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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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Costs and Benefits

Orpinela Guest House and Ecoroof
Typical residential construction includes the installation of deep concrete foundations that support the home and keep it from absorbing moisture on and in the ground. This "footprint" essentially replaces existing surface soils and any vegetative ground cover that falls within it. Furthermore, the installation of these and other building components requires the use of heavy equipment which disturbs surface vegetation, compacts soils, and damages subsurface root structures that are dependant on particular soil conditions.
Pier footing, by contrast, consists of several very small footprints and is readily installed by manpower. This allowed soil conditions to remain relatively undisturbed and, because the structure is elevated above the ground, rainwater is able to travel through the site much as it did before. Furthermore, small-sized vegetation can actually grow underneath the building where it was once before and support microorganisms beneficial to soil health. In isolation, the impact of this strategy is relatively minimal. However, widespread application of such strategies on a district or neighborhood scale has large implications for stormwater management, flood control, in-stream flow, and watershed health.

In addition to functioning more like nature, the vegetated roof compliments the building’s wooded context. Views of nature have been proven to heighten acuity, stimulate imagination, and promote a sense of calm. The variability of the ecoroof’s appearance supports such benefits. In addition, the strategically located glazing in the studio allows the occupant to retain a constant connection to the surrounding woods.
Building footprints typically replace a previously vegetated area at grade. Ecoroofs, while ecologically dissimilar, are a nature-like substitute that reduces the site impact from a birds-eye view. The owner indicates that she frequently sees birds and squirrels using the roof. Half jokingly, she notes "I wouldn’t be surprised to see tree seedlings on the roof in a year or so."
Indoor air quality
Although the building is not yet occupied, Johnette Orpinela qualitatively notes that her son’s health is "much better" since his diagnosis because it’s easy for him to avoid "off-gassing" products such as fresh paint and new carpet. They anticipate that the intentionally healthy building design will yield great benefits to Shawn’s health.

All parties involved increased their competency with respect to green building, and the ecoroof in particular, through the project. Interaction with the City’s Bureau of Environmental Services and Ecoroofs Everywhere, research, trial and error, and a bit of project experimentation add value to the project team that extends beyond this project. Russo indicates that, "Next time it (the ecoroof) won’t require any additional time at all."
Ecoroof: ~$20,000 (high cost largely due to late decision to include)
-Structural upgrade: ~$12,000
-Erosion control trellis: Labor: $1,320; Materials: $180
-EPDM membrane and flashing (including gutter): Labor: $1,500; Materials: $7,800
-Soil: $500
-Plants: $2,000 (overbought)
Windows: $24,000
Radiant Floor Heating: $15,000