Monday, April 25, 2011

Another DJC article for ecoFLATS!

First net-zero apartment building fills up quickly.

POSTED: Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 02:23 PM PT
BY: Angela Webber

In Portland, green buildings can be attractive – especially if the price is right.

Apartment tenants are in the process of moving into ecoFLATS, a Siteworks Design | Build mixed-use building at 3951 N. Williams Ave. The $3.2 million project could become the nation’s first net-zero apartment building, according to the project leader. That will depend on how energy is used in the building’s two retail spaces and 18 apartments, which are all leased, and much sooner than projected. 

The recently completed ecoFLATS building, which contains 18 residential units and two retail spaces, aims to be the country’s first net-zero apartment building.
“Almost without exception, the people who contacted us about living in ecoFLATS wanted to live there because it was green, and they cared about that,” said Susan Stratton, president of NBS Multifamily Management.

The secret, according to one of the project developers, Jean-Pierre Veillet, is to offer sustainable living at an affordable price. No bells and whistles are necessary, he said.

“A lot of developers still make a fatal error in their design, in terms of what people want for finishes,” Veillet said. “Here, they aren’t stainless steel appliances; they’re Energy Star appliances. Instead of ceramic sinks, we have IKEA sinks.”

Also, the units’ light fixtures and curtains were designed by students at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

To keep lease rates down for the building, which has a $200,000 solar array on its roof, Veillet said his team performed a lot of vetting on each decision in regard to affordability and energy efficiency.

Tenants pay approximately $1,000 for a 594-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment or $1,550 for a 770-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment, Stratton said.

Floor plans in ecoFLATS apartments are open to provide better circulation for energy efficiency. Entrances to the units are on the outside of the building: The absence of interior corridors means less area to light, cool and heat, Veillet said. Even with these energy-efficiency measures, net-zero status will depend on the tenants.

Each apartment’s energy usage will be monitored on a screen in the building’s lobby. Veillet also plans to encourage energy conservation by offering incentives – such as a coffee shop discount – to residents.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge,” said Sean McGuirk, an ecoFLATS resident. He worked with Veillet on a green building project for Nau, where McGuirk works in marketing. When Veillet started working on ecoFLATS, he offered McGuirk a chance to get involved and become an on-site manager.

“Sean is helping to create community,” Veillet said. McGuirk will help foster what Veillet calls the “social aspect” of net-zero energy.

McGuirk predicts that the sustainability-minded residents of ecoFLATS will “all about” achieving net-zero energy usage. However, there are no provisions written into tenants’ leases about energy consumption, Stratton said.

Veillet said he may consider taking on another green apartment project, but not until ecoFLATS wraps up. Apartments are completed, but some parts of the project are still in progress. 

The ground-floor retail units, which will be occupied by a tattoo shop and Hopworks Urban Brewery, are still being finished. 

A community garden space will be created, and the energy monitoring system still needs to be set up.

“We didn’t expect to need it until absorption was complete, and we didn’t expect that to happen within 30 days. The bank told us it would take a year,” Veillet said.

The ecoFLATS project was developed by 3935 N. Williams LLC, under the direction of co-managers Veillet and Doug Shapiro. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification is being pursued for the building. The quick success of the project is drawing attention: Veillet said he is giving tours of the facility once or twice a week to developers, researchers or government officials. His hope is that the project could be duplicated on a larger scale.

The original article can be found here:

Earth Techling features article on ecoFLATS

Portland Apartments Go Green In EcoFlats

by Nino Marchetti, April 1st, 2011 

When you consider Portland, Oregon, as a model of sustainability, one thing that always stands out is its well established biking community. Bike friendly roads dot the city, with several major roadways in particular acting as major commuting arteries for Portland’s cyclists each day. It is on one of these roadways that developer JeanPierre Velliet has opened EcoFlats, a very green focused apartment building that is geared towards the lifestyle of those who cycle on by.

EcoFlats, which just recently became available for rentals, is Velliet’s vision of what a green building should be: built in an urban renewal area, designed to net zero energy standards, sporting solar panels on the roof and making use of an array of green building technologies. To find out more about EcoFlats, we recently visited with him on site as construction was being completed.
image copyright EarthTechling
EarthTechling (ET): What is your background when it comes to 
sustainable development?
JeanPierre Velliet: I have spent most of my adult life in the mode of resourceful sustainable  design build. I was formerly trained in sculpture, but even there I was and continue to only work with found objects.   My company Siteworks was begun on a bicycle with a trailer, crafting Japanese tea houses and landscape hardscape,  to support my art habit.  I grew from that and later connected larger design concepts to building, first in homes and eventually in the commercial world.  When LEED came to town I began to figure out with everyone how to put these projects together, and I completed an early development project for Kevin Cavenaugh here in Portland named “Ode to Roses”.

