BY BRIAN LIBBY
It was an otherwise ordinary September back in 2002. President Bush was upset about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The New England Patriots were beginning a defense of their Super Bowl win. An update to the newfangled iPod released a year earlier was just hitting Apple stores. A succession of sequels and prequels (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Men In Black) dominated the box office. And the City of Portland's "Build It Green!" Home Tour and Information Fair debuted to a Portland public increasingly hungry for practical information about how simple common-sense investments in their homes could save money and demonstrate better ecological conservation.
The self-guided tour, which features 16 homes, is scheduled from 11AM to 5PM this Saturday, September 22. Tickets are $15 ($10 for seniors, free for kids under 13). The accompanying free information fair will be held from 10AM until 2PM at Green Depot (819 SE Taylor). It's a chance to not only see these homes but to chat with homeowners, designers, do-it-yourselfers and contractors, and to learn about materials and technologies like solar panels, ecoroofs, rainwater harvesting, natural landscaping, affordable housing, water and energy conservation, natural building materials, alternative construction techniques and much more.
The "Build it Green!" roster includes several intriguing homes, and even if one doesn't actually go on the tour, perusing its website provides a nice tour of not only some well done small sustainably minded projects but also a survey of numerous small firms and practitioners who might not otherwise be recognized. It also goes to show how site selection may be the most important green design move: many of these projects are accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which help maximize density and thus limit sprawl.
There is the Master-Draper Backyard Cottage, designed by Dan Lajoie of Departure Design, which converted an existing garage into an energy-efficient art studio and compact dwelling. Sliding doors help extends living space to a small adjacent garden, and materials include a salvaged farm sink, railings made from wine barrel railings and a mosaic bathroom designed and tiled by the owner. Its sustainable features include a tankless hot water heater and an airtight thermal envelope.
The Peterson Backyard Cottage, designed by Studio Eccos Design, allows new lodgings for the owner of the main house providing the space, which in turn is rented out as an income source. Its features include a heat-recovery ventilation system, passive solar and radiant in-floor heating, and solar tubes for added daylight.
Svaboda Court, designed by Lundin Cole Architects, is a housing development in Southeast Portland for people making 80 percent of the median income or less. Outside the units is Portland's first shared-court design, using a vegetated swale and pervious pavement to create a common space for cars, pedestrians, community activities and stormwater drainage. Green features include a heat recovery ventilator, thermal solar hot water heaters and triple-pane windows.
The Cash-Darienzo Passive House, co-designed by Green Hammer and Communitecture, is designed according to Passive House strictures for an ultra-tight building envelope. It also showcases water conservation with a 3,000 gallon cistern for harvesting rain water, as well as a wastewater heat recovery system, solar PV array, and an ecoroof.
The Cross Accessible Remodel was designed by its owner, Larry Cross of Serendipity Dezign. A showcase for universal design (also known as barrier-free design), it is completely wheelchair accessible. As the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age and beyond, universal design will someday be much closer to the norm, not only in individual homes but the public realm.
Another owner-designer project, and another accessory dwelling unit, is the Firpo Backyard Cottage by Susan Firpo of SL Firpo Design/Craft. Firpo sought to match the stylings of the original main house, built in 1908. Also acting as general contractor, she made the cabinetry out of leftover flooring material. A ductless mini-split heat pump provides all heating and cooling. Zero-toxity materials, many salvaged, were used in the project, which is designed to Earth Advantage and NW Energy Star specifications.
Summer and fall are the time for most homes tours. Besides "Build It Green!" there are more tours coming up in the months ahead, such as AIA/Portland's Design Matters: A Tour of Exceptional Portland Homes, scheduled for October 13 as part of the monthlong annual Architecture + Design Festival.
There is also a new series of fun educational tours offered by the nonprofit Dill Pickle Club, such as the Seedy Seamy Sinful Tour, also scheduled for this Saturday, September 22, and featuring the saloons, gambling halls and bordellos that used to make up 19th century Portland. The DPC is also featuring on October 6 the North Portland Gentrifaction Tour, charting "the rise, fall and efforts to reunite Portland’s Black neighborhoods," and on October 19 Hidden Portland: City Treasures!, hosted by Carye Bye, author of Hidden Portland: Museums & Collections.