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Q&A with the Regional Green Building Hotline

BPS E-News Issue 15 - January

Ever wonder about simple ways to make your home more energy efficient or wanted guidance navigating legislation
and permits?  Our Regional Green Building Hotline staff are standing by with answers.  Check out a few of our most
frequently asked questions below.

Have a question for the Regional Green Building Hotline? 

Call 503-823-5431 or e-mail us. The Regional Green Building Hotline is a free service from the City of Portland, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties.

Q:  Can you tell me about the new light bulb legislation starting in January 2012?

A: This new federal legislation increases the efficiency of all bulbs by at least 25 percent. You can still buy incandescent bulbs. Home lighting makes up around 11 percent of a home’s total monthly energy bill.  Higher bulb efficiencies will begin phasing in 2012 to 2014, increasing again in 2020. Specialty bulbs such as plant bulbs, three-way, appliance, colored bulbs are excluded.  With the legislation, new product labeling allows customers to shop for bulbs based on visible light (lumens) rather than watts (power).

More efficient bulbs mean that homeowners will replace bulbs less often, save on their energy bills and generate more light and less heat from bulbs.  For most, light bulbs are an easy change with a big impact –- no large investment or planning is required and bulbs can be replaced room-by-room.  

Compact fluorescents (CFLs) offer consumers a range of color temperature -- from warm white (like incandescents) to cool white (similar to many office/school fluorescents) to daylight color (blue hue). With new CFLs and light emitting diodes (LEDs) the bulbs light up to full brightness quickly, stay cool to the touch and last much longer than incandescents (offsetting higher up-front costs).  A few dimmable CFLs and LEDs are currently on the market.  Burned-out and broken CFLs must be disposed of properly as they contain a small amount of mercury and cannot go into the trash (neither incandescents nor LEDs contain mercury).  Look for ENERGY STAR labeled products.

Q:  I want to build a “granny flat” in my back yard, so where do I start?

A:  Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and space-efficient dwellings, sometimes called granny flats, are recognized by ADU Examplethe City of Portland as providing an affordable, low impact solution to increase density. Through July 2013, the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services system development charges (SDCs) are waived resulting in potential savings of $7,000 to $12,000 in building permit fees for these small units. is a great local site to start your research.  Space-efficient dwellings and ADU’s can provide rental income and allow for changing household sizes over time.  These dwellings have a low impact on existing city infrastructure, are affordable to build and maintain and are constructed using few building materials.  Check the City of Portland Sustainability Calendar for ADU workshops.

Q:  Can I use graywater to irrigate my garden?

A:  Yes, now you can. In Oregon, graywater is drain water from utility, bath and kitchen sinks (not the garbage graywater reusedisposal), showers/tubs and clothes washers. Drain water from dishwashers and toilets (black water) is not included.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will start accepting permit applications for graywater garden irrigation in Spring 2012.  There are three permit tiers.  Most residential systems will fall under Tier I –- less than 300 gallons/day with a physical filtering process and sub-surface irrigation only.  The permit will cost $90.00.  The next two tiers are for larger gray water volumes and include chemical and disinfectant processes and fees are significantly higher.  Local jurisdiction plumbing permits are required. This document has more information.

Q:  How can I find out more about green building and sustainability, perhaps leading to a job?

A:  The City of Portland Sustainability Calendar is full of City and community trainings, tours, workshops, conferences, open houses and events – many of which are free.  Postings are accepted from many organizations in addition to City

The non-profit Center for Earth Leadership has a stimulating, free six week course called Agent of Change In Your
Circle of Influence
where you can meet fellow sustainability enthusiasts, listen to guest speakers and get involved with
community projects.

A useful local guide available specifically for our region is the “Portland Green Guide to Networking and Jobs.”  Written by career counselors, it lists local organizations in environmental and sustainability-related fields, resume and interview best practices, how to research job opportunities, what employers are looking for, targeted volunteering and profiles of successful candidates.

The long-standing local networking group Portland Green Drinks meets the first Tuesday evening of every month at Ecotrust, 721 NW Ninth Avenue, Portland.  Listen to diverse guest presenters and mingle in a relaxed atmosphere.Contact anyone you know in the industry for a short informational interview. Many professionals are amenable to sharing some time to meet with you.  When you meet, ask the contact for more referrals.

What makes Portland's central city unique?

BPS E-News Issue 15 - January

Portland has developed an international reputation for being a livable city. But what makes Portland’s Central City
stand out from others around the country? The Central City 2035 (CC2035) Steering Committee recently considered the special themes that make our Central City a unique place to live and work:

  • Innovation and Exchange

  • Livability

  • Connectivity

  • Ingenuity

  • Engagement

  • Opportunity

Envisioning the Central City of 2035, committee members described it as the hub of a world-class city that honors its history, educates its youth and supports its economic development. The Central City would have an international reputation as diverse, vibrant, beautiful, prosperous, sustainable and family-friendly.

These emerging themes and goals will help the Steering Committee develop a Concept Plan for the Central City, which will guide development and decision-making for the heart of the Portland metropolitan region. The Concept Plan should be ready for public review in summer 2012.

About the Steering Committee

The CC2035 Steering Committee is advising the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability on the development of the CC2035 Concept Plan. This group of approximately 15 people is chaired by Chet Orloff of Portland State University and Planning and Sustainability Commission member Michelle Rudd. The committee’s role is to review and critique the draft concept plan and provide staff with guidance for preparing a final draft for review by the Planning and Sustainability Commission and, eventually, City Council.

