Tamarack Project and School

houseintree.jpg (29877 bytes)2323 SE Tamarack Eco-House

Portland, Oregon

Ladd’s Addition

This website is dedicated to 15 years


by the owner Candace Gossen (gossen@solar783.com)


Location: Ladds Addition. Corner of SE Hickory and SE Tamarack, one block north of Division and 1 street west of SE 20th St. Hosford/Abernethy School Disstrict.Built: 1924, wood-framed construction, cellulose insulated walls & floors, storm windows, no VOC paints, recycled cedar porch,
Total sf:  2974sf, Lot size 6,000sf
Main Floor:  1092sf, 2 bedrooms and bath
Kitchen:  IKEA w/ Energy Efficient Explorer fridge, gas range, Bosch front -loaded washer & convection ventless dryer, window boxes w/ storage. New Milard windows.
Living Room:  Fireplace w/ two new operable windows and bookshelves, ceiling fan, 9′ east window and pivot-door.
Dining Room:  Hardwood Floors and 9′ south facing passive solar window.
Upstairs:  Loft 15′ x 30′, bamboo floors, skylights, hydronic heater, full length storage cabinets on both sides, copper railing, fluorescent reflected uplighting
Downstairs: 1092 sf:  2 bedrooms and bath with tiled jacuzzi tub, recycled pop bottle carpet on stairs. New Egress Milgard Windows.
Full kitchen w/ jenn-air elec range, Energy-star fridge, lots of cabinets, tiled floors, large walk-in closet. South facing window. Electric baseboard heating.
UtilityRoom: Biodiesel tanks, Solar Water Heater & Nat.Gas tank, work sink.
Garage Studio:  300 sf, 15′ x 20′ Strawbale infill walls R-38, concrete and bamboo floors, Sink and Malber WD 1000 W/D, hydronic heater, and ship-style shower w/ dual flush Caroma toilet. Mini-Loft w/ skylite, access via climbing holds
Household: Electrical and Plumbing update completed 1999, Sewer scoped July 2010, Backflow device installed 1997.Biodiesel B99/B20 forced air heat source.
Yard:  6,000 sf lot of Native Plants,  (7) Mature fruit trees, 3-100′ hybrid Ponderosa/Jeffrey Pines, Wysteria on recycled birch arbor, 30′ Rhododendrons.
Solar Hot Tub (2006): Closed-loop glycol panel with copper heat exchanger, round cedar exterior/plastic int.style
Solar Hot Water (1999): Open-loop 4 x 10 panel w/ 80 gal. storage and auto-thermostat.
Solar Photovoltaic (2004):   1.5 kw pole mounted (14-110w BP panels), 1.8 kw inverter Energy Outfitters (produced 7.5 Megawatts in 6 years) saving 15, 575 lbs of Greenhouse gases. (Mr. Sun Solar, solar contractor for all solar systems)Biodiesel Furnace: Water heater exchanger, outdoor shed has ecoroof, tanks in basement utility, blower in old core of furnace. (Portland Green Heat, heating contractor)
Strawbale Shed/Meditation Library (1998): Load-bearing strawbale (R52) 10′ x 12′ w/ 12 moisture sensors. Recycled metal shingle roof.
Rainwater Collection: 720 gal (9-60gal + 6-30gal barrels)
Edible Gardens: ~150sf, Native berry garden made of 500 wine bottles and fly ash stucco. LED lights in bottles. 
Bottle Walls, rammed earth bench, pond and compost bin. Eco-roof model curbside as teaching model/kids playhouse.89% walk-ability score. The only architecturally designed neighborhood development in Portland. Mature trees line the streets along with 4 rose gardens in the cardinal directions off of Ladd Circle. #4, #10 and #14 bus lines within a block. New Seasons, Palios and other restaurants one block away. 1 mile from downtown, biking distance to PSU. You don’t  need a car to live here, unless of course you want to go to the ocean or skiing which are approximately 1 hour in either direction.This is a carbon-free house

The Story


It was in 1990 that I landed at ASU to complete a Master of Science in Architecture. I was looking for ecological alternatives to the current madness of deforestation in the building world. I met Professor Jeff Cook who introduced me to the  ancient desert dwellers, the old Adobe builders, the Anasazi and Passive Solar, the Hopi and their efficiency, and Prof. Mike Pasqualetti who shifted these ideas into solutions for the future. 

