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PORTLAND WELCOMES ITS FIRST ZERO-ENERGY COMMUNITY TILLAMOOK ROW

BY Symone Garvett on December 11, 2019 at 10:52 am

In search of a small community where several older couples could age in place together, the brothers who run Portland, Ore.–based BCMC Properties were tapped by their parents and four of their friends to find the right piece of land. The developer duo had a property in mind in Northeast Portland’s rapidly changing Eliot Conservation District, but it was a large lot that could house more than the five desired units.

The BCMC team pitched to develop the property with five owner-occupied units and 11 additional units, which would be listed as rentals. Thus, Tillamook Row was born, a 16-unit community with five buildings, including a 2,000-square-foot Common House, and a mix of owner and renter units with front porches and balconies oriented around a central courtyard.

With both the developer and client interested in building and living sustainability, local design-build firm Green Hammer—known for its work with green building practices—agreed to construct the project and strive for it to be the city’s first net-zero multifamily community.

Going Green Designed in accordance with Passive House standards, Tillamook Row’s community buildings will achieve net-zero energy, meaning the total amount of energy used on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on-site.

“The developer is very focused on sustainability and climate change, and they want to do everything that they can to make sure their developments are ... moving in a positive direction,” says Erica Dunn, director of design at Green Hammer. “Also, they are interested in showing other developers that this kind of a development can work. They want to push that envelope a little bit more.”

As a result, the following green features were included in Tillamook Row’s construction:

  • Solar panels are located on all south-facing roofs, totaling 82kW of energy produced annually.

  • Triple-paned windows block out external sound and limit the amount of hot and cold air that usually transfers through windows.

  • A super-insulated, airtight building envelope, including thick insulation in the walls, roofs, and underneath the slab on grade, reduces the heating and cooling loads by nearly 90%, according to the builder.

  • Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems also reduce the high energy demand. Plus, each unit continuously supplies filtered air to bedrooms and living spaces and extracts from bathrooms and kitchens through heat recovery ventilators.

  • Transcritical hot water heat pumps cut water energy use down by half. This type of heat pump uses CO2 as the refrigerant, which also reduces the global warming potential of the system.

  • Energy Star–rated appliances and LED light fixtures help reduce energy demand.

Due to the community’s dependence on the solar array, a battery backup system in the Common House stores power generated from the solar panels, allowing the building to serve as a resiliency center for the neighborhood in case of a power outage. Additionally, each unit has a dedicated plug that will allow residents to pull electricity directly from the PV system in the event of a blackout.

A custom energy dashboard in the Common House displays energy use by unit, allowing residents to establish energy goals and adjust their behavior as necessary to meet their budgets. With the energy use for all units on display, it creates both healthy competition among residents as well as an easy way to identify community members who might have tips and tricks for keeping energy use low.

Besides reducing energy, three 1,200-gallon sterns on-site collect rainwater from the various roofs. The collected water is used for irrigating the nearby landscape as well as shared raised garden beds for residents to grow vegetables.

Developing the Design In an area that transitions between large-scale commercial and small-scale residential, the designers at Green Hammer used observations of neighborhood building forms and typologies as a jumping off point for the community’s design. Their goal was to create “a cohesive, modern interpretation of the courtyard housing pattern woven throughout the conservation district to increase housing density,” says Dunn.

Two-story townhouse units with architectural details, such as steep-facing gable roofs with minimal eaves, rectangular bay windows, and recessed entries, mirror the neighborhood’s two-story Victorians, but with a modern interpretation.


Siding changes from a horizontal, dark-stained cedar siding on the podium base to white lap siding on the two-story upper units, while an accent of vertical, clear-stained cedar expresses the building entries. Standing seam metal roofs were chosen for the project due to their ability to coordinate well with the solar panel installation.


Project Details

Location: Portland, Ore. Developer: BCMC Properties Architect/Builder: Green Hammer Structural Engineering: Structural Dept. Interior Design: Dyer Studio Landscape Architecture: Medium Landscape Architecture + Design Civil Engineer: CWK2 Land Development Consultants and Humber Design Group Solar Design: Imagine Energy Electrical Design Build: Merit Electric HVAC Installation: Jacobs Heating and Air Conditioning Project Size: 24,444 square feet Number of Units: 16 Construction Cost: Withheld


The design team also focused on the role of architecture in strengthening a community. To create a diverse resident pool, the development includes a mix of unit types, ranging from 750-square-foot, one-bedroom plans to 1,430-square-foot, four-bedroom townhomes. The larger units encourage families with children to be part of the community, and each unit includes a ground floor bedroom and accessible bathroom to allow older residents to age in place.


“We care deeply about Portland and are extremely proud of what this project has achieved,” says Andrew Woodburn, manager at BCMC Properties. “We hope Tillamook Row will inspire more sustainable development of this kind within the city.”


#greenenergy #greendesign #solar #greenbuilders #energyefficiency


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