forest lane residence

we recently whipped up a design proposal for a new residence in the northwest hills of portland.  we had a great time with it but unfortunately it looks like this one will be staying on the shelf.  let us know if you want to take it for a spin.

karuna house in construction

toured the ambitious karuna house yesterday. this design driven single family residence is striving for minergie-p-eco, passivhaus, and leed platinum.

while this looks like it will be a great looking modernist house and there is much to applaud, the massive amount of foam does suggest that it has been shoehorned to meet minergie-p-eco and passivhaus.

exposed rigid insulation shows the thermal break at a door threshold.  a gypcrete topping slab with radiant heat is planned for the main floor.

note the blue underslab air-barrier (15mil raven) wrapping up and over the stemwall and the epdm gaskets under the plates (visible at the steel base plate yet to be grouted).

the house uses prosoco's r-guard air and weather-resistive barrier system.  the pink joint and seam filler is used to seal the plywood sheathing and plate to the trimmed air-barrier under the plate (the blue raven here is just temporary protection of the insulation).  the entire sheathing surface will be coated with cat 5, a roller applied air and weather resistive barrier.

the window mockup uses the prosoco fast flash system around the rough opening that will be tied into the cat 5.  the beautiful optiwin alu3holz is installed with tremco trio expanding foam around the window perimeter, and will be overinsulated on the exterior for a minimally exposed frame and exceptional install PSI.  an aluminum sloped sill will screw attach to the bottom of the frame.  the team is planning to construct a complete mockup in prosoco's test chamber to ensure the assembly performs as planned.

the windows will use glazing with a whopping .66 shgc on the south elevations with .50 shgc for the other orientations.

the house has been designed by holst architecture with green hammer as the PH consultant, and is being built by hammer and hand.  check out more on the project here and here.


        some vertical eye candy courtesy of: diaz y diaz



pugh scarpa



? (photo by ken mccown)


baas architects

kevin hart

foreign office architects

peter zumthor

tadao aando

francisco mangado

o-s architectes

baas architects


last week i successfully passed part 1 of the Certified Passive House Consultant exam, and in the next few weeks i'll be wrapping up the take home design portion. with a little luck in the new year i will be a Certified Passive House Consultant!

construction update

work is progressing on the council crest residence in southwest portland.  see last month's post titled the process of (de)construction for a first look at the project.  here's a quick look at roughly one month's worth of progress:

glimpses of the composition taking shape

view from the park

upper roof deck getting ready for tapered insulation

interior framing begins

gutter framing with insulation / protection board progressing

process of (de)construction

over the past year, i've had the pleasure of teaming up with one of portland's finest residential contractors, don tankersley construction.  although i'm working outside of my usual role as architect/designer, this has been an equally challenging and rewarding experience and one that will certainly inform my own architectural work.  one of our most recent projects to start is an extensive remodel of a residence located in the southwest hills of portland.  the remodel has been designed by bohlin cywinski jackson architecture of seattle.

check back frequently for updates as construction progresses.

modern passivhaus

designed by bere:architects, the camden passivhaus is the first certified passivhaus in london.  it's a fantastic example of high quality architectural design merged with ultra-energy efficiency.

treated floor area = 1098 ft²

annual heat requirement (calculated per PHPP) = 4.12 kBTU/ft²a

the wood structure including the larch exterior cladding was prefabricated in Austria.

main wall assembly 5/8" gypboard 4" wood fiber insulation 1/2" osb air barrier 11" rockwool cavity insulation 1/2" fiberboard sheathing larch rainscreen R-value = 49

floor assembly 1 1/4" wood flooring 4" wood fiber insulation 5 1/2" rockwool insulation 5 1/2" insulation 3/4" airspace 2 1/2" screed 12" concrete slab r-value = 51

main roof assembly 5 1/2" solid wood deck 11" rigid insulation 4 3/4" rockwool insulation 1" drainage layer 3 1/2" soil and plantings r-value = 75

windows bayer passivhaus windows wood polyurethane composite u-value = 0.134 btu/(hr ft² f)

bayer premium triple glazing v-value = 0.106 btu/(hr ft² f) shgc = .48

another great looking and high performing project from bere is "the muse".

beach house interior

we made a quick visit to oceanside to check in on the construction progress over the last few months.  the owners are doing most of the work themselves, and they've been moving along steadily on the interior.  the spaces are starting to take shape, colors are getting introduced, and this little beach house is starting to come to life.

small project update

we recently shared some drawings and photos of a small bathroom remodel inspired by the japanese bath house.   the work is complete and it turned out quite nicely (thanks to right arm construction).  here are some photos of the completed project:

a quick reminder of what it once was.

passivhaus progression

as we inch closer to getting started on our project, we continue to scrutinize our current plans in an effort to create a house that is fine tuned for our needs.  as an architect, i want a house that is inspiring and beautiful, and embodies what is important to us.  as the owner with a very limited budget, we want to make sure that our cost expectations are realistic.  since i'll be playing general contractor, i want an easy to construct and problem free building. we've taken another pass at redesigning the house with an eye toward efficiency and simplicity - both in terms of square footage and energy.  we felt there were a few redundancies, tricky details, and program pieces that we are better off without.  here's a quick snapshot of the progression of the plans.

