Energy efficiency can and should be available to all families, regardless of household income. Our work with Reach brings their vision alive in a specific, tangible way while refining our industry’s best practices and pushing energy efficiency and comfort standards.
Reach’s vision for this development west of Portland was convenient, transit-oriented, and affordable housing to those earning incomes of less than 50-60% of the median family income. It would meet energy-efficient Passive House standards, previously unheard-of in affordable housing, with the ultimate goal of lowering residents’ combined expenses for rent, utilities, and transportation.
The development came to life in three phases. Phase I and II are built to the aggressive energy standards of Passive House Institute U.S., and the two- and three-bedroom apartments of Phase III are comparable in energy efficiency. All three phases share the same integrated campus with multiple play areas for a variety of ages, as well as a thoughtful array of community-run raised garden beds and shared outdoor plazas.
When designing the site, we worked closely with an actively involved neighborhood association. Carefully listening to and addressing their thoughts and concerns, we created a master plan that preserve the area’s trees as much as possible.
To honor the site’s history as a tree nursery, our design of Phase III centers on preserving several large oak and chestnut trees. A park-like setting of curved sidewalks, a turf lawn, and carefully preserved trees gives this 58-unit home the biggest back yard of the Orchards neighborhood. To save the heritage horse chestnut tree, designers split the development into two separate buildings connected by a skybridge. Brick on the exterior adds durability and long-term beauty, and wood detailing with trellises celebrate the Orenco’s neighborhood.
Families here have quiet, truly affordable places to call home that provide 100% fresh ducted air, improved construction quality reducing the risk of moisture intrusion, and lowered noise from the adjacent light rail line. PV panels generate onsite electricity and cut Reach’s overall electrical bills, allocating more money for maintenance and future upgrades.
This was the largest passive house certified in North America, and the results have been tremendous. We saved Reach $1 million in Phase II by redesigning the roof, building layout, and incorporating our lessons from Phase 1. Energy efficiencies are performing as modeled or better. We’ve shared much of our progress and lessons through blogs, articles, interviews, and at conferences, hoping to inform and inspire other owners, designers, and builders who want to bring Passive House and other ultra-low energy concepts to future multi-unit residential buildings.