Sustainable Senior Living

Green Hammer is innovating green, sustainable 55+ living with The Oaks

By Brian Alvarado

Coming across a zero-energy community is an unfortunate rarity nowadays, but for Oregon-based design-build firm Green Hammer, it’s a standard.

Founded by Stephen Aiguier in 2002, Green Hammer’s purpose is to create buildings that mimic healthy living systems to provide fresh air, clean water, and create and conserve energy.

“Green Hammer is committed to reducing carbon emissions in the built environment. The firm is one of only 10 in the nation meeting the goals of the American Institute of Architects’ 2030 Challenge Commitment, which provides a path for firms to voluntarily move toward carbon neutrality,” Aiguier said.

Over its 18-year existence, the green builder has built countless numbers of buildings and homes that are environmentally friendly, receiving certifications from well-known industry organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) with its LEED program and International Living Future Institute’s Zero Energy Certification.

For us, the inspiration for building this way comes from the mounting evidence showing that we must act with greater urgency to address global warming.  -Stephen Aiguier, Founder and President of Green Hammer

With the pandemic altering homebuyers’ needs and desires, a healthier lifestyle has become a hot commodity, especially to those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

One community that hopes to contribute to health and wellness is Green Hammer’s senior community of The Oaks at Rose Villa in Portland, Ore. The 12-unit, zero energy multi-family community is seeking a Zero Energy Certification from International Living Future Institute. Green Hammer flexed its versatility with The Oaks, acting as the architect, the builder, and the designer for the community.

“For us, the inspiration for building this way comes from the mounting evidence showing that we must act with greater urgency to address global warming,” Aiguier said.

The journey to zero energy for the homes at The Oaks, which is part of senior living retirement community Rose Villa, was achieved through a holistic approach to building systems. Things like airtight construction, beyond-code insulation, high-quality construction, heat recovery ventilation, and the use of a 75-kilowatt photovoltaic array all contributed to The Oaks producing more energy than it consumes.

Additionally, Green Hammer utilized ENERGY STAR appliances throughout the community to reduce energy use, while only using Green Guard Gold- and Living Building Challenge Declare-certified materials to reduce harmful chemicals in each home. To contribute to water conversation, the homes also include WaterSense-certified showerheads, faucets, and toilets.

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Lessening Impact

As part of its mission, Green Hammer strives toward conserving the environment and sometimes, preserving Mother Nature can be a difficult task for any builder. With The Oaks, one challenge that presented itself was the preservation of a large heritage oak tree that was in the middle of the site.

“To ensure the health of the tree we worked closely with an arborist throughout both design and construction,” Green Hammer Director of Design Erica Dunn said. “From a design perspective, we organized the triplexes around a courtyard centered on the heritage oak, ‘Air Knifed’ the soil to understand the tree’s existing root structure prior to designing the building foundations, and collaborated with the civil engineer and landscape architect to ensure site drainage and plantings were compatible with the oak’s soils needs.”

During construction, the Green Hammer team worked closely with an arborist to facilitate the tree protection fencing and site access plans that ensured paths for foot traffic and machinery during construction didn’t interfere with the tree’s roots.

“As a design build firm we were able to easily coordinate a seamless transition between the design and construction teams that kept the health and survival of the Oak first and foremost on everyone’s mind,” Dunn said.

Customization is Key

Homebuyers’ desires are changing, and the ability to customize in any extent is an attractive feature during the typical home search.

With The Oaks, residents were able to customize their interior finishes such as cabinets, countertops, backsplashes, bathroom tile, light fixtures, paint colors, and even bathroom accessories.

“Given the variety of finishes options available, no two units are the same and it was fun to see the different character of each unit coming to life during construction,” Dunn said.

The Oaks features homes that are two-story triplexes that include Craftsman-style detailing to convey the character and scale of its surrounding community. Inside, homes feature two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining/living great room, an in-unit laundry room, and an ample amount of storage space.

All units either have a vaulted ceiling or a “generous” 9-foot ceiling height, making the homes feel spacious. Covered front and back porches gives residents plenty of outdoor space to enjoy and an opportunity to chat with neighbors from a safe distance.

Positive Partnerships

The idea of The Oaks derived from a conference in which a Green Hammer architect was presenting at in regards to Zero Energy homes, using Green Hammer’s community of Ankeny Row as a case study. Ankeny Row is a net-positive energy community and was one of the first multi-family Zero Energy buildings in Oregon.

“Vassar Byrd, CEO of Rose Villa, was at the event and she tracked us down afterward,” Aiguier said. “She is a sheer force of nature—an incredibly impactful and visionary business leader. This highly anticipated project would not have come to fruition without the professional, human-centered organization behind it.”

Rose Villa is a leader in the U.S. senior living market and puts sustainability first, not only from an economic aspect, but also the human health and environmental perspective as well.

Looking ahead, Green Hammer is continuing to partner with Rose Villa on a third and final redevelopment project this year, which includes another Zero Energy housing project.

“Vassar is rightfully excited to have developed a vibrant, walkable campus, to invest in this new era of construction. We are excited to work with her and the Rose Villa board of directors and project team to invest in another leading-edge neighborhood,” Aiguier said.

Brian Alvarado is the Editor at Green Home Builder Magazine. He can be reached at

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Project Info:

Project Name: The Oaks at Rose Villa

Location: Portland, Oregon

Architect: Green Hammer Design Build

Builders: Green Hammer Design Build

Interior Designers: Green Hammer Design Build

Type of Product:  Multifamily Zero Energy Building

Green Certification(s): Zero Energy through the International Living Future Institute;

Audubon Society of Portland Backyard Habitat Certification


Keys to Sustainability

Certified by: International Living Future Institute (review)
Energy Star Appliances: YES

HVAC / Programmable: Thermostat:  YES

Insulation / Weatherization: YES

LED Lighting:  YES

Low VOC Paint: YES

Solar Ready: YES
Water Saving: YES