In June of 1996, we moved to Portland from Tempe, Arizona.By July the Tamarack house was found and what follows next is a series of before and after shots of what the house was like when we bought it and to what it became.

The previous owners were Irma and her husband, who had lived in this house and raised their children for more than 30 years.  When we arrived to view the house, it was empty, she had moved on to retirement and he had passed away a long time before. She left a photo of herself on the mantle as a warming welcome to knowing the love she had in this house and was passing on. We later found funny things that had slipped away into the cracks (literally) like Mr. Wishard’s tobacco pack that was tucked into the front closet corner (perhaps a hidden stash?) and the stack of old photos and letters found that had dropped behind the built in shelves next to the fireplace from the 1930s. We were told stories by the oldtimers that had lived near the house and knew the family. Irma used to sunbath in the yard, and the fir tree planted in the front yard was a christmas tree from when her son was young and they planted it. Now it is 100 feet tall!

At the time Abernethy, a block away was a thriving K-5 school with a swimming pool. Ladd’s circle had a little grocery store owned by Tab and his family and it was so cool. We could run a tab and pay at the end of the month. Wow! New Seasons didn’t exist, instead there was a little grocery market and a laundromat. Across the street was Ladd Meat Market that took up the whole block where Pastini’s is now. We came in the summer, it was beautiful, the weather was perfect and Ki was 6 then. It was very important to find a community and be able to walk, bike or take a bus anywhere we went. It took a short minute to land here.

I will get to the house details in a bit, but first let me finish up the culture story. Ki made friends quickly with 3 girls in the neighborhood. Austin, Polly and Skylar. They were the four musketeers and were inseparable their entire growing up here. The house was a place for birthday adventure parties, egg hunting, building things, raising a pup named Buck, 2 ferrets, a tortoise, 2 finches, and 2 hamsters. Raccoons moved into the soffits, and a possum hung out in the leaves and bushes. A family of crows have lived in the pine trees which act as sentinels guarding the love of the place. Over time bees, insects, butterflies have all come to be vital here providing mature fruit crops right here in the city. And we still have the original horse rings on the curbside, which was a favorite past-time with my son and his handcuffs!

The House

What we found when we moved here 15 years ago, was a simple 2 bedroom bungalow that had been built in 1924. The corner lot registered at 6,000 sf but was originally larger before it was cut short when someone added the 2303 property next door. The house was surrounded with 3 hybrid pine trees (ponderosa and jeffrey), a blue fir in the front yard, rhododendron bushes that were more than 30′ tall in the front. The lot is on the corner of Hickory and Tamarack with the legal address being on Tamarack. The side yard is the back yard!

The house is of wood frame construction on a concrete stem wall foundation with a basement. The house was modified more than 40 years ago with aluminum siding and was cited into the 1982 Ladd’s Addition Historical Society as such. This house is not on the register however. The interior had wood paneling and shag carpet, with wrought iron bars on the windows and roll down aluminum awnings. The roof was in bad shape, the yard was grass with a chain link fence, and the garage had been used for garage sales in the near past.


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These are photos of the front (east) side and back yard (north/west)

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Photo to left is fireplace/front room facing south. Middlephoto is kitchen, photo to right kitchen view to west. Both windows next to fireplace were replaced with wood-framed operable side hinge windows. The glass showcase sliders were removed from the shelves as well. The kitchen was modified with IKEA. The 3 double-hung windows were replaced as well.

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The photo to the left is the kitchen floor, that had 3 layers of linoleum on top of hardwood floors, each pattern giving away a time era. The middle photo is the original lath minus the plaster that was removed, on a mission to eliminate all of the lead paint in the house. The photo to the right are the hardwood and pine floors with layer upon layer of paint that was also removed with a sander. We had two months upon move-in to get all the lead paints out of the house before my 6 year old son came home from summer vacation.

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Photo to the left was the worshop in the basement, raw cemented walls and cement pour over structural slab. Permits and modifications happened in 1967 (all permits from 1924 to today are on file). Middle photo is kitchen view as found in basement, photo to the right is the big room in the basement.



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Photo to Left – front door on Tamarack; Middle across the street looking towards front door with eco-roof model on curbside; Photo to Right is at intersection of SE Hickory and Tamarack (walls are south (left) and east (right) side).

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Photo to Left is sidewalk on Tamarack Ave looking south; Middle photo is yard with solar hot tub and glycol panel on Strawbale library in backround. Pond is between hot tub and Strawbale library, and raised garden is adjacent to both. Photo to right is north side of garage studio with 9-60 gallon rainbarrels collecting rainwater from the studio roof (house roof as well as garage roof were replaced in 1999 with 35 year Architectural Shingles). The solar hot water collector was added in 1999, same year as roof replacement and garage studio retrofit. The PV system (2004) is in foreground.


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Photo to Left – Standing between LR and DR looking at east window. Entry door is to the upper left corner. Fireplace is to the right. Pivot door connects front room to LR. Middle Photo – Looking from Entry towards Fireplace with bookshelves on either side. Photo to Right – from LR looking towards DR and Kitchen. Panel door on right leads up to Loft. All of the floors were stripped to the original hardwood, Paneling, Plaster/Lath removed on all walls and replaced with sheet rock and no VOC paints. Ceiling fan replaced with fan type tropical fan.

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Photo to Left is from bedroom 1 or in this case was a family/computer room that opened to the LR. View is looking thru pivot door to fireplace. Middle photo is bedroom 2 which opens to what used to be a porch turned closet, then became small landing with ship bath leading into studio. Glassblock windows were added between existing studs. In these two rooms are original pine (4″) floors. Photo to right is bathroom, completely remodeled with tile/glass block shower, with ledge for plants.

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Photo to left is in DR looking to doorway leading to north side of house. Bathroom is in middle thru doorway with a bedroom on either side. Bedroom 1 to the right and Bedroom 2 that enters into studio on the left. The panel door to the left in this photo leads upstairs to Loft.  MIddlephoto- is the Malber WD 1000 an all in one washer/dryer. Photo on right is the entry way into house looking from LR door to front door on right, and closet door straight ahead.

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Photo to left- is remodeled IKEA style kitchen. Track lighting is directional MR16. Window and sink is to the south. Middle Photo is north side of kitchen where old range/microwave and oven were located. New gas range top set into IKEA counter top leaves underneath open for roll out tables, etc. The fride is an Explorer super enery efficient elec/propane options. To left of photo is the stacking Bosch front-loading washer and convetion ventless dryer. Photo to right are the new window boxes for seating and storage. This used to be the old porch on the original house. When we bought it they had already rennovated into extra kitchen space. We replace the double hung windows. This is the west side. To the right of the photo is a door that leads to a landing and the door to the outside/basement.


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The Loft was originally the attic of the house. In 1999 we rebuilt the attic into a loft within the existing framing structure of the house. All of the electrical was updated along with this construction. To conform to code requirements, the ceiling has an airspace with theromostat controlled ventillators. Rigid board insulation and sheet rock finish with noVOC paint. Operable Skylights were added as well as operable windows on east and west walls were added for full ventilation flow. The existing 2 x 6 floor joist were insulated with blown in cellulose and 1″ CDX plywood was laid down to make a contiguous strong floor surface. Bamboo T & G was laid upon the CDX.

The Photo at the top left is the top of the stairway with a copper railing and reed matted door to a closet on the right. The top middle photo is a view from center of room looking to the railing and west window. Top left photo is looking east with fluorescent uplighting along ridge. Bottom photo is bed centered under skylight. Along both sides of the room storage areas with individual doors between the studs access the large storage spaces behind them.


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The basement is the same footprint as the upstairs. All of the basement is finished and code approved with egress compliant. The 1967 the basement was converted to usable/occupied space. Permits were obtained to lay a cement pour on the existing footprint, along with the added petition walls, new windows and bathroom. In 1996 we removed the carpet floors and laid saltillo tile in all of the rooms. There is a big room that has living and kitchen space and two bedrooms and a bath that mirror the upstairs. The bath was updated with a jacuzzi tub tiled tub and large walk-in closet. The existing kitchen has a jenn-air elec range top with an enery efficient fridge. The ceiling heights are 80 inches from finished floor. There is electric baseboard heating and forced air from the biodiesel furnace. In July 2010 the completion of the uprades included adding cotton batt R32 insulation to recycled 2×6 frame walls with 1/2″ CDX white washed plyboard to the interior of all the exterior concrete structural walls. The existing concrete walls underneath were sealed with a cement bonded paint sealer. The floor joints/ceiling rafters were insulated with blown-in cellulose. All walls are painted with noVOC paints.

In the view of the photo on the left is the big room with kitchen. Second photo is view looking back towards stairs with south window to left and utility room that houses the biodiesel tanks, the solar hot water heater and gas backup in that space. The third photo is the new egress windows added to each bedroom. The photo to the right is the bath.


for the story and photos of the construction of the studio please go to www.solar783.com/solar783/current.htm

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A garage was added to the original house sometime in the 1960s. It was a typical 4″ slab with 2 x 4 frame walls and no insulation. The drive from the street entered into the garage via a roll up garage door. In 1996 the garage was being used for garage sales and storage. In 1999, we turned the garage into a teaching space for my community ed classes. The driveway was covered over with dirt where the picnic table is in the first photo on the left show. Leaving a legal parking space as required. The hole where the 8′ wide roll up door was, was now replaced with a nice 42″ wide recycled door and windows bought at a yard sale. This gave the studio access to being used as a shop, or returned to a garage easiily. The floor was stained and the photo on the right shows the straw walls complete and the space finished.

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The studio has been used as a classroom, office space and living space. These photos show some of the faces it has taken on. The photo to the left is looking from the door to the west wall. The straw walls are on the right (north) and west walls. The 2′ deep window wells provide a nice place for plants. The second photo is the IKEA counter with sink added to replace a work sink that was in the original garage, that at one time was a hose bib for the outer wall of the house before the garage was built. Lighting and shelves were added along with fridge. The third photo is the steps up to bedroom 2. This area was originally a back porch. Sometime they turned it into a closet when they extended the kitchen. Whomever just enlosed the porch. When we installed the solar hot water panel on this garage we needed to pass the piping into the crawl space to get to the basement storage. Therefor a passageway, the doorway you see in the third photo would have been the exterior wall to the house, no open and steps were created to rise up to the floor level of the main floor. Taking advantage of the water accessibility, the closet was turned into a ship bath (the door on the left). The three steps in the photo continue to a landing that turns left into bedroom 2. The photo on the right is looking at the same wall with the climbing holds from the third photo. A small room was created here for outside utility, and the solar panel sits above the ridge of this wall. A small mini loft was created out of the space between and climbing holds carry one up there to a double size futon. The small white box right above ground level is a hydronic heater that is connected to the solar water heater that heats this space. Six moisture sensors sit inside the straw walls that have been tested for the last 11 years.

The Strawbale Shed/Library

please see www.solar783.com/solar783/current.htm for more information

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The Strawbale Shed was the first load-bearing strawbale to be built in portland. It was the most amazing little project that helped change building codes, attest to valuable testing information on moisture and structural. It has mostly been a storage place or library. It later had a front porch added on in hopes for it to be an eco-roof, but last minute changes we placed a metal roof on instead. The structure is more than sturdy to support this change in the future. Many thoughts of turning this into a little rental space so people could get first hand knowledge of what strawbale structures felt like to be lived in, but in time that may come. For now what you see in the photo is a triangular sunscreen that protects the pond beneath it from the leaves and pine needles. The garden lies to the right and signs have been known to be seen around the place educating people as to what is going on here, inviting all in to learn and making change. There are 6-30 gal rainbarrels that collect rainwater from the sb roof and are used for the garden. The black insulated pex piping in the photo comes from the glycol panel that heats the hot water for the hot tub. The strawbale space has 12 moisture sensors and the test results can be found on the link above. The shed is solid, has never had any problems and has even been home to my homeless friend for a while. Its a cool space during summer and warm in the winter. A great meditation space as it is very quiet. or perhaps a studio for a drummer, same idea, strawbale buffers the noise..

Homepower Magazine Article Feb/Mar 2009