It will be an incredibly sustainable building; a totally cutting edge facility.”

Marquez, who normally works with a crew of four carpenters, said he was glad to have the volunteers from Lewis & Clark.

“There’s always something they can work on,” Marquez said. “Some want to start learning construction. They come over and we can teach them what we can. There may be future carpenters here.” T

he PCUN facility is projected to be completed next spring, and after that a big celebration is planned — with a special guest from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

“On July 12, 2012, we’ll have a grand opening with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis,” Wixson said. “She has committed to be the keynote speaker.”