a green mixed-use building serves cycle commuters.
by: bruce D. snyder
Located on a major bicycle thoroughfare in Portland, Ore., the ecoFLATS project taps a rental market that was hiding in plain sight. “Three thousand bikes are going by every day,” says Jean-Pierre Veillet, design principal at Portland-based Siteworks Design | Build, who aimed the project at bicycle commuters—the “20-to-40 demographic of hip Portland people dedicated to a live-simple lifestyle.” Working backward from market-rate rents, Veillet’s firm produced what he refers to as “a resourceful building, a highly efficient infill building that’s transportation oriented.”
A cycling-oriented brew pub occupies one of two commercial spaces at street level, where the residents’ entry vestibule provides secure bike storage. The building’s 18 units open onto a three-story loggia, promoting natural ventilation and daylighting. Passive cooling freed budget dollars for roof-mounted photovoltaic and solar thermal panels, which, along with LED lighting, reflective roofing, and an efficient hydronic heating system, put net-zero energy use within reach. (A monitor in the vestibule delivers a real-time readout of how much energy each unit is consuming.) And while there’s no off-street parking, Veillet points out that there are “two Zipcars out front for weekends or going to the mountains.”
Good green vibes notwithstanding, securing bank financing also required solid income projections, Veillet explains. “If we wanted to do a solar array, we had to save elsewhere. It had to make business sense; that’s how we sold it to the bank.” Selling the concept to the public, however, was easy. “Pro cyclists, bike builders, bike commuters—they just dove on it,” Veillet notes. And with Nike and other outdoors-oriented employers located nearby, “the people are here,” he says. “We could do this again and again and again.”