Passive House, Orchards at Orenco Affordable Housing: Grand Opening Celebration

WALSH was thrilled to celebrate with REACH Community Development (developer), Housing Development Center (construction manager) Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects (architect-of-record), William Wilson Architects (design architect) and Green Hammer (Passive House consultant) on the grand opening of the affordable housing project, Orchards at Orenco, which is the largest certified Passive House building to date in North America.

The 57-unit development provides “affordable living” opportunities for low-income families and individuals in Hillsboro’s transit-oriented Orenco Station community. Residents benefit from lower rents, lower utility costs, and reduced dependency on auto transit—the second biggest expense for Portland-area households, following rent.

Developed in Germany and used widely in both single-family and multifamily homes, Passive House design reduces building energy use by roughly 80%. The basis of the system is a super-insulated, airtight building envelope, which, paired with a heat-recovery ventilation system, maintains fresh indoor air and comfortable room temperatures with very little wasted energy.

Some key innovative features include:

* The roof has 12 inches of insulation, which is approximately quadruple the amount required by code. The light color reflects solar radiation and helps moderate the building’s temperature.

* The building is positioned with shading devices that allow winter sun but block it in the summer.

* The building contains a “heat recovery ventilator,” which uses stale air from kitchens and bathrooms (that would otherwise be wasted) to warm fresh incoming air supplied to bedrooms.

* PVC-fiberglass hybrid windows throughout have argon-filled triple glazing and are designed to close tighter than most common models.

* Walls have 10-inch stud cavities, compared to six-inch stud cavities in typical buildings.

* The building rests on a super-insulated envelope of four inches of foam under the ground floor slab.

Successfully attaining this certification  is an outstanding achievement for WALSH and the entire development team. A project of this magnitude has never been accomplished anywhere in North America. It’s a testament to the vision and hard work by the people of REACH Community CDC and all of the project partners.

Link to article in the Oregonian.