Lower Columbia River Field Guide to Water Quality Friendly Development
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  da Vinci Arts Middle School
Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center (Ecotrust Building)
People's Food Coop
ShoreBank Pacific



3029 SE 21st Street
Portland, OR 97202


Erica Simon

Peoples Food Co-op is a 33 year-old natural food store located in SE Portland with a big commitment to sustainability. Peoples strives to sell no genetically modified food, only organic produce, a large selection of bulk foods, many vegan options and natural ingredient pet foods. They are also committed to building sustainably. So, when they outgrew their original store, located in a converted old-Portland style home, People’s saw an opportunity to incorporate eco friendly designs, materials, and construction practices.

The two year renovation, which started in September 2001 and ended in early 2003 resulted in a building that is a model of sustainable development. The new store incorporates cob – an earth, sand, and straw mixture used to form walls and benches, renewable energy in the form of a ground source heat pump, durable, recycled and non-toxic materials, as well as an extensive stormwater management system designed to eliminate stormwater runoff.

Peoples’ water quality friendly project start’s with a 140 square-foot ecoroof visible on the building’s south side. Constructed by volunteers with support from a City of Portland Watershed Stewardship grant, the ecoroof contains a mix of grasses and sedum species designed to tolerate the roofs bright southern exposure. A two-day workshop for volunteers and others interested in the ecoroof project attracted nearly 40 people to sessions on design and construction, and plants suited to ecoroof applications. A second ecoroof, located directly above the buildings entrance will be constructed in the near future.


Steep sloping roofs with traditional asphalt cover the majority of the 5400 square foot store. However, most traditional roofs drain into the city storm system, each of People’s numerous downspouts connects to a 1500 gallon cistern buried beneath the store’s grassy front courtyard. The cistern ensures that no roof runoff leaves the site, and irrigates the store’s landscaped areas during the dry months. Once city approval is secured, the cistern water will also be used in the store’s low flow toilets.

Peoples also replaced traditional concrete with pervious pavers in many places. A length of sidewalk, a back courtyard, and the pathways leading to the store’s entrance all utilize pervious pavers –significantly reducing stormwater runoff from these areas. Two street trees on either side of the corner store also reduce stormwater at the site.

For Peoples going green was not a hard decision. Erica Simon says that “Peoples is a holistically minded business. We walk the talk. These practices have helped us achieve our sustainability commitment and goal of zero percent runoff.” She says reaction from customers and others has been incredibly positive and the store has received a good deal of favorable media attention.

So far, all of Peoples stormwater practices are performing as expected. “We learned a lot from the Ecotrust project” says Simon, “especially in terms of when to plant the ecoroof.” Other problems, such as having to send back the 2500 gallon cistern that ended up being too big for the space, and having to redo some of the volunteer installed permeable pavers, have been easy fixes. “We take educating people seriously” says Simon, ‘hopefully this is the start of ecoroofs everywhere.”