The last 10 years have mostly been spent in the commercial world focusing on green retail design for Portland companies Like Nau, Lizard Lounge, Keetsa, and several sustainably minded restaurants/ breweries like Hopworks, Genoa, Accanto, Andina, Taqueria Nueve, as well as office structures like Urban Works, and several more in the works.
ET: Talk a little about the EcoFlats development. What makes it particularly interesting?
Velliet: EcoFlats is a low energy consuming project that connects people to simple guilt free, transportation oriented living.  The central location allows that most needs are reachable by bike, while Zip Cars are available out front at a discount to inhabitants.  One person can accomplish more for their environment by living in this way.  EcoFlats as a building that consumes 65% less energy, plus renewables.  I like that the technology is socially engineered, and that ideally the population works together as a community towards positive goals of even less energy consumption. EcoFlats increases the quality of life through design, and tames the individual’s draw on our resources. 
ET: Explain more about some of the green technologies present in the development, including the solar power system.
Velliet: Nature already is beautiful, sustainable, and efficient by design.  This is the basis of the concept,  we do not need gizmos to make us more efficient – we need people to participate.  Where we are geographically is important, as Oregon is a temperate climate.   The first realization is that we do not need to heat and cool common corridors all day, everyday so I eliminated that.  I pushed the apartments to one side, and the entries to the exterior of the building. The comfort is easily achieved using the natural ventilation available from the operable windows on both sides of the units, then added simple fans to move air, and in doing so eliminated the cooling load entirely. The siding is self ventilating to keep the building from over heating too. These techniques work great in our geographical location.

image copyright EarthTechling

Further we used Energy Star appliances, LED lighting, day lighting, solar shading, and large doses of solar thermal and PV.  The solar piece drove a lot of the  building design because of its expense and necessity.  I wanted to afford the largest solar array possible while still being able to deliver to the apartment community for the rents available there.  We ended up with a 200K solar array, so that meant we had to accumulate a savings of 200K in other areas of the building.  Mostly the elimination of internal lighting and AC equipment was the trade off.   The PV portion is a grid tied 21 KW system.

The thermal portion is what you see up higher on the trellis and it is able to generate 2 gallons of 180 deg hot water per minute.  We have 500 gallons of glass  lined storage on the roof top ready for the domestic use.  The boiler controls the heat only hydronic loop that runs through the building, requiring very efficient and easily serviceable heat to the entire building.  Low flow water devices are at every fixture, and the re-sawn and reclaimed timbers from the building we removed can be seen in the exterior walk ways and solar trellis.
image copyright EarthTechling 

ET: Why go for apartments and not condos on the EcoFlats project?

Velliet: Apartments are accessible to a larger community then condos.  
If we are going to make real change we have to involve the majority 
of people. It also is not enough to do one apartment building, it has to 
become a paradigm shift resulting in a new way of doing things on a 
larger scale.  Currently our entire civilization stands to be looked back 
upon by our future civilizations as the most destructive to have 
inhabited the earth, mainly for how we have been wastefully using 
energy, food and water on the colossal scale.  Ancient cultures whom 
over harvested their resources themselves were lost, now that the 
larger world is connected in the process the consequences are 
interconnected and devastating.

We need to look at larger populations to make change, and by that I mean 
the majority of the people that have a more direct need to consumption.

ET: Why is it so important, in your opinion, for projects like EcoFlats 

to try to be able to exist at least partially off the grid?

Velliet: The grid is aging and I like the idea of investing the expected 

trillions to rebuild it into self sufficient buildings with solar, wind 
turbine and other means.  EcoFlats is grid tied now and I enjoy the 
fact we do not have to employ batteries, but I am hoping for a better 
solution on that front in the next 10 years.

I like the idea of a limit to available energy consumption as a way to 
regulate our needs.   We are still learning what the tipping point is 
between quality of life and availability of energy.  
I have a hunch that given a defined amount we are more conscious 
and better served as a whole.

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