Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick today announced the next phase of a pilot project with Clean Energy Works, which could give some 100 Portland homeowners the opportunity to upgrade the seismic safety of their homes. Click here to learn more about the program.
If funded by a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant, the money could help pay for up to half the costs of seismic upgrades for qualifying homes. The City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM), Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Clean Energy Works are partnering to apply for the FEMA grant. As part of the application process, the City and Clean Energy Works are seeking homeowners to join a waiting list in order to demonstrate local demand to FEMA.
“A mark of a truly sustainable city is its ability to withstand and recover from a major disaster, including earthquakes,” said Commissioner Novick. “We should all take steps to improve our resiliency by not only assembling a disaster kit and having an emergency plan, but also seismically strengthening our homes. Our homes are often a family’s largest financial asset, and a home’s structural integrity will help to ensure the safety and well-being of our families and community.”
The potential for widespread damage to homes after a major earthquake in Portland is high. Western Oregon and Portland are located near the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a fault off the coast capable of producing earthquakes similar to the Tōhoku quake in Japan in 2011. The last major Cascadia earthquake was in the year 1700. There are also several faults running through the city that could cause damaging shaking. Portland has about 100,000 older unreinforced single-family homes that may be vulnerable.
In many cases costing just a few thousand dollars, a seismic retrofit can mean one’s home is left standing after a seismic event, rather than being a total loss that must be torn down post-quake. Reinforcing and upgrading a home includes bolting the house to its foundation, reinforcing the ‘cripple wall’ (the short wall between the first floor and the foundation), and shoring up the posts and beams that bear weight under a home. Clean Energy Works, the state’s largest home performance provider, now provides seismic retrofits through qualified contractors as part of its services.
“Seismic upgrades provide a proven way to ‘harden’ a home and give it stability during the violent shaking of an earthquake,” said Tim Miller, Clean Energy Works CEO. “This work means your home is safer for your family and therefore better prepared for other kinds of natural disasters, including windstorms.”
“This is an investment in safety that will pay back in a big way should we experience a major—or even a relatively minor—earthquake. If a home is knocked off its foundation, it’s not only unsafe, it’s generally considered a total loss,” said Commissioner Novick.
Clean Energy Works offers a unique “one-stop shop” for home performance upgrades, making it easier for homeowners to complete energy efficiency, seismic, radon mitigation and solar energy upgrades. The organization provides customers with everything needed to complete upgrades, including rebates, skilled contractors, no-money-down financing and a free 100-Point Home Performance Check that illuminates all the opportunities to improve a home’s performance.
”The first part of Portland’s pilot with CEW helped 23 residents strengthen their homes,” said PBEM Director Carmen Merlo. “We’re hopeful we can get additional FEMA funds to build on our previous success and expand the program.”
The application will be filed with FEMA in August. CEW and PBEM hope to know later in the year if additional funds will be received.
About Clean Energy Works
Clean Energy Works (CEW) is the Northwest region’s largest home performance provider. The nonprofit activates a powerful collaboration of local contractors, lenders, governments, and utilities to make it easy and affordable for homeowners to improve the comfort, efficiency and health of their homes. Clean Energy Works is nationally recognized as an innovative model that successfully multiplies energy savings, good jobs and other environmental benefits to transform local communities.
About Portland Bureau of Emergency Management
The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management works before, during, and after emergencies to minimize the impacts on the community and promote a culture of resilience. Resilience in this context describes the ability of Portland’s infrastructure, services, and residents to mitigate, absorb or adapt to the impacts of an emergency or disaster without undermining the long-term well being of individuals, the economy, or the environment.