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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Celebrate Earth Day at the FREE 2012 Green Home Tour

Spring is here, and I have exciting information to share, fitting for the season of new growth and fresh starts. Since writing my previous blog post about the deep green co-housing neighborhood called the Clearwater Commons, I've discovered a regional organization so inspiring it makes me proud to live in the Northwest. In that post, I mentioned the 2012 Green Home Tours coming up this next weekend, April 21-22, produced by the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. I'm a curious person, so of course I just had to find out more about this event and the guild itself.

Puget Sound Solar            courtesy of Northwest EcoBuilding Guild

I contacted member and tour organizer Cate O'dahl, a consultant with ESP Services, who told me, "It's free. Anyone can participate. There are sites all across Puget Sound." The event will also include a FREE EXPO on Saturday, and FREE ENERGY WORKSHOPS on Sunday.

In addition to the Seattle Green Home Tours, people living in Tacoma, Puyallup, or Olympia should not miss the guild's South Sound Tour, presented by the Olympia chapter. Click here for information on their many sites open this weekend. Those include a small passive house by The Artisan's Group, called "The Jewel Box." It sits on a lot overlooking Bud Inlet in Olympia. You will see a wide variety of great projects on this tour. They have an information hub already open, where you can pick up maps and information. Click here.
Green Pod      photo courtesy of  Northwest EcoBuilding Guild
O'dahl wants people to understand that green building isn't just about new construction and major projects. Even the smallest things people can do to their existing homes to make them less toxic and more efficient matter a great deal. "At these tours, people can see all the different shades of green," she said.

The Northwest EcoBuilding Guild's mission is:

" support through education the progressive work of members in the Pacific Northwest in order to improve the relationship between our communities and our built environment. The Guild provides open-source educational materials to the construction industry and the general public in order to encourage building practices that dramatically reduce carbon emissions, are self-sustaining, contribute to local economies, and create optimal conditions for human health and community."

Envision Homes                  photo by Devon Burns
These people mean what they say, and they invite you to come see their projects and learn what they've learned about building sustainably. I spoke with several enthusiastic members and many more contacted me wanting to share their stories, more than I could possibly quote in one blog post. But I especially enjoyed speaking with Robert Burns who joined the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild about the same time he started his green remodeling business, Envision Homes, in 2001. He discovered the organization when he met O'dahl and mentioned that he was trying to do sustainable remodeling.

"I thought I knew what I was talking about and I had no clue," Burns told me. "The folks in the guild have the passion for doing things the right way, irregardless of profit, irregardless of their own needs.  I find guild builders to be not about profit margins. They’re  more about the relationship they build with the building and the owners. There’s a sense of integrity."

The more Burns learned, the more intense he became about green building, until now he is considered to be as deep green as they come. He and his wife Devon built their dream house, the one they are showing on the tour, the one they plan to sell, sadly, since since they decided to downsize. It has been a home they've loved and a project they'll never forget. Burns recalls the process:

"We wanted to leave no stone unturned. We wanted to deliberate absolutely every thought, every product, every application and apply it against all the principles, whether it was a finish or the insulation type or how we were applying certain things. It had to pass the test, several tests, and pass them in all ways. It’s a struggle and a lot of people don’t necessarily want to go through that. But we wanted to try to meet every demand. It has to be zero toxic or very low toxic. It has to be highly efficient. It has to last a long, long time and be durable. Trying to find products that meet all those criteria is difficult and it takes deliberation. It takes an industry of sustainable remodelers, and that’s where the guild folks come in."
(Read more about this house by clicking here.)

Lemon Drop      photo courtesy of Northwest EcoBuiling Guild

Architect Heidi Helgeson, owner of H2D Architecture + Design loves the guild too. "It’s a great group," she said. "They have educational events once a month that have been invaluable, not only for the topics they talk about but the connections I’ve made." She agrees that green comes in many shades. "Regardless of the scale, scope or budget on my projects, I work together with my clients, the consultants, and builders to come up with a plan to create a project that is as sustainable as the possible - from as little as choosing the right paint to creating a highly energy efficient building envelope." Check out her tour site here.

Sockeye Homes in Kent  voted "Idea House of the Year"
Nicole Starnes Taylor of MAKE Design Studio said, "One of the greatest strengths of the NW Ecobuilding Guild is its members’ openness in sharing information, hands-on experience and their unparalleled passion to find and share the greenest building methods. I anticipate the Green Home Tour will be unique among home tours in the openness of the site hosts to share what worked well on a project, lessons learned and where improvements could be made to further green building in our region. I feel honored to be a member of such a generous, thoughtful and passionate group." Learn more about her tour site here.
The guild also includes interior designers. At first I hadn't thought much about a decorator's role in green building, until I spoke with Wendy Albee, of Albee Interior Design. She's a certified green professional who encourages clients to think green first. "I make suggestions for materials that are recycled or ways to save money, clean up their air quality, those kinds of things," she said. "I show people how they can take small practical steps to make their house green." See her project on the tour, by clicking here.
City Cabins by Martha Rose Construction photo courtesy of Northwest EcoBuilders Guild

So many more exciting ideas. Check out these sites:

Pamela Burton and Jeremy Smithson of Puget Sound Solar slashed energy use in their century-old home by 86% by making green improvements. Read about it here and be sure to visit their site.

Kristin Sakai, one of the owners of Sockeye Homes, also contacted me about their five-star demonstration home, also on the tour. This new construction in Kent is so full of green innovations that it has been named "The Northwest Idea House of the Year." Click HERE to link to the case study.

S.A.G.E.  Designs NW (S.A.G.E. stands for "Small Artful Green Environments") is featuring on this tour, a 2200 sf pre-fab home full of modern technology and extreme energy efficiency, shipped from Germany in 10 shipping containers. The shell went up in eight days. Read more here.

Martha Rose of Martha Rose Construction did a two-townhome project called City Cabins in Seattle that sold out before the tour. She invites people to "drive by and then join us at GreenHome Solutions, just one block away on Nickerson and 13th to learn more about City Cabins and to sign up for info on the next City Cabins. We will have samples of exterior wall assembly, window, flashing and many silent talkers and photos." She added,"One of the City Cabins was purchased by a non-green buyer who only began understanding what he purchased after the fact and then expressed gratitude that we made it so easy for him to live in a more sustainable way."

Ballard Net-Zero Energy House               Photo courtesy of Northwest Eco-Building Guild

Ballard NET-ZERO ENERGY HOUSE built by Eric Thomas and Alexandra Salmon is a "must see" on the tour. They even have their own blog about this project. Please be sure to take a look at "Zero Energy House Seattle."

YS-Development's tour site in Bellevue will give people the chance to see inside the walls of a green home under construction.  Check it out here.

And last but certainly not least, don't miss perhaps the most interesting site of all:
Clearwater Commons, the subject of my previous blog post and an article in the online journal Neighborhood LifeHere is their information for the tour.

I've shown you sites mostly in the greater Seattle area, but don't miss the South Sound Tour either, which has so much to offer.

Why not pack a picnic lunch and celebrate Earth Day by enjoying these great green events?
Congratulations and best wishes to every member of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. They're helping to make this a better world.

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