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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Douglas MeadowsOverall, the construction of Douglas Meadows proved to be very smooth. The construction process benefited from the mild winter of 2003, allowing more to be completed in a short period. As in earlier stages, solid lines of communication were maintained between the contractor and the architect. This helped to keep the project on track and to ensure the inclusion of the numerous alternative and recycled materials.

Alternative and Recycled Materials
In many cases, green materials have reached cost neutrality with traditional building materials. Most of the technologies used in Douglas Meadows were implemented at the same or slightly above standard price. The total cost of Douglas Meadows was approximately 15% above a traditional project, but this additional investment was made with the expectation that operational savings over the lifetime of the development will surpass any incremental capital costs. Overall, the project team was amazed at how many green components were possible within the established budget.

Numerous alternative products were incorporated into the design of Douglas Meadows. Inside each apartment, formaldehyde-free wheatboard (alder) cabinets and natural linoleum flooring (also known as marmoleum) were used. Low-VOC paints and countertops, Energy Star™ appliances, and compact fluorescent light bulb were also included. Outside, in perhaps the most progressive green practice of the project, the trash enclosure located at the east end of the lot used straw bale as a substitute for traditional wood construction. Robertson, Merryman, and Barnes made an agreement with an instructor at Portland Community College to build the enclosure. The class built the footing and prepared the structure, then the contractor stucco’d and finished the enclosure.

The use of recycled materials was also stressed in the project. Fully-recyclable, recycled-content nylon carpet was chosen for use in all units. Due to the frequent removal of carpet in any rental unit, using recyclable carpet substantiallyreduces the volume of waste. Recycled paint from Portland’s regional government, Metro, was also used throughout the project. Human Solutions, as a non-profit organization, received a substantial discount on all paint purchased through Metro. Finally, a "salvaged lumber preferred" designation was placed on all lumber used in Douglas Meadows. Due to difficulties in procuring salvaged lumber and questions of quality, recycled lumber was targeted to particular uses. Salvaged wood was used in trellis along the exterior of the apartments and in various other areas without structural concerns.

Successes and Challenges
Although most of the products used in Douglas Meadows were easily integrated into the project, different products varied in their success during construction. Noteworthy successes included advanced framing and the hydronic space heating system. Both strategies yield(ed) their environmental benefits for little, if any, extra financial cost or time.

In contrast, a few technologies required additional effort by the contractor. For example, the use of salvaged lumberhad supply-related issues. . For suppliers, a substantial amount of energy and storage space is needed to ensure on-demand availability. In the project, the salvaged materials retailer could not assure the availability of recycled materials or guarantee a uniform application in many cases.

According to the construction team, fly ash concrete, due to its longer drying time, added approximately a week to the project. Also, was difficult to get a "perfect" top surface due to the length of time required for setting. The resultant slight discrepancies however added a degree of character to the finished floors and received praise from the project team.
Finally, the coordination of the straw bale garbage and recycling enclosure also added extra time to the project. Organizing and managing the volunteers and layering the materials was challenging. Although not a major issues, the contractor recommends that these delays should be considered when planning for the project.

Although a surprising number of technologies were included in the project, several additional features were passed over do to budgetary concerns. Robertson, Merryman, and Barnes hopeed to include a solar water heating system and wastewater heat exchangers to further reduce energy use. The project team also hoped to use certified lumber, but its cost and unavailability made it impossible. Fully recycled carpet would have also been preferred, but questions regarding its quality still have not been answered

Keys to Success – Construction:
  • Intentionally rigorous predesign and design preparation to set the stage for construction
  • Diligent construction scheduling and consistent team coordination
  • Used a wide range of alternative materials to reduce impacts
  • Advanced framing provided equivalent strength and support without excessive materials
  • Utilized community resources to build the strawbale recycling and garbage bin