New policy to support green affordable housing gets boost from PSU research

Portland City HallOn the day after Thanksgiving a new green building policy for affordable housing went into effect in Portland, a policy designed to reduce the overall cost of affordable housing in Portland while making buildings better performing, more efficient, and sustainable.

The policy was bolstered by research funded by the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions and conducted by Elliott T. Gall, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Portland State University, and Liliana Caughman, a graduate student in Environmental Science & Management. The research was part of the ongoing Portland Climate Action Collaborative, which taps university research to help the city achieve its climate-related goals.

Gall and Caughman completed a detailed cost analysis of the proposed policy and found that the net cost of applying green building standards to affordable housing construction would range in a 5.1 percent reduction in cost to a 2 percent increase in cost, with a midpoint estimate of 1.3 percent cost reduction overall.

The new Portland Housing Bureau policy requires all new buildings to meet standards for energy performance, water, and indoor air quality determined by Portland Housing bureau—standards that mimic sometimes costly external certifications without requiring the actual third-party validation. Mayor Ted Wheeler called the policy “forward thinking” and praised its ability to cut through red tape.

Suzanne Zuniga, senior construction coordinator with the housing bureau, worked with ISS and other partners to craft the policy and get it approved by City Council, which voted to pass it on Oct. 25. “We will continue to work with ISS/PSU to study the cost impacts of green building and hope to create a platform for collecting and sharing data,” Zuniga said.

Read more about the green building policy for affordable housing here and learn more about the work ISS and the city are doing as .