Port writes the book on sustainability

Port of Camas-Washougal partners with New Buildings Institute to publish guidebook for public agencies, businesses looking to decrease carbon footprint

timestamp icon
category icon Business, Latest News, News
The Port of Camas-Washougal is partnering with Clark Public Utilities to construct an 800-megawatt solar grid at its industrial park, similar to CPU's first solar project at its Orchards solar project (pictured) in Vancouver. (Contributed photos courtesy of Clark Public Utilities, Port of Camas-Washougal)

Port of Camas-Washougal officials have been promoting renewable energy sources lately — partnering with a county agency to install solar panels at its industrial park and taking the lead on installing electric vehicle chargers in East Clark County — and, now, the Port has literally written the book on how public agencies and businesses can improve their decarbonization efforts.

In 2022, the local Port partnered with the New Buildings Institute, a Portland nonprofit energy performance organization, to produce a guidebook for the Port’s staff, tenants and partners.

The guidebook was supposed to provide basic information about how the Port might decrease its carbon footprint — and help fight climate change — throughout its existing and future buildings.

“With buildings currently representing 39% of U.S. carbon emissions from operational and embodied sources, building decarbonization has emerged as a critical tool to address the challenges posed by climate change,” the guidebook’s authors pointed out.. “(The Port has recognized) these challenges, particularly in light of (its) plans to grow and add new kinds of buildings and uses.”

The 57-page PDF document addressed four building decarbonization-related topics — energy efficiency, building electrification, renewable energy and electric-vehicle charging — and was meant to, according to the guidebook, not just offer guidance to the Port for its own buildings but, also, “serve as a resource and reference about building decarbonization for Port tenants and partners to help them make decisions that will support building decarbonization in the buildings they occupy and the buildings they may be constructing in the future.

That’s why the book included information on decarbonization efforts in multifamily buildings.

“Even though the Port does not currently have any residential buildings, the master plan for the waterfront indicates that this will be an important building type moving into the future,” the guidebook’s authors stated. “Finally, while the guide focuses on the Port of Camas-Washougal specifically, the guidance it contains is relevant to other ports and even buildings that are not related to ports at all.”

Representatives from several other Washington state ports have contacted the Port of Camas-Washougal to request a copy of the guidebook, according to Port Chief Executive Officer David Ripp.

“I talked about it at a couple of (our) functions, and (the ports of) Vancouver and Bellingham, and some eastern Washington ports reached out and said, ‘Hey, would you mind sharing that with us? We’d like to see what you’re doing,'” Ripp said. “It’s exciting because the little old Port of Camas-Washougal is making a difference.”

New Buildings Institute’s senior project manager, Sean Denniston, told Port leaders they were the first port to request a decarbonization guide, Port Commissioner Cassi Marshall said.

“That was quite an honor,” Marshall added.. “Sean (talked about) what he did for our port to the Washington State Port Association, and we’ve received a lot of interest.”

“It just comes back to a lot of the same basic things that we’re prioritizing at the Port — anything we can do to become more efficient, it’s a no-brainer,” Marshall said, adding that the guidebook’s strategies should also allow the Port to save money for its tenants, create less pollution and help stabilize the regional power grid by decreasing its energy usage.

The Port has already started to apply some of the lessons in the guidebook, according to Ripp.

“We’re trying to be more efficient,” he said. “(We’re installing) LED lights, and updating every single building we have to meet energy code for insulation — if you can (have) better insulation, you’re going to save money on electrical and heating costs. And then when an HVAC unit needs to be replaced, we switch it from a gas to electric.”

The guidebook is one of several recent projects that have resulted from the Port’s recent emphasis on environmental sustainability.

Over the past year, the Port of Camas-Washougal has partnered with Clark Public Utilities (CPU) to develop a 799-kilowatt community solar project at its industrial park; installed an electric vehicle charger at its administrative office; announced its intentions to offer unleaded fuel to Grove Field airport tenants; and initiated an effort to become a “green certified” business through CPU.

“I feel like, in the big picture, that all of these steps toward more environmental sustainability are the right thing to do for us, especially being a river community. We’re very concerned about water quality, air quality, keeping the Gorge as pristine as possible, all of those things,” Marshall said. “I mean, the Gorge and the outdoors are kind of our Pacific Northwest brand, so of course there’s that motivation to protect and preserve that.”

But the push for more sustainable building practices and decarbonization efforts also make economic sense, Marshall said.

“Through new funding mechanisms and the money coming down the pipe through federal and state (governments), there’s tremendous potential for job creation, and that’s really what the Port is all about,” she said. “If we can do that, and do it in a sustainable way, it’s such a win all the way around.”

Ripp credited Marshall for the Port’s increased focus on protecting the environment.

“A lot of this is (is due to) Cassi coming in and having that knowledge and directing us and guiding us,” Ripp said. “I can’t take credit for it. She brought us to the next level. It’s her passion, and she brought that passion here. I’ve learned a ton just in the last few years just from hanging around her.”

Marshall grew up in Clark County, earned an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked as a structural dynamics engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory — a Pasadena, California-based research and development center — before moving to Camas, transitioning to the education field and working for 17 years for the Washougal School District.

Currently, Marshall and her husband, Rick Marshall, work together on small residential infill development projects, focusing on energy efficiency and walkability.

“I think that maybe I have more familiarity in some of these areas, and I’ve been able to point out opportunities, and other people jump in and say, ‘Yeah, let’s look into that. Let’s work on that,'” Marshall said. “But it’s been a team effort. I do think it is our responsibility (to take these issues seriously), and I think our team feels that way, too. Every single segment of our operations is part of the (sustainability) consideration, and moving forward, I think it will remain that way.”