The Electric Blocks Commercial Builds: Shaping Portland’s Central Eastside into a Sustainable Hub!

Portland’s Central Eastside is making moves! For years, Portland has been on the quest towards carbon neutrality, yet commercial buildings are still the main sourceof carbon pollution in the city. Killian Pacific is spearheading the movement by redesigning and reinventing Portland’s Central Eastside. Once home to the majority of Portland’s factories, the quadrant’s lifeblood is now drawn from tech companies and creative-driven businesses. Killian Pacific has developed a cluster of innovative buildings known as the Electric Blocks, designed to be spacious and “imaginative”, adapting to the changing city!

The five innovative buildings include the Highwire, Nova, Skylight, Groundwire, and Volta (still in planning). The Electric Blocks are described as “flexible workspaces”, designed to inspire and uplift employees, not stifle them. In design theory, this means constructing high ceilings, placing stimulating artwork, and oversized windows. Office space is available to lease for any Portland business or individual on the Electric Blocks website!

Buildings of the Electric Blocks

  1. Highwire — Constructed with a renewable timber frame, it is the largest building in the region built with mass timber, ensuring it stands strong for generations. Mass timber is the process of molding small pieces of soft wood together in layers, crosswise, to form an incredibly sturdy “plywood” material. These buildings can retain structural integrity for hours in intense fires, perform better in earthquakes than concrete and steel, allow buildings to be constructed faster, cut production emissions… AND are visually stunning. 

Highwire is rated “platinum” on the LEED rating system — the highest rating for energy efficiency and use of renewable resources. Joe Thurston (local Portland artist) and Hacker Architects collaborated to meld local art throughout the building’s design. Every floor features outdoor terraces and 13-foot ceilings to create an open environment — no cubicles in this office building!

2. Nova — The Nova building is housed in the former Taylor Electric warehouse, destroyed in a 2006 fire. During the time the building’s remains sat vacant, the standing walls became a destination for street artists to showcase their work. Nova reflects the original building’s history with a graffiti-clad rear external wall—reminiscent of the former building’s art encased remains. The design commemorates the artists who built this neighborhood and honor our city’s history while continuing to push towards an innovative future.
For a while, Nova was the tallest mass timber building in the area… until word spread of the material’s sustainability and fire resistance! Now, we’re seeing the material used in a ton of newer, ever taller, builds. 

3. Skylight — Built on the notion that everyone should feel safe, comfortable, and included, Skylight has exclusively all-gender restrooms, private showers with towel service, and a hyper efficient HVAC system. The building gets its name from the rooftop common space and hundreds of blown glass sculptures, adorning the building’s interior. 

4. Groundwire — Electric Block’s most sustainable and energy-efficient building is also one of the city’s oldest! Originally built in 1911, the railroad freight depot was constructed of concrete — the renovated building used 95% of the original materials, repurposed to Platinum LEED certification, and uses 55% less energy than traditional commercial buildings. This building beautifully reflects Portland’s industrial history and its adaptive, creative future!

5. Volta — Coming soon! The build is being reconstructed from the 1940 electrical warehouse. Although the original exposed beam ceilings remain, the entire building will be redesigned to LEED Gold certification and Net-Zero efficiency.   Killian Pacific says Volta will be “reimagined as a light-filled haven of inspiration and possibility”. As amazing as the four standing Electric Blocks buildings are… I expect that Killian Pacific will have plenty in store for us with Volta. 

Dive into the details at the Electric Blocks website! We’re chatting over on my Instagram about whether Electric Blocks is the model for the new Portland norm — Join us there! I’d love to hear your thoughts!