Green Building in Seattle
Are you new to Seattle? Are you thinking about relocating here? Are you considering a remodel or perhaps building a green home from the ground up? Below are some ideas on how to start your research. When investigating you will find each organization takes you somewhere on another tangent. With Seattle homes and commercial properties, there’s an integrated web of people and organizations, with each one supporting the others. People aren’t involved in this movement because some might consider it trendy. The people at the core of these organizations are in it for the long term and are deeply committed while constantly sharing and supporting each other to advance the knowledge and options for the greater community. We are convinced it is the wave of the future, and it’s here now, and getting easier to find every year.
So where to start? . . . . . Dip your toe in the water
The Green Pages
Pick up a copy. It’s a local publication highlighting people active in Green Building. This year it’s published by Natural Awakenings Magazine and available throughout the Greater Seattle area.
Then it’s time to strike out into the Green Building community.
- Green Drinks
Start by attending a Green Drinks event. The Seattle Chapter is well established. The get-togethers are often held in local LEED rated buildings. The topics and locations vary every month and is a great way learn about general green building concepts. See if you can take a tour of the various host’s site. Many of the commercial concepts can be put into service in a residential application. The quality of food and beverage and company of Green Drinkers is never to be under estimated.
The Eastside Green Drinks is starting up their own chapter. If you live closer to their location, stop by and give them some support.
- Green Home Tour
This self guided tour will probably have more homes than you can possibly visit in a weekend. You can meet the contractors and architects in the actual homes and see sustainable systems in place. There are non-residential sites with additional classes and product displays where you can get more in depth information on particular concepts. Some of the education might even be a hands on experience. These often occur in the Spring, so keep and eye out for next tour, the date will probably be announced at the beginning of the year. The most common comment is people think they know what a green house looks like, and they learn what a huge variety there is. Be sure and wear slip-on shoes.
- Mother Earth News Fair
Held about an hours drive south of Seattle, any one of a certain age has certainly heard of this former “hippy” magazine now considered an “early adopter” in ways of living simply and off the grid. Much of the information has been tested for years, if not centuries. Combined with newer products and newer technology. Much of what they encourage is long forgotten common sense of our ancestors or new technology.
- 10x10x10 Building Slam
An annual September event where 10 people talk for 10 minutes and present 10 slides about their green projects. Not alway on the subject of homes, but something to take away for everyone. It can include innovations, lessons learned (often the hard way), and interesting anecdotes.
So you decided the water’s fine, you want to go in up to your waist. Still not fully committed but more than curious:
- NW EcoBuilding Guild
This is the parent organization and participator of many of the local building events in the region. Membership is encouraged but not required. You can tour their website and just drop in on a monthly meeting that interests you. You will be asked to donate a modest amount at the door. There are many layers to this dedicated group
- Master Builders Association Built Green Program
The local industry standard for green certifications of homes in the Built Green Program. 3 stars is self-certifying by the builders and remodelers, 4 and 5 star requires 3rd party sign offs, also known as 3rd Party certification. This is part of the Master Builder’s Association of King and Snohomish Counties. Many people believe there is an advantage to 3rd Party certification when you go to resell your home.
- NW Energy Star
Our NW certification is more stringent than the national program. Due to our higher code for energy savings than other parts of the country, this is a rating based solely on energy use. It also requires a 3rd Party certification.
- West Seattle Tool Library and PNA Well Home Program
These organizations have home and garden tools to use for a modest fee to homeowners. They offer a wide choice of how-to-classes. Gardening, tilesetting, drywall repair and rain water cisterns, etc. If you don’t know where to find something, they most likely will have the answer. Go here for more information: Well Home Program, West Seattle Tool Library.
OK, now you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and are a little bit proud of your self. You realize you have the foresight to increase the resale value of your home in addition to living a more comfortable and healthier life while you are in your house. You are fully immersed in the concepts of why these buildings make sense. You want to know how far other people are pushing traditional boundaries.
- Passivhaus Model
Originally during the 1970’s energy crisis this concept was starting to take off in the US . Interest was lost when heating prices came down. In Europe in the meantime, the movement took off and was perfected in places like Germany and Switzerland where there were much higher demands than ours at the time. This matrix is back in North America and is a very intricate and carefully planned system of modeling where the heating and cooling load cannot exceed the energy required to operate a blow dryer. Passive Houses are being built again to much higher standards. To be certified one must go through the institute.
- Net Zero Homes
There is one in Ballard and some town homes in Issaquah that meet this challenge. These homes use the same amount of electricity, but often less than they generate in a year. Usually accomplished by the use of solar panels, they also incorporate passive concepts for movement of air, day lighting and heat sinks.
So that should be a decent start!
Of course there are several other programs when one digs deeper. Curious if there is one you think I should also include on the list?
If you would like to see any Green Homes on the Market in the Greater Seattle Area, I’m here to help. Building lots are hard to come by, especially in the city limits. Several contractors specialize in deconstructing a “tear down” and reuse or recycle what they can. If you choose to go the reconstruction route, your building permit can be fast tracked and you can save money on your carrying costs