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Law school puts its environmental values to work

February 12, 2001

Recognized as the best in the nation for environmental and natural resources law, the law school is putting its environmental values to work as it remodels and expands Paul L. Boley Law Library.

“One of our design goals was to create a building that interacts with nature,” says Jon Wiener, the library’s principal architect at Soderstrom Architects. “The existing buildings have beautiful views of the woods, but they were sealed off from these views. The original architecture was based on an intellectual separation of man and nature rather than on an expression of their interdependence. We thought this building was an opportunity to show how nature and the built environment are intertwined.

“We tried to create an architecture for the library that expresses the natural forces around it—to let these forces influence the form and visible ways in which the building operates,” he says. “The famous architect Le Corbusier called his architecture ‘a machine for living.’ We wanted to create a machine that was shaped by nature. The way in which the wind blows, the angle of the sun and the slope of the hillside all affected our design.”


  • In choosing where to build, Soderstrom looked for a location that would have the least environmental impact. Architects chose the old service area parking lot and designed a three-story building to keep the “footprint” as small as possible.


  • The architects designed the building in response to the natural topography, from the contours of the hillside that the building sits upon to the sweeping curve of Terwilliger Boulevard.


  • The design includes an “eco-roof” that encourages forest plants to grow on the building. It features operable windows throughout and a natural ventilation system.


  • In addition, the architects brought in natural light and special state-of-the-art glass to keep as much heat inside the building as possible during the winter, yet keep heat out during the summer. The design also calls for sensors that automatically roll down internal window shades and that turn down the lights when there is too much daylight.


  • A light “scoop” on top of the building will bring daylight into the central stairway. And the architects designed the reading room ceiling to bounce natural light into the center of the building to reduce the dependence on artificial lighting.

Soderstrom has received numerous design awards for energy efficiency. For the law library project, Soderstrom and Hoffman Construction of Oregon have adopted the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Standards published by the U.S. Green Building Council.

LEED encourages the construction industry to recycle waste and to use recycled materials. Commercial projects earn points in these categories: building materials, construction waste, management, energy, indoor air quality, landscaping, ozone depletion, recycling, transportation, water conservation, water quality and maintenance.


  • To promote environmental responsibility, for example, contractors are using wood from certified sustainable forests.


  • To improve forest habitat, crews will remove ivy and blackberries that choke a healthy forest and will replant the area with new evergreen trees. Contractors are using steel and aluminum from recycled stock, gypsum (for ceilings) that contains old newsprint, carpets from mills with reclamation programs, and linoleum that contains linseed oil and wood flour.


  • Moreover, Hoffman is recycling almost all debris created in the construction project. Instead of hauling debris from the excavation site to landfills, contractors are taking it to recycling companies, where it becomes topsoil or back-fill material.


  • Since beginning work on the project, Hoffman has traveled to the landfill only twice. Those loads contained less than 40 cubic yards of material.

    “That is phenomenal, when you consider that we’ve been on the site since last July,” said Stephanie Coyle, project manager for Hoffman, explaining that the company has recycled the balance of the material in various ways.


  • “We have recycled 7,000 cubic yards of asphalt, wood, concrete, rock, dirt and metal; 4,049 board feet of wood; and 156,000 pounds of brush and stumps,” Coyle said. “Moreover, some of the fir trees that were removed to make room for the new building have been milled into dimensional lumber to be used for the main stairway in the new addition. The College will use another 3,000 board feet of milled lumber in other ways.”
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