Creating Green and Resilient Homes

State and city planning goals addressed by the actions recommended in this section:

  • Economic Opportunities
  • Affordable Housing
  • Climate Change
  • Energy Resilience
  • Compact Urban Development
  • Efficient Transportation Options
  • Neighborhood Livability
  • Natural Resources
  • Civic Engagement, Public Participation and Collaborative Implementation

This section describes actions people can take at home. Some require no City involvement. Others do. All should be encouraged in one way or another.


Home Food Production – Grass to Garden

Turning residential grass to residential garden leads to many positive outcomes. Home grown food is fresher and healthier. People who garden get exercise and fresh air. That’s a big benefit to public health. Neighbors can collaborate on seed saving, garden tools or any other way they care to.

Front Yard Gardens

Front Yard GardenFront yard gardens have all the same benefits as grass to garden but because they are out front along the street, they are a great way to meet neighbors walking by. Front yard gardens also contribute to safety and security because the gardener can see up and down the street and sound an alarm if they see anything not right. Front yard gardens could be a great match for Neighborhood Watch and Mapping Your Neighborhood

A young family admires what will become a new front yard garden on Melvina. Note, the neighbor’s yard in the distance is already a well established front yard garden.

Edible Landscaping

Many kinds of trees, shrubs, vines and ground coverings produce food. The benefits are the same as grass to garden. Front yard edible landscaping has benefits like front yard gardens.

Home Food Production Benefits

Home grown food is a big help to building resilience and preparedness. Home grown reduces need for transportation energy and air pollution. That’s less CO2 and climate change. More money stays local.

Neighborhood WatchHome Food Production Action Items:
City programs can help. Disaster preparedness programs should promote all kinds of home and neighborhood food production. Map Your Neighborhood should help promote home food production. Neighborhood Watch should promote front yard gardens.

The city urban agriculture program can promote home food production. The city can allow edible landscaping as an option on private and commercial development projects, in parks, open spaces and parking strips.

Water – Rain Water Catchment, Water Wells and Swales

Managing water more thoughtfully can deliver many benefits. It can save money, benefit the environment, enhance safety and security and more.

Rainwater Catchment

Large rain catchment system.

Rain water catchment means catching rain water off the roof of a structure and storing it in tanks that come in many different sizes and shapes. Rain water can be used for irrigation during our dry summers and also for drinking with the proper filtration and treatment. It can also be used in case there is a disruption to the community water system.

Stored rain water for irrigation, drinking, flushing toilets and other uses can help reduce the need to increase drinking water capacity. Distributed and independent stored rain water helps make homes and neighborhoods more green and resilient if disruptions happen.

Swales are simply landscape features that help channel storm water into the ground close to where it falls or comes off a roof or impervious surface. Water wells on site for irrigation can also reduce need and capacity for drinking water, especially in River Road with consideration of water quality due to the rail yard. Stored rain water and swales keep more water onsite, recharge the immediate aquifer and avoid costly infrastructure.

Grey water systems can save water. Kitchen water, laundry and shower/bathtub water can be reused for gardens and landscapes instead of going to water treatment. Grey water can reduce the need for more water purification and treatment capacity.

Road development should implement the best strategies for capturing and cleaning run off. Also important, minimize new road construction and allow narrower roads when they are needed and make use of “advisory” bike lanes when possible instead of widening roads. (see the transportation section for more info)

Water Related Action Items

City policy and code changes can help promote home and business rain water catchment and swales. Eugene’s Disaster Preparedness Program and Map Your Neighborhood program can help promote rain water catchment and wells along with water purification systems to make the water potable.

EWEB could provide financial incentives for home and business owners to install rain water catch and store systems, residential wells and water purification devices such as Berkey water filters.

System development charges can be significantly reduced for residences or businesses that would like to install on-site stormwater treatment, gray-water systems, swales or rain catchment systems.

Rain Barrel

Rain barrel for catching water.

Note: There are home scale rainwater catchment systems scattered all around Eugene that provide good examples of what rain water catchment systems can look like. There is a local business specific to installing rainwater systems. One residential rain collection system (as of several years ago) in Eugene is permitted for potable water.

Note: The new River Road Elementary School catches rain water for use in school toilets.

Note: The city of Portland provides incentives for property owners to keep stormwater on site.

Small Houses

Tiny Homes

Tiny house village.

