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City of Hillsboro, OR: High-Performance Building Partnership for New Development

High Performance Building Partnership: Incentives and Support Services

The High Performance Building Partnership offers a range of incentives and support services to developers and builders to spur high-performance development in South Hillsboro:

City and State

  • The City of Hillsboro plays a lead role in coordinating the Partnership and advancing the sustainable aspects of the South Hillsboro development. The City provides indirect financial incentives and trade-offs in the development review process to developers that incorporate high-efficiency design elements into new homes based on the Oregon REACH Energy Building Code.
  • The Oregon Department of Energy provides financial incentives to developers and builders based on energy performance, including tax credits and other available incentives (e.g., renewable energy tax credits for residential and community level projects, Renewable Energy Development Grants, and low-interest State Energy Loans).


  • The Oregon Energy Trust, a non-profit funded by a public purpose fee on area utility bills, provides financial incentives based on above-code energy efficiency. This includes enhanced incentives for early design assistance; financial incentives for the installation of eligible solar electric systems; marketing support throughout the development cycle; no‐cost training, engineering review, and field support for advanced building practices and technologies; and site verification, quality assurance, and documentation of compliance to support third-party certification.
  • Earth Advantage (non-profit green building expert and certifier) supports the implementation of the South Hillsboro development. It links the energy requirements in the Earth Advantage Certification levels (silver, gold, platinum, zero‐energy) to South Hillsboro development goals as represented in the Oregon REACH Energy Building Code.
  • The Oregon Energy Trust and Earth Advantage both engage private developers to inform development design features and provide information on applicable incentives as well as the market premiums associated with the sale of high-performance buildings.


  • Portland General Electric, a private utility, provides incentives to developers and builders for installing smart, demand response-enabled devices, including Nest thermostats, smart water heaters, and batteries.


  • SolarWorld, a locally-based solar technology producer and solar panel manufacturer, supports the goal of making Hillsboro the most “solarized” community in the U.S. by offering Hillsboro‐made residential solar kits and modules at a discounted price based on total volume; negotiating reduced rates with a pre-selected pool of experienced installation contractors that meet Energy Trust requirements through a “Solarize SoHi” campaign; and connecting homebuilders that contractor network. These activities make it easy for builders to choose solar and ensure that all projects installed are eligible to receive available incentives and tax credits.

Oregon REACH Energy Building Code

The High-Performance Building Partnership leverages the Oregon REACH Energy Building Code, which was established by the Oregon Legislature (Senate Bill 79). In 2016, the Oregon Building Codes Division adopted the “Reach Code” voluntary standards for increased energy efficiency in buildings newly-constructed, reconstructed, altered, or repaired. These standards are separate from the mandatory state building code and were created as an optional path for high-performance energy efficient construction.

City Planning Context

The South Hillsboro High-Performance Building Partnership is informed and supported by extensive stakeholder engagement in the broader sustainability planning process, which includes the Hillsboro 2035 Community Plan, the Hillsboro Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP), and the City of Hillsboro Comprehensive Plan.

The Hillsboro 2035 Community Plan is a detailed action plan for working toward a collective vision for the City’s future. It was developed by a volunteer, community-led task force representing a wide variety of interests to ensure the vision reflected a range of community perspectives.

The Hillsboro Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP): The Hillsboro Sustainability Task Force worked with a variety of public and private sector partners to develop the ESP, which is specifically focused on stewardship of the environmental goals within the 2035 Community Plan.

City of Hillsboro Comprehensive Plan: All Oregon cities and counties are required to have a Comprehensive Plan that is consistent with the Statewide Planning Goals set by the Legislature. These goals set broad statewide policy for land use planning, citizen involvement, housing supply, transportation systems, natural resource management, and more. Cities take these long-term policy goals and implement them at the local level, first in citywide Comprehensive Plans, and then in more detailed documents such as development codes or community plans. This structure ensures consistency at all levels, from neighborhood to state.

