Ecoroof buzzes with activity

by Lisa Timmerman 8/9/2013 5:05 PM

About a year and a half ago, bees showed up in force on the roof of the Port of Portland's LEED Platinum headquarters building thanks to project development manager and apiary enthusiast, Greg Sparks. The Port's Annie Linstrom heralded their arrival in a post on this blog in February 2012. This week, Public Affairs intern, Jayson Shanafelt provides an update on how the bees are doing.

The Port's LEED Platinum headquarters building is renowned for its sustainable features. Visitors from across the globe have toured the building to see and learn about its living machine and other environmental attributes. What visitors may not realize is that one year ago, the Port installed a second living machine—a beehive on the 10th floor eco roof, now home to roughly 70,000 honey bees.

Visible from inside the building, the hive serves as an educational opportunity, allowing employees and HQ visitors to observe an active bee colony up close. The intent of establishing this safe haven for the bees was, in part, to increase awareness of the critical role they play in our everyday lives. Nearly one-third of the U.S. diet is incumbent on honey bee pollination, yet their populations are on the decline.

"It is always a point of interest for tour groups. I feel they come away with a better appreciation and understanding of how important honey bees are to our food production," said Greg Sparks, project development manager and the Port's resident beekeeper. "The main question people want to know is 'How are they doing?'"

Sparks confesses that when the hive was installed, he wasn't sure if the height of the building would be detrimental to foraging worker bees, which at times can travel up to two miles for food. "It has been a happy discovery. The height doesn't seem to have deterred them. They are doing quite well, which is a good thing to see."

The beehive structure is taller than it used to be. Sparks decided to add an additional box to the hive after recently observing the colony's health. "They need to have the room," Sparks said, noting that the bees easily have produced 100 pounds of honey."

Interest generated from the hive has even inspired several Port staff to start their own apiaries (honey bee colonies). "I sense that many Port staff take pride in having this unique feature at our already impressive building," said Sparks.