The Vermont Street Project takes craft to a new level. The house, which features extensive use of salvaged materials, reclaimed wood, and natural materials, impressed the judges with its thoughtful detailing and warm interiors.
The house is the first LEED Platinum timber frame home candidate in Oregon and the only home with natural plaster wall coverings throughout, points out Jonathan Orpin, the codesigner and builder. “For me, the main issue of sustainable building is that there isn’t only one issue. Projects must balance four major points: advanced thermal and mechanical systems, thoughtful and sustainable sourcing of materials, longevity and effectiveness in structure and enclosure systems, and high levels of design and craft.”
Orpin calls timber frame a “smart way to build.” An expression of structure and craft, a home built using this structural system will last many generations. This particular home’s high-efficiency envelope of structural insulated panels and matrix walls eliminates thermal breaks. The timbers used in this home are FSC reclaimed wood. Prebuilt frame and enclosures meant reduced construction time.
A high percentage of the materials for the house were sourced locally with low embodied energy and recycled content. “Every effort was made to use products sourced and manufactured in the United States, which is not always an easy task but worth every moment,” Orpin says.
Built on a vacant flag parcel in Southwest Portland, the 2,000-square-foot home is a good example of urban infill. It is situated to take advantage of both passive and active solar efficiencies. Strategically placed energy efficient windows and doors combine with large overhangs to reduce solar heat gain and wind exposure. In colder months a 96%–98% efficient boiler warms wall-hung radiators and radiant floor systems. Windows and ceiling fans cool the home without the need for air-conditioning in warmer months.
Reclaimed FSC wood was also used for flooring, cabinetry, built-ins, furniture, decking, and some of the siding. The home’s modest square footage proves that a family can live comfortably in smaller spaces if they are well-organized. The home features an open kitchen and family room and a play room in the day-lit lower level.
Clean air for the family includes locally manufactured insulating concrete forms, which uses recycled wood, cellulose (recycled newspapers) offering low embodied energy, breathability, and cost efficiency. Dual-flush toilets, natural plaster wall coverings, a heat recovery ventilation system, photovoltaic panels, and all natural finishes create a system of clean air, minimal environmental impact, and high energy efficiency. A 4,000-gallon rainwater system supplements municipal water.
“The services and products manufactured by the divisions of New Energy Works and its sister company, Pioneer Millworks, were created in an eco-friendly facility in a way that is healthy for our employees, our customers, and the planet,” Orpin adds.
Perhaps most important to Orpin is the fact that this house reflects the company’s intense commitment to fine craft, which helps ensure it will last for centuries. “If we inspire everyone involved in our projects with the greatness of beauty and the craft of it, then the bar is raised throughout the project and for the next few generations,” Orpin says. “No one will ever tear down my houses to make way for a Walmart parking lot.”