Formation of the Partnership

The South Hillsboro High-Performance Building Partnership consists of a core group of stakeholders including the City of Hillsboro, Oregon Department of Energy, Oregon Energy Trust (non-profit energy efficiency program), Earth Advantage (non-profit green building expert and certifier), Portland General Electric (electric utility), and SolarWorld (locally-based solar panel manufacturer).

Planning and Policy

The Partners first developed the vision for a sustainable South Hillsboro in a concept paper. The concept paper outlines the objectives and approach, key entities and roles, and existing and potential new incentives. The document was refined and used to develop a set of principles, which became new policies considered and approved by both the Hillsboro Planning Commission and the Hillsboro City Council (i.e., the Planning Commission Order (No. 8148) on High-Performance Buildings and the City Council Resolution (No. 2539) on High-Performance Building Partnership).The resolutions provide the policy underpinning for the Partnership.

Development Implementation

The City contracted Earth Advantage to help facilitate the South Hillsboro development. Existing incentives are available for new construction from the Oregon Energy Trust and Oregon Department of Energy. Typically those incentives have been accessed voluntarily by builders; the Partnership seeks to drive the incentives to the developer level. Outreach materials on the South Hillsboro High-Performance Building Partnership have been produced to educate developers, and additional resources are being created on specific building practices, features, and measures that will achieve quantifiable efficiencies.

Evaluation of the Development

Oregon Energy Trust has quantifiable metrics that estimate energy and cost savings for various buildings as compared to similar structures designed to meet the base building code. Goals are set to those metrics, including the percentage of buildings above code relative to the modeled Energy Performance Score. Earth Advantage modeled specific property and overall community energy and cost savings opportunities to support the investments and incentives. Going forward, they will work with Oregon Energy Trust to verify the actual energy performance of individual homes and buildings. They will also certify buildings to their own green standard as applicable.

Education, outreach, and marketing are critical components to the success of the Partnership. Through meetings, research summaries, and other outreach materials, Partners have reached out to developers and builders to describe available incentives, gauge intended commitments, and discuss verification of performance.

The South Hillsboro High-Performance Building Partnership is also informed and supported by extensive stakeholder engagement in broader sustainability planning processes, including the Hillsboro 2035 Community Plan and City of Hillsboro Comprehensive Plan.

Success in advancing high-performance development will be determined in part through measurement of energy use in South Hillsboro buildings relative to the state's base building code. A contractor certified by the Oregon Energy Trust or Earth Advantage building science experts will verify the post-construction Energy Performance Score of the buildings. The cumulative energy savings together with assessments of comfort, distributed renewable generation, and other factors will inform the success of the Partnership’s efforts.

As of 2017, construction of support infrastructure in South Hillsboro has commenced and the Partnership is focused on supporting the implementation phase of the development for the roughly 1,400-acre area. It is hoped that the Partnership will serve as a model that can be replicated in other areas of the region, state, and beyond. As the timeline for planning and construction spans many years, energy savings and outcomes are not yet realized. However, according to calculations by the Oregon Energy Trust, if all residential buildings—the initial focus—are built to a minimum of 15 percent above the base code, the estimated annual savings could conservatively reach $2.5 million in homeowner utility costs, 735 million kWh, and therm savings equivalent to 633 homes’ gas usage. This would equate to roughly 14,000 tons of avoided carbon emissions.

Hillsboro Planning Commission Order (No. 8148) on High Performance Buildings Policy

Planning Commission Order (No. 8148) on High Performance Buildings

Hillsboro Concept Paper on High Performance Building Partnership Other

Concept Paper on South Hillsboro High Performance Building Partnership

Hillsboro City Council Resolution (No. 2539) on High-Performance Building Partnership Policy

City Council Resolution (No. 2539) on High-Performance Building Partnership

Hillsboro Flyer on the High Performance Building Partnership Outreach Materials

Flyer on the High Performance Building Partnership