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The Dirt | A Sustainable New Home

A sustainable new home…and a collaborative community project

By Holly Crosson

Magnificent Sitka spruce and Douglas fir tower above the native understory.  Thundering 100-foot waterfalls send rainbow-colored spray over fern and moss-covered rocks.   Over 100 inches of rainfall a year keep this temperate forest humming with hundreds of species of native plants, fish and wildlife.  Where is this gem of a thousand shades of green?  Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon’s Central Coast Range, and it’s the go-to-place for Alan Ayres when he’s looking to find quiet solitude.

May contain: wood, lumber, adult, male, man, and person
Alan milling lumber for the new Confluence building

Alan is a renaissance man of sorts (my moniker for him, not his).  A fifth generation Oregonian, he was born in Corvallis but grew up in the rural town of Alpine, west of Monroe.  As a young kid and teenager exploring the wild forests and streams of his home, he developed an appreciation for the abundant waters and lush vegetation that were reliably there and always gave him comfort.  There was a time in Alan’s life where it seemed nature was his only constant.  Even now, after moving back to Corvallis and living here for decades, he still gets a feeling of deep calm when he walks in the woods.  Alan cherishes and wants to protect these kinds of natural habitats so they can continue to sustain his family and his community for generations to come.

Alan’s name may be familiar.  He’s a long-time business man, developer/builder, and crane and portable sawmill operator in Corvallis.  Perhaps more widely known than his name are some of his landmark commercial buildings about town: Robnetts Hardware, Big River Restaurant, and Sky High Brewing in Corvallis, and Soft Star Shoes in Philomath.  Now he is working with The Confluence (Benton SWCD and four other local conservation organizations), to create a sustainable office building in downtown Corvallis that will be the future home for these five conservation groups and possibly others, starting in the fall of 2021.

May contain: architecture, building, condo, housing, city, house, villa, urban, neighborhood, office building, high rise, and apartment building
A rendered schematic of the Confluence building

Alan loves wood and says he’s always built things as long as he can remember.  During his college days he saved money to buy rundown houses and fix them up.  He has always disliked the amount of waste in commercial construction.  Commercial buildings are also the largest source of energy demands so he has taken it on as his own personal challenge to see what he can do better, about both.

Alan’s sustainable design of The Confluence building has a strong commitment to local with 75% of the building’s materials grown, sourced, and processed within 30 miles of the site.  98% of construction waste will be used or recycled.  The building will feature a rooftop reclaimed water system, solar panels, LED lighting, low flow plumbing, and other design elements to create an efficient and ecologically restorative office space.  Alan, and we as his future tenants, hope the space will be a useful teaching tool and source of inspiration for others who want to create regenerative spaces that connect occupants to nature, each other, and the community.

Alan admits he has never followed the standard, easy path.  In the construction world, his whole-systems way of thinking about sustainable design to conserve our region’s natural resources has raised eyebrows at times.  He thinks many people focus too much on the short term.  He takes the long view and believes that really big ideas aren’t fulfilled in just one lifetime. 

May contain: wood, lumber, bench, and furniture
Confluence building progress, 2022

When I asked Alan what about this project was most rewarding for him, his response focused on his conservation collaborators, including Benton SWCD.  He likes our complimentary missions and the impassioned dedication with which we carry out our work.  He recognizes that for effective and long term change to create a better future, we all need to be fearless leaders to intentionally create the community in which we want live.  We are fortunate to have Alan as our partner on this journey!