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They started with a Portland pump house and a "passed-over" site.

They started with a Portland pump house and a "passed-over" site As Western metropolitan areas grow, sites that are easy to build on and close to a city core are growing scarce--and expensive. In response, an increasing number of prospective homeowners on tight budgets are snapping up sites that have been dismissed by conventional builders. By overcoming the challenges posed by such passed-over sites, they can end up with custom homes at comparative bargains.

Such was the case for Margie Kircher and Mitch Gilbert of Gilbert/Hasenberg Architects. After two years of searching, they found an affordable, 1/4-acre parcel offering pristine seclusion only a 5-minute drive from downtown Portland. But the site also presented a daunting list of problems: steep slope, unstable soil conditions, streambeds, dense growth of old forest and underbrush, and an existing pump house that occupied the one small buildable area. On the other hand, worse terrain prevented building on surrounding sites, ensuring seclusion.

Extending the pump house up and out

The architect dealt with the site by building on top of the concrete pump house, saving the cost of pouring a foundation and minimizing environmental impact. Only one tree had to be cut down, creek flows were unaffected, and soil was disturbed as little as possible.

Two lateral extensions added 345 square feet to the pump house, more than doubling the structure's footprint. Supporting the entry deck and living room, the larger extension projects 12 feet, resting atop four pilings. The other extension, a 3-foot-deep cantilever, supports stacked stairs to the second and third floors.

The house's vertical design helped Gilbert make the most of his $50,000 construction budget by keeping costly foundation and roof areas to a minimum--an economical strategy that anyone can employ. In all, Gilbert distributed 1,430 square feet of living space over three levels: 540 on the first floor, 470 on the second, and 420 on the third.

Soaring foyer adds drama and light

A footbridge links the parking area to the entry, tucked beneath the sheltering overhang of a second-story deck. Indoors, the intimate scale of the entry gives way to high drama in the foyer, where the ceiling soars 25 feet to the roof peak. On all three levels, east-facing windows frame leafy views of the woods, bringing in daylight and adding a sense of volume to the smallish rooms.

The three-story foyer also helps moderate interior temperatures. In winter, the shaft conducts warm air from the first-floor woodstove to the upper floors. In summer, warm air exits through top-floor windows, pulling fresh air in through north-facing windows on the lower floors.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1989
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