Monthly Archives: October 2010

Solar Panels & Historic Buildings

By Cathy Galbraith

During 2009-2010, many of us devoted considerable energy to a package of city code amendments (RICAP-5, short for Regulatory Improvement Code Amendments Package.) Many of the amendments were related to Green Building technologies. After a series of public workshops and public hearings before the Landmarks and Planning Commissions, City Council adopted it with plenty of amendments. RICAP-5 created standards for installing solar panels in historic and conservation districts, including historic design review.

Now there are solar companies who feel that this process is too restrictive, using historic districts like Ladd’s Addition as an example. They are asking City Council to remove the historic design review requirement. We all understand and support solar energy, but installations need to be done so they don’t damage the historic features and views of historic houses.

To illustrate our concerns, here are just a few examples of solar panel installations that leave a lot to be desired:

We hope that City Council doesn’t take action to unilaterally eliminate historic design review; at the very least, this issue should be referred back to the Landmarks Commission for public review. Our Mayor and City Council need to hear from all of us and our concerns, as do directors at the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (Susan Anderson) and the Bureau of Development Services (Paul Scarlett).

Please let Mayor Sam Adams and City Council hear from you now! Historic Design review for solar panels on historic buildings should be retained – it was developed following considerable public testimony. If Council chooses to open this issue back up, it needs to be returned to the Landmarks Commission.

Mayor Sam Adams
Commissioner Randy Leonard
Commissioner Amanda Fritz
Commissioner Nick Fish
Commissioner Dan Saltzman


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Filed under Historic Preservation

Window Know-How: A Guide to Going Green

To live green at home, and reduce your monthly energy bills, it’s important to evaluate windows. If you live in an older residence, don’t assume that replacement windows are the only option. Historic wooden windows are remarkably efficient as long as they’re well maintained. (And there’s nothing greener than preserving what you already have.) Conversely, manufacturing and installing replacement windows consumes enormous amounts of energy. Keep these tips in mind as you consider your options:

Older is Better: Old windows were fabricated from old wood. It’s generally denser and lasts longer than the new wood used for modern windows.

Caveat Emptor: Some salespeople promote replacements as cure-alls, but even the highest-quality replacement units can fail. In addition, experts note that new vinyl or PVC replacement windows can release toxic byproducts into the atmosphere.

Watch Your Pennies: Tearing out existing windows to install replacements is expensive and wasteful. Although you may achieve some energy savings, it will take decades (or centuries) to recoup your investment. Plus, you’ll have to dispose of the old windows, adding to the nation’s waste management woes.

Maintenance is Key: A well-sealed, tight-fitting window saves energy.

Check for Condensation: It can rot window sills and rails.

Use Storm Windows: They increase energy efficiency. Monitor them for clues about your house. Cold air leaking in through a storm window can create condensation on your window panes. Warm air escaping from your house can cause a storm to fog up.

Insulate: More heat is typically lost through the roof and walls than through windows. Adding just 31⁄2 inches of insulation to your attic can save more energy than new windows.

Install Window Treatments: Something as simple as a conventional window shade mounted inside the frame and touching the sill, with no more than a 1⁄4-inch gap at the sides, can reduce heat loss by as much as 27 percent. A shade with a reflective coating will provide even more protection.

Remember to. . .
1. Keep all exterior surfaces painted. A coat of paint protects wood. Pay particular attention to horizontal surfaces, such as window sills, where water collects.
2. Replace glazing compound (the putty that holds panes in place) when it dries out. Missing or cracked compound results in air infiltration. Always paint glazing after it has cured.
3. Maintain window locks Functioning locks hold rails tightly in place. A tight fit reduces air exchange.
4. Keep movable surfaces free of paint buildup so that sashes slide freely.
5. Replace any cracked or broken panes promptly.
6. Add or renew weather stripping where it makes sense. When correctly installed, weather
stripping can increase a window’s efficiency by as much as 50 percent.
7. Watch for water. Whenever you use storm windows, remember to clear the weep holes at the base to allow condensation to drain away.
8. Check seals around exterior storms and caulk well.
9. Test for air leaks. On a windy day, hold a lighted birthday candle or incense stick near the window frame to detect drafts.
10. Think about safety. Evaluate emergency exit routes before sealing windows with caulk or adding storms.

To learn more about saving your windows and weatherizing your home, visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s resources for homeowners.


Filed under Historic Preservation, Sustainability

Firefighters Memorial and Yeon Visitors Center Receive National Register Recognition

It is now official, the David Campbell Memorial, also known as the Portland Firefighters Memorial, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This is wonderful news and hopefully puts to rest any concerns that the memorial will be dismantled and parts used in a new memorial on the east bank of the Willamette.

The 1948 John Yeon designed Portland Visitors Information Center was also listed in the National Register. It is good to see post-war architecture gaining more recognition as part of our architectural heritage.

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Local History, Modernism + The Recent Past

New Exhibit on South Portland and Urban Renewal


Burning of demolition debris during urban renewal in South Auditorium Urban Renewal District - 1961. Photo Courtesy of Portland Archives and Records Center


Thanks to a grant from Oregon Humanities, the Architectural Heritage Center has put together a new exhibit: Re-Building South Portland. This exhibit tells the story of how a once thriving immigrant neighborhood was virtually destroyed by urban renewal and freeway construction in the 1960s. If you are interested in local history, urban planning and of course, historic preservation, please consider checking out this new exhibit.

Also, on Tuesday, November 9th, Dr. Carl Abbott will be giving a FREE lecture on South Portland at the Church of All Nations (formerly Kesser Israel Synagogue) located in what remains of South Portland at 136 SW Meade, just off Barbur Blvd.

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Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Local History