Orenco's 57-unit affordable apartment building built to passive-house energy standards

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Orchards at Orenco, touted as the largest passive house building in the United States, opened Monday with plenty of pomp and circumstance.Orenco is now home to the largest multi-family apartment building built to passive house energy standards in North America.

That — and the fact that the building adds 57 new affordable homes for low-income residents — was cause for celebration Monday at the grand opening of Orchards at Orenco on Northeast Cherry Drive in Hillsboro.

The Orchards at Orenco is a project of Reach Community Development, a nonprofit housing developer, and a host of partners that took part in building the innovative passive energy apartment building.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Architect Ankrom Moisan designed this mural of wood rounds to pay tribute to the historic orchards in the Orenco area. Wood round murals are mounted on all three floors of the building and represent 15 different species of trees.The project emphasizes Reach's goals of providing a comprehensive model of affordable living, in close proximity to light rail, community amenities and economic growth hubs.

Orchards at Orenco is a three-phase development with rents affordable to residents earning approximately 50 percent of area Median Family Income (MFI), or approximately $30,000 for a single-person household. Rental rates for the one- and two-bedroom units range from $611 to $733 per month.

Residents will also see savings on their energy bills, achieving nearly 90 percent energy reduction for heating and 60 to 70 percent for overall energy use as compared to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building. Key innovative features include triple-paned windows, a heat recovery system and a super-insulated building envelope.

And on a hot day, the building “walked the talk,” so to speak, with apartment units hovering at a comfortable 74 degrees (without air-conditioning), while temperatures outside soared above 90 degrees.

"Stable, quality housing makes a big difference in the lives of low-income residents trying to get ahead," said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), one of several elected officials at the grand opening event. Bonamici is a member of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness.

State Rep. Joe Gallegos (D-Hillsboro) recalled his childhood, when his family moved to a different home every fall after working in the farm fields. He attended 10 different schools as a child.

“This is more than affordable housing,” Gallegos said. “This is a keystone for progress. We all know how critical stable housing is for (a child’s) education.”

The Orchards recently won the Portland Business Journal’s Better Bricks Sustainable Project of the Year award for its commitment to green technology and energy efficiency.

“It’s a perfect attribute to the city of Hillsboro,” said Mayor Jerry Willey.HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey called the Orchards at Orenco 'a perfect attribute' to the city.

Reach has already broken ground on phase 2, a 58-unit building adjacent to phase 1. A third phase will be townhomes.

"This development is an outstanding achievement for Reach and our team," said Reach CEO Dan Valliere.

"Between the energy efficiency of the building and its close proximity to transportation in a high job growth region, we expect our residents to benefit significantly from living at Orchards.”

The development team included Walsh Construction Co.; Ankrom Moisan Architects; William Wilson Architects; Housing Development Center; Green Hammer, Inc.; Housing Authority of Washington County; and Passive House Institute of the United States.

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