• Sustainable options

    Green and Solar tours offer wide-ranging look at eco-friendly dwellings
  • It's been a decade since the city of Ashland started its Green and Solar Tours, and for the first time the event will feature buildings that combine residential living with commercial use or community gatherings.
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    • Rogue Valley Green & Solar Tour
      Four new, Talent-area homes will open Saturday, Oct. 20, to participants in the Rogue Valley Green & Solar Tour.
      Dwellings slated for the sixth annual tour employ features and constructio...
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      Rogue Valley Green & Solar Tour
      Four new, Talent-area homes will open Saturday, Oct. 20, to participants in the Rogue Valley Green & Solar Tour.

      Dwellings slated for the sixth annual tour employ features and construction techniques that reduce energy and water consumption, use building materials more efficiently and improve indoor air quality.

      "We've got about eight builders right now building certified-green homes in Talent, which is phenomenal for a small area," says Fred Gant, Southern Oregon builder outreach specialist for Earth Advantage, a nonprofit education and certification agency for the Northwest's construction industry and host of the annual home tour.

      "It seems to be a little hot spot," says Gant, adding that about 40 percent of construction permits in Talent are for "green" buildings, compared with about 10 percent countywide.

      Two of the tour's homes, both on Lithia Way, have been certified "gold" by Oregon's Earth Advantage Institute. The first features a bioswale, landscaping designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The second, also certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, utilizes recycled paint low in volatile organic compounds, among other features.

      Still under construction by its owner on Staples Lane, the third home has double-wall framing, a geothermal heat pump, radiant floors, photovoltaic and passive-solar devices, cupola passive air vents and raised-heel trusses, all for energy efficiency. Additionally, the surrounding ranchland is managed for conservation and resource efficiency.

      Also owner-built, the final home on Anderson Creek Road is constructed with plastered, straw-bale walls, radiant slab floors, thermo-siphon cooling and cellulose ceiling insulation. Throughout the tour, builders, architects, green-building consultants and homeowners will discuss these technologies and more, as well as answer participants' questions.

      The tour runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., beginning at Crema Sweet Shop & Espresso Cafe, 100 W. Main St., Talent (next to City Hall). The cost is $15 per person and includes morning coffee, a box lunch and bus transportation. Please wear shoes that are easy to slip off at home entrances and bring a reusable water bottle.

      Preregistration is required. See www.greensolartours.com, call Gant at 541-840-8302 or email fredgant1@gmail.com. Additional sponsors are Energy Trust of Oregon, Southern Oregon Green Rating Services and Home Builders Association of Jackson County.

      The tour's lunchtime program at Talent library will include a presentation on the new Rogue Solar Program, which aims to install 800 kilowatts worth of solar panels locally. Rogue Valley Council of Governments received a grant to promote the program and guide prospective participants through the logistical and financial obstacles to going solar.

      Solar panels used in the effort were bought in bulk at a discount from North Coast Electric and were built by SolarWorld in Hillsboro. Funds came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allocated stimulus money to shift electrical production from coal and hydro sources while boosting employment in the solar field. Five area companies are involved in the solar-panel installation.

      — Sarah Lemon
  • It's been a decade since the city of Ashland started its Green and Solar Tours, and for the first time the event will feature buildings that combine residential living with commercial use or community gatherings.
    Tour participants will stop Saturday, Oct. 13, at a new office building on A Street that incorporates two second-story apartments. The second mixed-use building is Ashland's Kagyu Sukha Choling Buddhist temple, which opened in 2010 on Clear Creek Drive. The tour also features its first earth-and-straw structure, a private residence that "breathes but breathes slowly," says Larry Giardina, conservation/energy analyst for the city and tour organizer.
    "I think it's more about sustainable options than strictly solar options at this point," says Giardina.
    Along those lines, the tour's fourth stop is a single-family residence, still under construction, that features double-wall framing and a variety of reclaimed materials. The builder, Dan Jovick, is pursuing certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, adds Giardina.
    Ashland isn't the only community in Southern Oregon with a green and solar tour. Four Talent-area houses will be featured as part of the Rogue Valley Green & Solar Tour on Saturday, Oct. 20 (see sidebar).
    Both tours coincide with Oregon Green and Solar Tours, held in 11 communities around Oregon every year in September and October. Sponsored by the Oregon Department of Energy, each tour reflects the interests of the community, yet all share the goal of educating the public about green and solar strategies. See http://solaroregon.org for more details.
    In Ashland, LEED granted the office building at A and Third streets "gold" certification, says architect Christopher Plummer Brown. Opened in September after two years of construction, the 3,700-square-foot facility boasts a 7.5-kilowatt solar array on the roof, a stormwater-retention pond and double-walled framing with expanding foam insulation for an R-value of 27, says Brown.
    "We have a good thermal mass," he says, explaining that heating and cooling is assisted by 4-foot window overhangs, a concrete-block wall, an insulated concrete slab and high-efficiency windows and doors.
    Rather than coming off as high-tech or industrial, the building evokes the railroad-cottage and Craftsman styles "in a modern context," says Brown, who started the design in 2008. He and Ashland builder Jeff Sentle complied with "pretty substantial review" of the plan's compatibility with the historical neighborhood.
    "We worked really hard to incorporate the materials of the (Railroad) District," says Brown.
    Redwood siding reclaimed from a church in Roseburg is juxtaposed with standing-seam metal cladding painted sage-green. Rust-colored metal protects door and window frames that inside reveal fir certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Two cedar trees on either street corner cozy up to the second-floor decks and shelter the front courtyard.
    "It's meant to be used. It's meant for people to come here and sit down," says Brown, adding that the courtyard likely will display First Friday artwalk exhibits.
    Also in the works is a vegetated roof to treat rainwater, says Brown. Drought-tolerant, native plants constitute all the landscaping, including the retention pond that collects rainwater overflow from the roof and disperses it over 48 hours, he adds.
    Brown, 31, studied landscaping design in Kyoto, Japan, and efficient housing in Denmark after architecture courses at California Polytechnic State University. He founded his own design firm, Arkitek, in the new building, his first independent design. The concept fits the philosophy of infill and "verticality" in urban planning, he says.
    "There was a great demand for those units," he says, explaining that the 850- and 1,050-square-foot apartments were rented before the office spaces. Second-floor tenants pay about half as much as they otherwise would for electricity, courtesy of the solar panels, he says. Natural gas supplements solar water heaters, he adds.
    Although the office spaces don't come with the same perks, Brown says he tried to give each one its own "identity." Skateboard-shoe designer Praxis Footwear snapped up one of the units, despite the community's initial request for skateboard deterrents on adjacent sidewalks, which developers declined, he says.
    "I think it is going to be an influence in future design in town."
    Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.
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