Net Zero Building Relies on Occupants

September 23, 2010

Rendering of Eco FlatsIs peer pressure enough to help building occupants reduce their energy consumption?  One project in Portland, Oregon is going to find out.  Eco Flats, as it is called, will be a 20,000 square foot mixed-use development that relies on the occupants to help it meet it’s net zero energy use goal.

The building will use a common hydronic heating system and 3,000 square feet of photovoltaic and thermal collector panels to heat and power the building.  The 18 apartment dwellers will have to work collectively to keep their energy use down so as not to draw from the grid.

Residents will be all too aware of their energy use, through the use of monitors in the entrances that will track energy and water use.  Individual residents’ use will be posted, so others in the building will know exactly who is using what.  Owners are counting on peer pressure to keep consumption to a minimum.

The project is participating in the Energy Trust of Oregon’s Path to Net Zero pilot program.  The Trust offers financial incentives for projects that reduce their energy use by 50 percent over Oregon code requirements.  Eco Flats is the only project in the program that is attempting net zero in a building with residential units.  According to the Energy Trust, it is the first of its kind in the nation.

Another feature of the project is the lack of parking.  There is no automobile parking provided at the project.  This is a deliberate measure to attract bicycle commuters.  Each unit will be provided a secure bike rack, and there will be a bicycle maintenance area for residents to use.  Owners want to attract those who want to minimize their overall footprint.

The commercial part of the building, on the ground floor, will include a restaurant, retail space, and a courtyard.  The commercial portion of the building is not intended to be net zero.  However, the project is seeking LEED certification.

Photo courtesy of Site Works.



Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.