as always, there are a few ideas though that we refuse to give up.

requirement #1: warm, comfortable, and extremely energy efficient

we want to live simply and in a beautiful inspiring place that is warm and comfortable regardless of the time of year.  we also want to minimize our footprint and our energy costs.  although we will most likely pursue passivhaus certification, the path we take isn't really as important as the end result.  for us, passivhaus is just a means to a better end.  our generous friends at brute force collaborative have been providing the expertise to help us get there.

meeting passivhaus requirements means the house will use no more than 4.75 kBTU / ft2 annually for space heating.  for the main house, this translates to about 5.27 mBTU or 1544 kWh annually for space heating (we are planning to use electricity to heat the house).  at our current rate of around $.09 / kWh, our annual heating bill would be no more than $139.

although we know that the studios will see far less use than the main house, using the same formula yields an annual heating bill for the studios of no more than $51.

requirement #2: wood windows and doors

since we want wood windows and doors, and they need to be extremely high performing to achieve requirement #1, we have been looking at manufacturers based in germany and austria.  this is our largest single expense and perhaps an easy target for criticism, as these beauties will need to be shipped overseas.  we would love to use a locally produced product, but unfortunately no wood windows made in the US come even close in terms of performance.  it's a bit of a quandary, but brute force collaborative has performed an interesting analysis (based on our previous design) that has us feeling more comfortable with our decision: Can European windows actually save carbon?

requirement #3: separate work from home

an important part of our program is space to do work and make things.  we know we could make a more cost effective and thermally efficient house if we combined our work space with our home, but we like the idea of some separation.  we think we can make this simple idea a huge asset.

requirement #4: create positive outdoor space

our intention has always been to use the form of the house to shape outdoor space.  again, this may contradict requirement #1 but we don't just want a box sitting in the landscape.  we want two boxes sitting in the landscape creating positive space between!

requirement #5: keep it modest and make it beautiful

many people may not agree, but we think these two wood clad boxes with concrete floors, white sheetrock walls, natural wood doors and windows, and flooded with light will be quite beautiful.


one of the key components in making a high performance building is a proper exterior shading device.  combined with thermal mass and natural ventilation, a building can be passively cooled in most climates.  a properly sized overhang, a fixed sunscreen, or a deciduous tree can sometimes provide an adequate solution, but unfortunately in our unpredictable northwest climate the cooling days don't coincide so perfectly with the arc of the sun or the leafy seasons.  the most effective shading solution is usually an active adjustable shading, allowing precise shading only when desired, but also providing an animated building facade and creating an architectural language directly related to comfort and energy performance. too often the shading device is poorly conceived (wrong orientation or improperly sized), relegated to the interior where it's too late to prevent heat gain, or cut from the project due to cost considerations.  yet, here in the temperate pacific northwest it is becoming more and more common to find good money spent on air conditioning to provide cooling for those few hot days. instead, that money could be shifted to the facade construction, substantially reducing energy use while creating beautiful architecture.

here are a few interesting european examples to start the conversation:

mgf architekten, university for technical studies, aalen

foreign office architects, carabanchel house, madrid

freshwater house, chenchow little architects, sydney

baumschlager-eberle, eichgut housing, winterthur

weil arets, university library, ultrecht

walter unterrainer, passive house

karawitz architecture, passive house, bessancourt

on the boards: BUG

Beech Urban Gardens is a new mixed-use building designed to meet passivhaus standards and substantially raise the bar on energy efficiency.  Located at the heart of the burgeoning N Williams corridor, BUG sits on an empty south facing 50' x 120' corner lot.  Seven residential units occupy the top two floors, while six creative offices are situated above three ground floor retail spaces.

BUG features a fully glazed south facade utilizing a high-performance window system to maximize direct solar gain, minimize heat loss, and provide exceptional views and daylight.  A system of sliding wood shutters is incorporated into the facade to provide complete external shading in the summer and eliminate overheating, while still allowing views and daylight.

The roof features a community garden with raised beds and a potting shed, a huge terrace with views to the neighborhood and the city, and photovoltaic panels making the roof's south guardrail and providing the building's minimal electrical needs.  A greywater recycling storage tank provides gravity fed water for the rooftop gardens and the building below.

interior of typical residential unit

southwest view with wooden shutters in closed position

small project update

as we mentioned in our last small project update, we are working on another remodel of an existing bathroom.  although these projects are not huge and flashy, our client is awesome and we love this little project.  it definitely challenges the notion of what a bathroom can be.

inspired by the japanese bath house, a new skin of wood wraps the entire room.  a wall to wall skylight is inserted over the shower to flood the room with daylight.  to minimize costs, the existing framing and fixture layout was retained.

the existing ceiling was cut back from the shower wall and a sloped well was framed up to the new skylight.  we projected the ceiling into the well just enough to position a new concealed fluorescent uplight to add some evening drama.  to avoid any structural impact and keep things simple and raw, we allowed the existing rafters to run through the well exposed.

the wood is reclaimed douglas fir that was salvaged from an old willamette river dock and milled by creative woodworking.

right arm construction is the general contractor, and is doing a beautiful job.  check back soon for images of the finished project.