Out and About

BIG! Ideas, Small Spaces

Green design keeps growing, but some of the projects on this year's BIG! Tour are getting smaller.

By Kristin Belz September 3, 2012


It's time for the annual BIG! Tour. Yes, that's "BIG!" with the exclamation point automatically included (it's organized by the City's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which tends to "exclaim" via punctuation about many of its projects!). In case you forgot, "BIG" means "Build It Green." But this year, "big" doesn't mean "large building footprint" or "humongous house." This year's tour (the eleventh annual) opens the doors on more small structures than ever before.

Small is the new big. And green keeps on growing. ADUs are a popular building type on the tour this year: there are eight, including two included as part of larger building projects, out of the 15 total projects.

What does this acronym "ADU" mean?  Hint: "Backyard cottage" is one way to describe it, as in "Peterson Backyard Cottage," stop #14 on the tour. "Granny Flat" or "mother-in-law unit" are also synonyms for ADU, though perhaps these veer into sexism, because "accessory dwelling units" are not gender specific. They are secondary units on the site of another structure,  smaller than that structure (in Portland, the ADU can't be larger than 800 square feet). An ADU can be part of or detached from the primary structure. Go to the free workshop about "ADU Basics" at the Peterson Backyard Cottage and find out more. (We'll also have an upcoming blog post with more details and photos.)

The ADU workshop will held from 9-10 a.m. (before the tour begins), which leaves you time not only for the tour and Info Fair but also for the other free drop-in workshops on subjects from permaculture to rainwater harvesting to the nuts and bolts of what the "Living Building Challenge" and "Passive House" certifications mean. The workshops are a new feature of the BIG! Tour. Most will be informal and run about 30-45 minutes.

At Home will be checking in over the next two weeks with more info on ADUs and some of the other projects on display this year

Build It Green! Home Tour:

Date: Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tour time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Tickets on sale starting mid-August. Cost: $15, /$10 honored citizens/students/alternative transportation. (Workshops are free with admission.)

Children 13 years old and under are FREE.

The BIG! Info Fair is FREE and open to everyone,  and is a prelude to the Tour with green vendors, demonstrations, food, drink and music.

Info Fair hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Info Fair location: Green Depot, 819 SE Taylor, Portland, OR, 503-222-3881

If you have questions about the tour, call or email Valerie Garrett, tour coordinator, at 503-823-5431 or [email protected] for more information.

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