Contract gives Portland minority, women firms eco-roof work Daily Journal of Commerce

Contract gives Portland minority, women firms eco-roof work Daily Journal of Commerce

Mike Schilling with Snyder Roofing of Oregon works on an eco-roof project at the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center at Oregon Health and Science University. Snyder will award 30 to 40 percent of a recent contract to install eco-roofs at prominent minority gather places to firms owned by minorities or women. (Photo by Dan Carter/DJC)

A quarter-million square feet of eco-roofs have been installed in Portland since the citys Bureau of Environmental Services launched its Grey to Green initiative in 2008. But minority, women-owned and emerging small businesses say its still difficult for them to gain experience in what has become one of the citys growing industries.

Its not that these firms dont have the technical know-how to perform eco-roof projects, said Dan Koffel. president of Snyder Roofing of Oregon.  The problem lies, instead, with the fact that smaller minority- and women-owned businesses often cant obtain bonding for eco-roof projects because they often don’t have the financial resources required.

The situation may change now that a $160,000 contract has been struck between the city and several companies, including Snyder Roofing, to get MWESB firms some experience in installing eco-roofs.

The citys Grey to Green program is a five-year effort to install bio-swales. eco-roofs, street trees and other natural storm-water treatment systems around the city to prevent combined sewer overflows to the Willamette River. To construct an eco-roof, a waterproof membrane is placed on a conventional roof and covered with a growing medium that allows plants to grow. Eco-roofs significantly reduce storm-water runoff from building roofs, absorb carbon dioxide and insulate a building for better energy efficiency.

The city contracted with Snyder Roofing, who will contract with landscape architecture firm TERRA.fluxus LLC. planting expert Teufel Landscape, Cascade Design Professionals and green workforce nonprofit Verde to identify and install up to 30,000 square feet of eco-roofs in Portland during the next two years. As part of the citys efforts to get minorities and women involved in city contracts, 30 percent to 40 percent of all subcontracting dollars attached to the eco-roof effort will go to minority- and women- owned businesses, according to Alan Hipólito. executive director of Verde.

Diversity in contracting is important anytime the government comes to the marketplace, Hipólito said. Sustainable development should be universally understood to mean economic, environmental and social equity. That triple bottom line is the idea behind the effort.

The eco-roof contract also is expected to help identify prominent places within minority and low-income communities to install eco-roofs. With an eye toward encouraging building owners to install the systems, the BES offers an incentive of $5 per square foot of eco-roof. But the city says it has been tough to spread the news that the incentive exists.

Contract gives Portland minority, women firms eco-roof work Daily Journal of Commerce

We advertise and send e-mails about it to Metro, said Amy Chomowicz. eco-roof program administrator with the BES. Then we wait for projects to come to us. But not everyone wants to listen to what the government has to say. With Snyder out there identifying projects for us, we can involve a broader sector of our community, as well as perform environmental projects outside of more affluent neighborhoods.

No eco-roof sites have been nailed down yet, Hipólito said, but he would like to see an eco-roof go up at places such as the Baltazar Ortiz Center and the Native American Youth Family Center in Northeast Portland. He hopes the green roofs will encourage younger minorities to pursue careers in sustainable design.

Developing eco-roofs at recognized institutions for communities of color presents an opportunity for people to learn what it is, why its there and who built it, Hipólito said. If they are in middle or high school, they can learn about opportunities for careers in construction and even to be the person who designs and engineers the eco-roof.

Hipólito and Snyder Roofing this week met with members of the Metropolitan Contractor Improvement Partnership and the National Association of Minority Contractors Oregon chapter to develop a list of minority and women-owned firms to perform the painting, hauling and other contracts involved with an eco-roof installation. Soon, Snyder will begin meeting with these firms to talk about bid opportunities.

With more projects like this, our children should be able to say to yours, ‘We had an opportunity to actively participate in environmental sustainability; I had an opportunity to build this, said Tony Jones, executive director of the Metropolitan Contractor Improvement Partnership.

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