The next CC2035 Steering Committee meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, 5 p.m. to 7p.m. You can find CC2035 background materials, updates, and upcoming events at


N/NE Quadrant Project presents proposed land use and freeway improvement concepts at February second Open House

BPS E-News Issue 15 - January

After extensive public input, the N/NE Quadrant Project advisory group and staff have developed a draft proposed
concept for future land use, urban design and local transportation in the area, as well as options for proposed
improvements to the Broadway/Weidler freeway interchange. An open house is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2012, to present these proposals to the public and seek feedback on:

  • Future direction for land use and urban form.

  • Street design and connectivity.

  • New parks and open spaces.

  • Ways to incorporate green infrastructure.

  • Safety and operational improvements for the Broadway/Weidler freeway interchange.

At the open house, these concepts will be on display and City of Portland and Oregon Department of Transportation staff will be on hand to answer questions, receive public feedback and discuss the project.

The N/NE Quadrant Project is a collaborative effort by the City of Portland and Oregon Department of Transportation to provide detailed planning for the Lower Albina and Lloyd District areas. It is part of Central City 2035, the City of Portland's effort to update the 1988 Central City Plan.

For more information about the project or the upcoming open house, please visit, email or call 503-823-6042.

N/NE Quadrant Project Open House

Thursday, February 2, 2012
4:30 6:30 p.m.

Lloyd Center Mall, NE 9th and Multnomah

West end of the mall (near Nordstrom)

The Lloyd Center is accessible by the #8, 73, 70, or 77 buses and Blue, Green, and Red MAX lines. Free parking is

available in mall lots.


Next steps for the proposed draft Portland Plan

BPS E-News Issue 15 - January

With great excitement, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability released the Proposed Draft Portland Plan in October 2011. Two years in the making, and reflecting more than 20,000 comments, stacks of research and input from our partner agencies, the draft plan represents the great ideas and hard work of City staff, residents, community groups and businesses.

With the draft plan available to the public, the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) held three public hearings in November, two of which were hosted in the community at David Douglas and Parkrose High Schools. Attendance was high at all three hearings, with people organizing their testimony around issue areas, such as basic public services, resiliency and emergency preparedness, youth, a multigenerational city, active transportation/bicycling, East Portland, housing, historic preservation and more. Subsequently, the PSC held two work sessions to discuss comments from the community and other bureaus and agencies, as well as share their own responses to the plan.

On Jan. 24, 2012, the PSC voted to recommend approval of the Portland Plan (with requested changes) and send it to City Council for adoption. A revised version of the Proposed Draft Portland Plan will be presented to the PSC on Feb. 28, 2012, with a goal of presenting a Recommended Draft Portland Plan to City Council by mid-April.


Successful food scrap composting in winter? Learn how fellow Portlanders make it work

BPS E-News Issue 15 - January

Portlanders are doing a great job adapting to the new Curbside Collection Service with food scrap composting and the change to weekly pick up of the green Portland Composts! roll cart and every-other-week garbage collection. Weekly composting keeps food scraps out of the landfill and turns them into a valuable new products to create healthy soil to help grow more food.

Just like when Portlanders first started curbside recycling, it takes time to create and establish new food scrap collection routines for your household. Residents in a year-long pilot program found that after a little practice, they were able to make the system work and reported high rates of satisfaction. Tips and tricks have been compiled from residents, as well as other cities, about how to make composting easy and successful — even in the cold winter months when your household may generate more food scraps than yard debris.  

Check out these tips to make composting easier during the winter months when yard debris may be scarce. 

  • Set your green roll cart out for pickup every single week — even if it’s not full. The food may not look like a lot in the big green Portland Composts! roll cart, but it really adds up when every Portlander participates.

  • Consider saving some of the last fall leaves to line your cart throughout the winter. If you don’t have leftover yard debris, you can still keep the bottom of your cart clean by lining it with a few sheets of newspaper, a paper bag or a take-out pizza box.

  • Lining your kitchen compost pail will also help keep your green cart clean. You can tie off approved compostable kitchen pail bags to keep your food scraps from touching the inside of your green roll cart. Check out the list of approved compostable pail liners here.

  • Empty the contents of your kitchen compost pail, including the compostable liner, into your green Portland Composts! roll cart frequently.  The more often you empty your kitchen pail, the less time food scraps spend in your kitchen.

  • When it is not freezing, give your green cart a rinse with non-toxic soap and water. Pour dirty water onto grass or gravel, not down the storm drain.  See how it’s done by watching our instructional videos. Try sprinkling a little baking soda in your clean cart to avoid odors.

Fellow Portlanders share tips about what to do when you have messy, stinky or wet food scraps

“I wrap messy food in newspaper and then place in the pail,” said Montavilla resident Megan Tiede. “The newspaper can be composted along with the food scraps. And even better – it’s free!”

“Rather than putting stinky food scraps, like meat and bones, into my kitchen compost pail, I add them to an old yogurt container I keep in my freezer,” recommends Rebecca Raymond, resident of the Overlook neighborhood. “Then I empty them directly into my green composting roll cart the night before my pickup day!”

“I drain as much liquid as possible from food before putting it in my kitchen compost pail,” suggests George Patterson, resident of the Humboldt neighborhood. “So if my kids have leftover cereal, I drain off the milk before adding it to the pail.”

How have you made food scrap composting successful in your household? Share your tips, ask questions and learn from other Portland residents on our Facebook page or contact us:

1. Online:
2. Hotline: 503-823-7202
3. E-mail: