Living Machine at the Port of Portland Headquarters- Portland, Oregon


Photo Credit: Google

Quick Facts

Year: 2010

Type of system: Living machine

Scale: Building- 200,000 square foot

Type of waste treated: wastewater

Amount of waste water treated: 5,000 Gallons/Day

0 Background

The Headquarter Building of Port of Portland is united by two main offices (one previously located in downtown Portland and the other near the airport) at the site of the airport. Since the company was seeking for a more sustainable system, the Architectural firm ZGF did a lot of interviews to help design and meet the green standard.

Portland puts a high priority on sustainability. Large institutions have to address issues of global warming in their designs. As a result, the Port of Portland Headquarter has set its standards to Gold or Better”.


1 Basic Information

  • Year of Completion: 2010


  • Location: Port of Portland Headquarters Portland, Oregon
  • Scale: Building
  • Site: Airport



  • Climate:-marine:
    • A mean temperature of coldest month between 27°F (-3°C) and 65°F (18°C)
    • A warmest month mean of less than 72°F (22°C)
    • At least 4 months with mean temperatures more than 50°F (10°C)
    • A dry season in summer.  The cold season is October through March.


  • System Capacity: 5,000 Gallons Per Day

Accepts all wastewater generated by the building’s 500 employees and produces high-quality water that is reused to flush toilets.

2 Cost

The project is being funded by agency revenues and airport revenue bonds.



3.1 System description


Diagram: Yidan, Tamara, Pure

Blackwater and Greywater is recycled in three steps.  First, wastewater goes through primary settling tank to get large solids out; second, semi-purified flows through the Living machine which are composed of six tidal flow wetlands and four vertical  flow wetlands that purify water and get rid of organic pollutants; finally,  polished water is disinfected by UV light and chlorine tablet feeder. After the three recycling procedures, wastewater can be reused for toilet flushing.

Photo Credit: Google

The processing installation utilizes space inside and outside the building efficiently, four tidal flow wetlands at the corner of the lobby of the Headquarter and six wetlands outside the building.




Diagram: Yidan, Tamara, Pure

Living Machine is the key part of the whole system. Wastewater is processed in two procedure during the Living Machine. First, six tidal flow cells(wetlands) serve as biofilms to remove of pollutants by oxidization of organic material and butrogenous  compounds. Then the four vertical flow cells outside polish cells to remove the remaining organic material. Living Machine treats wastewater ready for disinfection and reuse.


3.2 Plants



Juncus effusus, Soft Rush



Acorus gramineus, Japanese sweet flag


Colocasia esculenta, Taro



Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum, Peace lily



Strelitzia reginae, Bird of Paradise





Exterior plants: No flowering plants. Because the site is near the airport, so that no bird will be attracted.

Interior plants: Plants have little demand for sunlight to fit with the low light conditions in the office.


4 Benefits


Diagram: Yidan, Tamara, Pure

The living machine uses many plants in their tidal flow cells that serve the purpose of decontaminating incoming wastewater at quality levels well beyond those mandated by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality. As an added bonus, the plants enhance the overall beauty of the site and create a micro-climate within and around the building.


5 Possible Implications


6 Stakeholders


Diagram: Yidan, Tamara, Pure

The Port of Portland is the client of the project. They hired ZGF Architects to bring their departments together into one building and uphold their vision for a sustainable building. As many departments are brought together in one building, many visions had to be met. For such a complex, large building with many systems the Port had to work with additional engineers and landscape architects. They worked closely with Aqua Nova Engineering, Reed/Mayer (landscape architects), Hoffman Construction Company (general contractor) and iWater Services, the operator.

7 Policies and Resources

Additional policies and resources available via the City of Portland website. These resources can be used to gain a better understanding of the waste water management strategies throughout Portland.


8 Source





Team Member: Chun Zheng, Tamara Cartwright, Yidan Gong


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