good buy
Image: Angela Cash

PROSPECTIVE BUYERS of the 2,600-square-foot home at 541 SW Maple Crest Ct, near Lewis & Clark College, needn’t be card-carrying members of the Sierra Club to ensure their bid on the new house is considered. But it wouldn’t hurt. Especially since Charlie Weiss and Katharine Laurence, the sellers, spent five years designing and building the house, which they hope will become one of the few LEED platinum homes in Oregon.

“This is a gamble for us,” says Weiss, who, with Laurence, also built their own abode next door, which is awaiting LEED platinum certification. “But we wanted to show there’s a market for homes that are built to this degree of green.”

Hammered together out of sustainably harvested local lumber and painted with VOC-free paint—short for volatile organic compounds—the two-story, modern residence features concrete floors made from “fly ash” (a byproduct of coal burning that normally ends up in landfills), and a super-efficient cooktop that uses magnets—yes, magnets—in lieu of gas or electricity to heat pots. Let’s not forget the six-kilowatt solar panel system (which will shave up to 60 percent off the electricity bill). But the real cherry on top is the roof that directs rainwater to a pair of 3,000-gallon underground tanks, where it is cached for later use. Plus, should reusing gray water (water used in showering and washing dishes or clothes) become legal in Portland—and several groups are working toward that goal—the home is configured to do so. And did we mention the low-flow toilets?

All that ingenuity comes at a price, though: $845,000, to be exact. “Houses in this neighborhood have been selling in that ballpark,” Weiss explains. “Ours has a little higher cost per square foot, but consider that this entire house uses about the same amount of energy as your refrigerator.”

If buyers still aren’t sure about laying down the money, Weiss is hoping they’ll notice a few other features, too. Like the fact that the house is about six miles from downtown and just two blocks from Tryon Creek State Park. In other words, for all the innovation, Weiss is still banking on one of the oldest real estate adages in the book: location, location, location.