Green Achievements

With sustainability identified as a goal during the design charrettes, PPL partnered early in the project with the Green Institute, a local nonprofit that champions environmental responsibility and sustainability. This led to Portland Place accomplishing a number of green achievements, both in the physical buildings and socially.

Materials Reuse: A plan was put into place to salvage and sell reusable materials generated during demolition of the run-down existing homes on the site. A few salvageable homes were offered for free to those who would move them off-site, and a beautiful old Victorian home was rehabilitated and left as the cornerstone of the project. This home was, and still is, owned by an existing homeowner and a neighborhood leader.

Site Design: For the site design, the team worked within the context of the mature trees, landscaping, and topography. Rick Carter, project architect with LHB says, "We oriented buildings for better solar access, adjusting unit types from one side of the street to the other to achieve this. It's a small measure, but it makes a big difference." By clustering units and designing for zero lot lines (versus having side yards), the design retained more open space and allowed for more units than a standard single-family development. Special attention was also paid to creating defensible space as crime was a major concern in the neighborhood.2 The development team looked closely at illumination levels for outdoor lighting, sight lines, and definitive boundaries, and provided clear circulation paths. Certain architectural design solutions were put into place, such as providing either very low or very tall landscaping materials to eliminate concealed areas. Alleyways can be seen from the townhouses.

Materials: The new homes are designed as low-maintenance, durable buildings that fit in with the aesthetic of existing homes in the larger neighborhood. The architects selected long-lasting materials such as brick, stucco, color-coated sheet metal, and cedar for exterior uses. For the interiors, selections for fixtures, mechanical systems, and windows were based on durability and energy efficiency.

As a strategy to build a larger market for the new homes, potential homeowners were given a list of finish options. This allowed for the individualizing of homes as well as bulk purchase of some green materials.

Healthy interiors of the family room in the Portland Place development ensure good indoor air quality for the residents. © Don Wong.

Construction: To simplify construction, floorplans and unit types were repeated, but unique contextual details were added to differentiate the homes. Carter noted that in the design they tried to achieve a "very place-based architecture."

To keep costs down, townhouse units are stacked on top of garages to reduce foundation and roof materials. Bathrooms are also stacked to minimize plumbing runs. Basements were built with quick-assembly prefabricated concrete panels that require no footings. These insulated concrete panels offer energy savings, fire resistance, and superior structural integrity, and eliminate job site construction waste. Structural plans called for floor and roof trusses, eliminating the need for a central bearing wall and making mechanical system installation easier.

Mechanicals: Mechanical exhaust was selected for proper ventilation in the homes. Carter noted that it was important to educate the new owners on some of these special features of the homes, "particularly the air-to-air heat exchangers." Good mechanical ventilation acts as the lungs


• Buildings oriented for better solar access

• Existing mature trees and some of the existing landscape retained

• Existing street lighting reused

• Clustering of units and a zero-lot-line design provided more useable space and allowed for more units than a standard single-family development

• Salvageable historic homes moved off-site

• Served as a catalyst for positive redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood and job creation


• Low-flow water fixtures

• Existing landscape reused, minimizing watering of new plantings


• Fixtures, mechanical systems, and windows selected on the basis of efficiency and durability

• Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) selected for energy efficiency

• Non-combustion mechanical exhaust utilized for proper ventilation

Materials and Resources

• Basements built with quick-assembly prefabricated ICFs

• Trusses for the floor and roof structure eliminate need for a central bearing wall

• Townhouse units were stacked on top of garages to reduce amount of foundation and roof material

• Demolition plan included selling off reusable materials for salvage

• Plumbing stacked to minimize length of water and sewer pipe runs

• Bulk purchase of materials made possible by large development

Health and Comfort

• Buyers given the option to select finishes from a list that included green materials

• Neighborhood security created by views of common areas and concealed areas

• Community homeowners association established

Durability and Ease of Maintenance

• Long-lasting materials for exterior finish: brick, stucco, color-coated sheet metal, and cedar for the homes by supplying continuous fresh, filtered air, while exhausting the stale, contaminated air.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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