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Sustainable options

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.

Christopher Brown designed his A Street building with a cantilevered deck to help preserve the existing mature trees. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell