Amid efforts at the federal level to repeal and roll back environmentally conscious regulations, some builders are continuing to strive to exceed them.
One is Green Hammer Inc. The design-build firm, based in the Pearl District, has built a portfolio of buildings with performance greater than required by current building codes for Oregon and beyond.
The firm’s latest project in this vein is Tillamook Row, a multifamily development at 20 N.E. Tillamook St., in Portland’s Eliot neighborhood. Crews are building 16 townhomes ranging from 750-square-foot studios to 1,320-square-foot, four-bedroom units.
Five structures will wrap around a central courtyard, and have roofs covered with photovoltaic panels. Combined, those panels will provide up to 82 kilowatts of energy per hour. The aim is for Tillamook Row to become the first net-zero-energy multifamily project in Portland to offer units for rent, Green Hammer design team manager Erica Dunn said.
Net zero certification is granted by the International Living Future Institute, a nonprofit that also oversees the Living Building Challenge. To gain certification, a structure (or group of structures) must produce more electricity over the course of a year than it consumes.
“I always say any building could be net zero if you just have a big enough place to put a solar array,” Green Hammer project manager Mike Liggett said. “You could have a really inefficient building with a big plot of land next to it with a solar array, but really, the trick is reducing the need for energy. That is first and foremost.”
For Tillamook Row, the solar energy component is just the beginning of that effort.
“A lot of reduction is in the design and the envelope,” Liggett said. “This has a super-insulated envelope that’s also airtight. And then we also use high-efficiency mechanical systems to ventilate the air and bring fresh, clean air into the units. Primarily by limiting the air infiltration you can get and provide a robust insulated layer, and that’s how we reduce the demand for energy.”
Even Energy Star appliances and LED lighting make a difference, he added.
Tillamook Row will have a 2,000-square-foot common house open to all tenants for shared meals, exercise and other gatherings. On-site parking will include electric vehicle charging stations, a storage building and an additional bike garage.
There will even be a trio of 1,200-gallon capacity cisterns that will collect rainwater to support maintenance of the central courtyard and landscaping.
“There’s enough water storage there to service the courtyard during the summer months and the dry season,” Liggett said. “Primarily it’s a gravity system, so it doesn’t require pumps or other such things that require energy.”
Plus, the Tillamook Row structures are being built to Passive House standards, which are meant to produce superior indoor air quality and greatly reduced heating and cooling needs. Typically, a house meeting those standards consumes around 70 percent less energy than a standard single-family home.
Green Hammer has already successfully completed a Living Building project in Southern Oregon. As such, the contractor generally chooses to use only building materials that would be acceptable within the Living Building Challenge, Liggett noted.
“We absolutely do use the healthiest materials we possibly can,” he said. “People don’t really think about their indoor air quality that much, but they should.”
Developer BCMC Properties is already growing its reputation for engaging in sustainable projects, and Tillamook Row is a huge step in that direction. Crews are quickly approaching the finish line for the project.
“We are getting close, although we’re at the point where we’re fine-tuning all the little bits and pieces,” Dunn said. “So we’re looking to be done by end of August, middle of September.”