home improvement

Green Homes, Green Builders & Built Green

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Recently I was asked by a neighbor if I knew any custom green builders. Ahem! I proclaimed - I just so happen to work for one! What can I do for you? They were interested in building their very own green home in the near future and were currently saving to buy property on Bainbridge Island. Great! Let me know when you're ready, I said - and I can get you started. 

My neighbor's next question is one that we get often. How do I know if a builder is a green builder? Do they have to be LEED Certified? To which I replied... first of all - buildings are certified, people are accredited. What you really should look for when searching for a green builder is whether or not those sustainable business practices are embedded in the culture, their people and their product. But also - LEED, while it is an incredibly robust program, is not the only green building guideline out there. In fact - Built Green carries many advantages in our region. It's tailored to the needs of the Pacific Northwest - and is incredibly in tune with the builder community here.

Of course my neighbor had never heard of Built Green - which goes to show that the USGBC has a great marketing budget and a good hold on the market. Still - any green builder should be familiar with both - and that was my point.

In light of the conversation with my neighbor - I decided that I would post our latest Built Green Case Study that was submitted to their newsletter. Every Green Canopy Home is Built Green Certified, but this one was a particularly amazing rehab project that presold in Ballard. We were happy to work with Evergreen Certified to get the job done and truly believe that Built Green is a critical brand and program in the Pacific Northwest.


CASE STUDY
ARABELLA: 6527 5TH AVE NW

What can you do with a harsh, stucco-clad bungalow in Ballard? This 1911 home was thoughtfully reimagined by Green Canopy Homes and reconstructed into a charming yet modern home with light and bright spaces, a stunning communal kitchen addition and vestiges of reclaimed features throughout.  

This 4 star Built Green Home, nicknamed Arabella, was gutted and rehabbed – maintaining 75% of the original structure. The project was carefully deconstructed, with building materials source separated and recycled on site. This process allowed the team to harvest framing lumber to reuse as a feature wall – highlighting the history of the original home. 

Arabella was in desperate need of systems upgrades and originally tested in at an EPS score of 37,000kWh per year – nearly 10,000kWh over the Seattle average. Green Canopy replaced each system, incorporated a ductless heat pump, rigorous insulation and air sealing as well as spot Energy Recovery Ventilators to maintain fresh air in the new super tight envelope (3.7 ACH @50 Pascals). The project finished out with and EPS score of 16,000kWh, reducing energy costs by over $1,400 a year!

In addition to deep energy efficiency upgrades, Arabella exemplifies intelligent site design and finishes. Drywells and a rain garden infiltrate 100% of storm-water on site, and the new addition’s low impact, post & pier foundation minimizes site disruption.  Arabella’s stylish “pickled” cedar siding was dipped in a natural wood treatment that never has to be reapplied and patinas for protection. Better for the environment, and less hassle for the happy new homeowners!

Whether you are in the market for a green home, interested in building your own - or just looking for builders - it might be important to know whether that builder is leading the movement - or just following market trends. All green builders in the area should be keenly aware of the certifications, accreditation, and sustainable business practices such as deconstruction and recycling. The kinds of homes we build and the intentions of the people who build them impact our community, so ask questions

Keeping out the Giraffes

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Contributed by Sonja Gustafson:

What is Your Monster?

Last night was a beautiful Halloween evening; the sky was clear, the air crisp, and my neighborhood was alight with various ghosts and goblins going from door to door.   Then today came with gloomy grey skies and drenching rain, and we are faced not with the costumed monsters of our children, but the more terrifying specter of a cold, dark autumn.

This reminds me of a recent podcast I listened to where the narrator was working with his 5-year old daughter to caulk their home’s windows against drafts coming in.  The daughter watched silently as he ran the caulk along the window seams, and as their work progressed, finally asked, “Daddy, do you really think this will keep out the giraffes?”

I love the thought of that girl working out the problem in her head:  there are giraffes that want to come into our home!  Daddy is trying to protect us! But really, how can this silly gummy stuff keep those monstrous animals out of our house?

Maybe we all have huge monsters in our minds that are keeping us from imagining how simple it really is to “keep out the giraffes.”  Or maybe it’s difficult to imagine how something as simple as caulk can make such a big difference in the comfort of a home.  And yet, take a look at the chart below to see how many areas of our home can be made more weather tight with the some simple attention. Each of these represents an opportunity to make your home more comfortable while saving money on utility bill.

Now wielding a caulk gun to ward off the drafts is not the only way to fight the energy monster, but it is one of a number of simple things you can do today to make your home more energy efficient.  In the spirit of easily keeping out the giraffes/monsters out of your home, here are 5 simple things you can do to ward off the cold and save on your energy bills:

5 Things You Can Get Done Today

  1. Buy caulk.  Then read this tutorial on how to fix leaks in your home. (You can schedule the work for this weekend!)

  2. Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120°F.

  3. Install a programmable thermostat for your heating system.

  4. Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle – let them dry overnight tonight!

  5. Use a power strip for your computer accessories, phone chargers, and other “vampire” devices and turn off the strip when you leave the room.

If after completing this list you are ready to take on more energy monsters, you should consider having an energy audit conducted on your home to more thoroughly determine ways to make your home perform to its best. (Seattle City Light customers can get a discounted audit here) You can contact your local home performance expert (Washington users can search here to find an energy auditor) to help you with next steps.

And then you’ll be keeping out those giraffes