For residents of The John Ross, one of the best amenities of the 31-story residential condo tower is its rooftop garden on the attached four-story podium that overlooks Portland, Ore.'s Willamette River. Resplendent with colorful flowers and fragrant herbs, the garden is a place where residents can relax and enjoy nature.

But, the 25,000-square-foot rooftop garden is more than just a perk for residents—it's also the main element of the building's water management system, according to Paul Kisling, project manager with Gerding Edlen, the Portland, Ore.-based company that developed The John Ross in partnership with Williams & Dame Development, also of Portland, Ore.

The John Ross, which had a construction cost of $130 million, is expected to achieve LEED Gold designation. In addition to the eco-roofs, the building features vegetated swales, green streets, and flow-through planters to catch and cleanse stormwater and to create a buffer to prevent any runoff surges to the river.

“Portland requires all buildings to handle their own stormwater management, and if we didn't do an eco-roof, all the stormwater would have to be contained on-site and treated by storm filters,” Kisling explains, adding that an eco-roof is a much more environmentally-friendly and sustainable way of managing stormwater.

Soil and plants can handle the filtration just as well as any manmade filters, if not better, according to Robert Thompson, design principal for TVA Architects, the Portland, Ore-based firm that designed The John Ross. “The roofs are a beautiful way of handling filtration,” he contends.

TVA Architects

As part of the stormwater management system, The John Ross also has several large holding tanks that gather water. Instead of using city water, the water management system uses water from the tanks to irrigate the eco-roof and landscaping. Once the tanks are full, the balance of the water flows out into the vegetated swales along the perimeter of the building.


DEVELOPER: Gerding Edlen and Williams & Dame Development

SIZE: 31-story high-rise and four-story podium with a total of 303 condos

FEATURES: A 25,000-square-foot rooftop garden with several flow-through planters; stormwater cleaning system