By bringing together the unique talents of each person, we build creative project teams that leverage diverse points of view to generate concepts and discover solutions. Our culture is open. Ideas come first, not egos or titles. Teams share work-in-progress with the broader office in open critiques. Projects benefit from different voices and knowledge is shared across teams. It’s a bit like crits in architecture school – plus the goodness of beer, or donuts if you haven’t yet had lunch. When facing a particularly thorny design challenge, we’ll host a charrette. The intense burst of energy from the collective office puts novel concepts on the table for the project team to consider. Sometimes, even those ideas that seemed crazy at first, get built.
Every project is unique; different clients, sites, and needs yield different solutions. But, each solution also provides the opportunity to learn something new that benefits future projects. That design research is alive and well at Bora. For example, one team’s research into interactive learning builds the collective intelligence of the entire office. Likewise, our research partnership with Portland State University extends the firm’s resources to optimize building envelope performance. We also like to make stuff. Our shop includes old-school wood-working tools and digital maker toys including a laser cutter and a CNC router. We’ve found the tactile qualities of physical models an invaluable design tool that just can’t be replicated with computer models. Pixels can’t compete. Of course, we’ve been busy exploring new ways of integrating advanced computation and XR tools into our work flow, too. There’s a highly fertile area where the maker culture overlaps the tech culture. We’ve named it LaBoratory and we think it’s infectious (if maybe a bit too clever).
Sustainability has been a core value at Bora since well before checklists and lip service made headlines. Our passionate BoraGreen leaders point the way with research, education and mentoring. With more than 20 projects LEED certified at gold or platinum levels, we’re pushing toward the higher performance demanded by the Living Building Challenge. Bora staff are helping shape practices at the national level with leadership in the Health Product Declaration Collaborative. Our own office space is certified LEED Platinum, we organized all the building’s tenants to purchase renewable energy, and our business operations have been carbon neutral since 2008.
We have deep passion for the arts. Bora staff regularly volunteer their expertise and, as a firm, we have donated office space to a variety of idea-focused organizations that align with our values. These include the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), Literary Arts, The Oregon Natural Step, and the Illahee Society. Our pro bono services have benefitted PICA’s world-renowned TBA Festival and Portland’s Literary Arts. For this support, Bora has been recognized with an Innovation Award from the National Business Committee for the Arts, a Governor’s Arts Award, and a NW Business for Culture and the Arts award for volunteerism. Our passion for community engagement is not limited to the arts. In 2015, we put forward a provocative proposal for the development of an important piece of public land on Portland’s Eastside riverfront. Lamenting the absence of a critical design conversation in our community, we hosted a series of forums with political leaders, developers, and urban planners to establish a vision for the site’s development to maximize benefits to the neighborhood and the city. Completely self-funded, Water Avenue Yards continues to provoke dialogue in our community about the shape of its future.
Taking care of our people is a priority. We know that supporting them in their personal lives is as important as providing the right tools in their professional lives. Work can be intense at times. So, we offer flexible work hours and the ability to work from home when needed. Reduced work schedules can also balance work commitments with home responsibilities.
Bora also believes that being transparent with our staff about our strategic goals, new initiatives, and commitment to broader community causes is the best way to build an environment of common purpose and shared vision. That’s why we’re a participant in the International Living Future Institute’s Just Label Program. Not only has this helped us test the outcomes of our policies, but with each renewal, it gives us the opportunity to push ourselves to work towards future improvements. Our industry-pioneering paid family leave policy offers employees access to six weeks of paid leave at 60% of their salary for any event covered under the Oregon Family Leave Act. While only 12% of private sector workers in the US have any level of paid family leave, Bora supports our valued employees when life events demand their focus turn away from work.
Oh, and there’s one other thing – twenty years ago Bora built a beach house on the beautiful Oregon coast for all employees. It’s an unusual perk. All staff have time at the beach house – not to work, but to share with family and friends, and recharge in an incredible natural setting. The house is pretty cool too.