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Sierra magazine
Comfort Zone | Smart Designs for Pleasure and Planet

From Ugh! to Aah!

By Brian Libby


Expansive windows and a sun-screened entry porch make 930 square feet feel much larger in the home of Scott Weimer (standing) and Brent Van Gilder.

What I Like
"The building is distinct but blends in so much you could almost miss it," Scott Weimer says. "Then once it catches your eye, you stop and go, 'Whoa.'"

Lesson Learned
"We recycled the appliances, cabinetry, and carpet," says Brett Crawford. "It turns out you can even recycle vinyl. A place out in Gresham [a Portland suburb] took all the old siding."

Two years ago Scott Weimer and his partner, Brent Van Gilder, were at an open house in southeast Portland, Oregon, when they heard hammering and sawing down the street. Curious, they found a decaying 1969 concrete apartment building being transformed into ecofriendly condos. The man making all the noise that evening, Brett Crawford, turned out to be the architect and developer. "Brett took us on a tour right then," recalls Weimer, who works at a local law firm. "It was love at first sight."

The 1310 Condominiums, where the couple soon bought a unit, earned top honors last year at the Portland chapter of the American Institute of Architects' design awards, including special recognition for its sustainable features. Tenants enjoy low utility bills (thanks to ample insulation), plenty of natural light, tankless gas water heaters, and low-emissivity window glass. Bamboo floors and tiled bathrooms add a luxurious feel.

Crawford retained much of the building's original structure but added a facade of interwoven stairways and wooden sunscreens that feels like a working sculpture. "It was a scale I could wrap my arms around without losing that comfort level in terms of craft and design," he says.


A simple and stylish modern aesthetic replaced vinyl cladding and red-brick accents in a historic Portland, Oregon, neighborhood.
At less than 1,000 square feet, Weimer and Van Gilder's condo is much smaller than they were used to. "It's an eye-opener what you can live without," Weimer says. In return, the couple can lead a less car-dependent lifestyle, since 1310 is near downtown Portland and the thriving Hawthorne District. "In our old house, once we were home, we were pretty much home unless we wanted to get in the car and go somewhere," Weimer says. "Now we do a lot more walking."

Crawford recalls meeting several future buyers, like Weimer and Van Gilder, while "standing on scaffolding with my tool belt on." The do-it-yourself aspect provided an unexpected bit of marketing. "His passion is really palpable: why he built it, what it represents to him and to the neighborhood," Weimer says. "That was part of the draw for us."


On the Web What's your idea of a green living or work space? Tell us at sierraclub.org/sierra/shelter.

Photos, from top: Susan Seubert, Brett Crawford, Ambient Light/Stephen Miller; used with permission

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