Many suburban properties can accommodate additional living structures. These small dwellings can be a great way to increase residential density while also filling needs for affordable housing. Seventy-five percent of the housing stock in River Road are single family detached dwellings.

Reducing barriers for accessory buildings, ADUs and tiny home infill has significant implications for creating more density in the River Road Neighborhood without disrupting the neighborhood fabric.

Small houses can enhance the property owner’s income as well.

Small House Action Items:
City regulations and code could  encourage accessory buildings, ADUs and tiny homes that do not contribute need for new parking space. Permit fees can be reduced. Small houses are taxed at a lower rate. See “Missing Middle” below.

Passive Heating, Cooling, Solar and Ventilation Remodels

Some homes have enormous unused solar potential. Houses that are oriented east-west and have good solar access might benefit from a remodel or add on space designed for solar indoor space heating such that heat created by the sun is moved by fans to heat other parts of the house.

Passive Solar Design

Passive solar home design.

Deciduous trees can be planted in front of southern facing windows to block the sun from overheating households in the summer but let the sun heat the house in the winter.

New construction should be oriented east to west to allow predominant winds in Eugene to passively ventilate a household through north and south windows.

Natural daylight can reduce the need for electrical lighting and studies have shown natural lighting contributes to human health.

Attached southern facing greenhouses or sun rooms can be used to passively heat and cool a house if designed appropriately for summer ventilation.

Perhaps, the easiest way to conserve energy in a building is increasing the insulation. This can be done with double stud walls, straw bail and many environmentally friendly insulators.

Other innovative passive strategies can be applied such as solar chimneys and trombe walls. However, these must be highly designed and calibrated to fit the Eugene climate.

Solar Action:
The City can reduce fees for solar remodels and add-ons. Designs would be certified by an architect or engineer to fit certain criteria to qualify for the incentives.

Neighborhood based economic development could include small manufacture of rooftop solar hot water heaters.

In sum. Even simple design elements to new construction can save energy and money. Retrofitting these design elements can save energy and create jobs.

Seismic Retrofits

Retrofitting homes to seismic standards makes the family and neighborhood more prepared in a seismic emergency because there will be more safe buildings available.

All new civic buildings in Eugene should be designed for intense seismic loads so that they can be used for respite during or after a disaster.

Residential Seismic Action Items:
Residential seismic retrofits that qualify should receive incentives such as reduced permit fees.

Summary Green and Resilient Homes

River Road has enormous assets for becoming a more green and resilient neighborhood such as good soil, climate, space, expertise, infrastructure, existing examples and an emerging culture of living more green and resilient. River Road already identifies itself as a garden neighborhood. The neighborhood association is already very supportive of these ideas. All the actions described above complement and support many city and state planning goals.

Many residential green and resilient features do not require permits or special treatment, but it’s still important for the Neighborhood Plan to encourage these actions and even consider incentives.

River Road could become a laboratory for testing policies and incentives for green and resilient homes and lifestyles! (Economic development along the River Road corridor and in the Greenway can complement residential actions.)

Note: There are many homes in River Road that have excellent examples of home food production, solar design, natural building, edible landscapes, rain water catchment and other features that can serve as examples for promoting green and resilient homes.

River Road has also hosted over 30 green and resilient site tours over the past 12 years that allow people to see these design features and learn directly from local examples. Literally, thousands of people have benefited from site tour in River Road.

Permaculture design classes at nearby Lost Valley and Aprovecho Educational Centers regularly bring their classes on tours to River Road to see home scale permaculture. River Road has been a destination of eco-tourism groups for the past decade.

The River Road neighborhood hosted the 2015 Northwest Permaculture Convergence at the River Road Rec Center. The Convergence is the most important permaculture event of the year in the Pacific Northwest. Over 800 people attended from Eugene, around the Northwest and beyond.

Suburban agriculture action items:
The River Road Neighborhood Plan could include, support and encourage suburban agriculture both on private property and public land.

City Emergency Preparedness, including Map Your Neighborhood and Neighborhood Watch programs could include home food production as part of their educational outreach in both presentations to the public and in printed material.

The City could promote, in cooperation with NAs and high schools, a match making program between property owners who want to offer land for others to garden and people looking for land on which to garden.

The City could develop plans for food production in community gardens, with nut trees on public property (such as the area around the filbert grove),  in Maynard Park, on the city owned land across River Road from the Ecco Apts, and other public property where appropriate.


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