Cooling space aligns with cohousing community’s inclusive values

Cooling space aligns with cohousing community’s inclusive values

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Cascadia Commons is a cohousing community in Southwest Portland where residents own their condominiums and share in the management and upkeep of the entire property, including the Common House community building. While a few residents have installed air conditioning in unit, most have not, and many are very uncomfortable in the higher temperatures of recent Oregon summers.

Several years ago, in the spirit of their cohousing values, the community looked into installing central air conditioning in the 3,000-square-foot Common House so that all residents would have a place where they could stay cool on extremely hot days. When the bids for central air came in higher than expected, they dropped the idea. But the need for a cooling solution remained.

Recently, Cascadia Commons heard about Energy Trust of Oregon’s Landlord Provided Cooling Space initiative. Creating a cooling space within one room of the Common House balanced the community’s inclusive priorities and budget constraints. The incentive from Energy Trust sealed the deal.

The Landlord Provided Cooling Space offer helps property managers and owners create onsite cooling spaces for their residents. The incentives are available for ALL multifamily properties and manufactured home parks in Oregon, particularly those without in-unit cooling and that serve vulnerable populations, including affordable multifamily, senior and Tribal housing. In many cases the incentive covers the full cost of portable or non-portable equipment, such as ductless heat pumps, window or floor units and heat pumps installed in a common area.

Cascadia Commons is a multigenerational community with 26 condominiums that are privately owned or rented. More than half of the 40 residents are seniors, most over age 65 and living on a fixed income. Some residents live below the poverty level and many cannot afford to install and operate air conditioning in their own space.

A resident who installed a heat pump in their home in 2022 heard about the Landlord Provided Cooling Space initiative from the contractor. “A group of us were motivated to look into it,” said resident Donna Emerson, who spearheaded the cooling space effort. “We did a lot of research on Energy Trust’s website about the program and heat pumps. Part of the process was to call vendors for quotes.” In the end, the referring contractor came through for them with the best bid and service.

The two-story Common House was built in 2001. It is the community hub with a large dining room and commercial-grade kitchen, plus a media/rec room and a living room, all downstairs. The upstairs has a yoga space, guest rooms and offices.

Initially, the dining room seemed like the best location for the heat pump. But after a walkthrough, the contractor recommended the living room with its lower ceilings and optimal outside positioning for the unit. A curtain wall between the living room and dining room can be opened to allow cooling into the larger space. The 18,000 BTU ductless heat pump will keep the 600-square-foot space and the tenants cool during a heat wave. Energy Trust cash incentives covered 100% of the $5,650 project cost.

As an added benefit, the heat pump supplements the building’s aging hydronic heat system, which no longer provides uniform heat and is hard to maintain.

“We consider ourselves a social justice community,” said Emerson. “We operate as a consensus-governed homeowner association, and because we share costs for property maintenance and upgrades, the lower-income families could have some difficulty with paying their share.” The Energy Trust Landlord Provided Cooling Space initiative made it possible for the community to provide a cooling option for everyone.

“We really appreciate the air conditioning and the more efficient heating that the heat pump brings into our common space,” said Emerson. “This is where we gather for the business of our community, but more importantly to share meals and social time, which is foundational for us.”

Learn more about cash incentives for creating an onsite cooling space, contact Energy Trust at  or call 1.888.889.0018.