Streamline Dwellings Simply Makes Portland Homes More Efficient

Jennifer Boyer

In our quest to mitigate damage to the planet, we often turn to sleek, shiny emblems of technology such as solar panels, hybrid cars and wind turbines. These items are sexy and let us humans believe that we can create change through technology for a greener future. Less prominent, and definitively less glamorous, are other practical pieces of the solution: compost, bicycles, clotheslines and insulation. Solving the vast problems of climate change require small changes across our communities. Streamline Dwellings, a community-driven business in Portland, Oregon exists to be a part of the solution by focusing on energy retrofits (also known as weatherization) on existing homes.

Streamline Dwellings modifies homes to improve energy usage, indoor air quality and overall home comfort. Performing weatherization work on a home is hands-on, often filthy work. And, unlike a brand new high-efficiency furnace, or a rooftop photovoltaic system, energy retrofit work and air duct sealing are invisible to the eye. According to Mike Lillesand, the proprietor of Streamline Dwellings, "the beauty is in the simplicity." Mike Lillesand started the business as a part-time, weekend job while employed as an in-home energy auditor working on new home construction. Mike recognized the need for home modifications on existing homes: the homes that comprise the majority of the city's core neighborhoods. What began as part-time work soon evolved to a level that was sustainable for a full-time business. As the business looks to the future, there is hope to facilitate employee training with community organizations such as Portland Youth Builders to encourage development of more green sector jobs.

Listening to Mike describe the company and work, the philosophical belief that incremental changes lead to positive results is infectious. More than selling a specific product, Streamline Dwellings sells awareness. Mike recognizes that, "People want to make it right. There is a lack of awareness in building science because it is a complicated field, and a lot of products have been pushed to the consumer because of the free market." The beauty of Streamline Dwellings business is the multi-faceted role as a contractor, a consultant and an educator. Often the solution to creating a more environmentally friendly home is to take a step back and look at simple measures before tackling a larger, more financially intensive project. The cost to the homeowner is easily recouped in comfort, indoor air quality and energy savings.

The Streamline Dwellings approach to a home is very holistic. By treating every home as a system, Streamline can prioritize the work that is needed to create the best foundation for a more efficient home, with minimal invasion to the structure or to the lives of the homeowners. Each home is a unique puzzle, and Mike loves the role of the investigator. Diagnostic testing and high-tech analysis of air leaks are combined with good old fashioned hands-and-knees detective work for sources of common leaks. As a side benefit of this hands-on examination of homes, Streamline Dwellings gets a glimpse into the history of Portland, the materials, the trends and the lifestyles of the original owners. Throughout the whole process, the homeowner is right beside the contractor learning about their home. The ultimate focus of the work is to save energy and maximize comfort. This approach to simple upgrades and education has the ability to touch more people and lives versus focusing on one grand project that impacts one single home and family.

According to statistics for the US Department of Energy, the average home in the United States uses 31 percent of its energy for heating, and 12 percent of its energy for cooling. Stopping air leaks is the single most efficient and practical way to improve a home's energy footprint. Increasing the energy efficiency of a home has an immediate impact on the lives of the residents, coupled with the larger bonus of conserving energy. As the majority of our country's energy production is derived from coal, every opportunity to minimize overconsumption has a profound effect on the future. Just imagine the significance if each of our communities embraced efficiency within our homes: the result would be spectacular.

Dwelling is defined as a verb meaning to live, reside; defined as a noun, it is a home. Mike’s team at Streamline Dwellings improves homes, improves lives and, through incremental changes, improves the future of our planet. Indeed, there is beauty in the simplicity.