Medford architect’s $ 50,000 scholarship targets net-zero affordable housing – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News


Affordable housing could become more energy efficient thanks to a grant from the Energy Trust of Oregon to Medford architect Mark McKechnie.

McKechnie is the recipient of the Energy Trust’s $ 50,000 Net-Zero Research Fellowship 2020, the only grant awarded this year. He will use the funding to research cost drivers associated with net zero affordable housing in Oregon.

A practicing architect for over 40 years, he is the owner and principal architect of Oregon Architecture, Inc., 132 W. Main St., Medford.

The Energy Trust is governed by a volunteer board of directors and overseen by the Oregon Utilities Commission. Three stakeholder advisory boards guide its work.

Through his research, he will create resources that developers, designers and construction crews can use to assess a range of options for reducing energy consumption and weigh them against the cost of construction and return. on investment.

“I’ve always been interested in energy efficient design,” McKechnie said.

In the early 1980s, he designed an energy efficient demonstration house in Minnesota.

“The project was so efficient it could heat up to 50 degrees in the depths of a Minnesota winter,” he said.

Over the years, he has observed that energy efficiency in construction remains primarily an academic exercise.

“It was almost systematically ignored by builders until they were forced to consider it, either by owners or through code changes,” he said.

Even though energy efficient building designs have become more prevalent in recent years, they are found more in middle and upper income housing. The buyers of these homes want and demand the new technology, and they can afford it.

Cost is the reason affordable housing often does not use new technology and building designs.

“Net-zero generally has a higher cost of entry, which is not always recognized by lenders as freeing up income to pay a higher mortgage,” McKechnie said.

“Social housing” is typically built by public or not-for-profit agencies that primarily receive funding from the state or federal government. These loans usually have spending limits per unit.

“We hope to show that a zero net home will free up additional monthly income for rent,” he said.

By showing that additional energy cuts will save money over the life of the loan, they hope the state will allow additional construction costs for greater energy efficiency.

Net zero construction generally means that a building produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption needs. To date, Oregon Architecture has not designed net zero housing. But he did the design work for three energy efficient projects for the Klamath Housing Authority, within building code and funding source limits.

“The climate in Klamath County is harsher than that of Rogue Valley or the Oregon Coast,” McKechnie said, “so it offers a better opportunity to recoup energy efficiency costs.”

Oregon Architecture will partner with Klamath Housing Authority on scholarship-funded research. MEP Consulting for mechanical construction and Bogatay Construction will also be involved. David Sommer and Niru Patil, partners of the firm, will assist you.

McKechnie hopes the research will provide practical solutions that could demonstrate to the building community how energy efficiency can be achieved without sweeping lifestyle changes or significant expense.

He sees several opportunities for more efficiency – in the building envelope, better use of daylight and the use of low-tech alternative energy systems. A “building envelope” is defined as the separation of the interior and exterior of a building, which can help facilitate climate control.

McKechnie recognizes that there can be resistance to low-income projects, but believes that resistance is based more on perception than fact.

“Local agencies that own and manage projects have a long, solid management history,” he said. “The average citizen would have a hard time identifying a low income project just by looking at it.”

McKechnie expects the results of his research to be reflected in future affordable housing in Rogue Valley.

“I expect that we can provide local builders with energy efficient building techniques that they can use in their jobs in the future,” he said. “The purpose of the stock market, after all, is to flatten the growth curve in energy use.”

Contact Ashland writer Jim Flint at [email protected]

Oregon architecture owner and principal architect Mark McKechnie, left, reviews housing designs with associates, left to right David Summer, senior design project manager; Megan Morgan, design project manager; and Martin Lee, designer. McKechnie won a 2020 $ 50,000 Net-Zero Research Fellowship from the Energy Trust of Oregon to research energy efficient designs for affordable housing.

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