Call to Action for NW Green Home Tour Volunteers

Call to Action for NW Green Home Tour Volunteers

Do you have an interest in home building, building or interior design, urban landscaping or urban planning? Come be an essential part of what could be the largest Green Home Tour in the United States. It’s powered by two non-profit organizations “pushing the envelope” on what green and sustainable housing can be. Our motto is “any shade of green”  and with the building industry catching on and embracing green building concepts it’s only getting better and the buzz is catching on. This year is the largest NW Green Home Tour yet. For 2014 there are improvements any homeowner or renter can make in their own home.

Some common topics are:

  • Site planning
  • Landscaping
  • Water Usage and Design
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Energy Usage
  • Transit , Bikealibity and Walkabilty
  • Universal Design
  • Daylighting
  • Smart Planning

Within these topics are several mini topics. Therefore, many in the Green building industry refer to this type of building as “high performance” or “smart built”.

Go to the website and sign up to be a greeter for the tour. No green building knowledge required, just an open mind to learn new concepts and make sure others get their questions answered by the site hosts. The shifts are 3 hours which gives the volunteers time to check out more of the 35 site hosts and 12 sustainability stops. As always feel free to contact me if you have questions.


NW Home Tour Committee Chair
For your Sustainable Real Estate needs from now into the future




NW Green Home Tour 2014

NW Green Home Tour 2014

The date is set –April 26th and the committee is off and running. Site hosts are signing up sooner than ever. No doubt based on the success of the previous three years, the NW Green Home Tour promises to be the biggest and best ever. Builders are building again, buyers are in the market and the general public is more aware of how diverse green building really is

The tour is a go! Currently there is still room for sitehosts, sponsors, sustainability stops and volunteers.
The tour is a go! Currently there is still room for sitehosts, sponsors, sustainability stops and volunteers.

Think you know what a “Green” home looks like? Many people attend this free to the public tour and learn the ordinary looking house on their street might actually be quite extra-ordinary. Tour goers can expect to see single family homes, town homes, DADUs, and this year apartments. Innovative outdoors spaces, rain gardens, urban agriculture, and maybe some livestock are all possibilities. Sustainability stops and retail outlets that tie into the tour, such as Green Home Solutions, are all part of the tour.

This self guided tour is from 11-5 on a Sunday. Preview and plan an individualized route by visiting the official website, or pick up the yet to be published free April issue of Seattle’s Natural Awakening Magazine.  Keep an eye out for publication the beginning of April.

The tour is a joint partnership of the NW Eco Building Guild and Built Green. We welcome inquiries regarding site hosts, sustainability stops, sponsorships and volunteer opportunities.

For your Sustainable Real Estate needs from now into the future
For your Sustainable Real Estate needs from now into the future

Save Money & Green Your Home

Save Money & Green Your Home

We are so lucky in the City of Seattle to be owners of wonderful older homes. We have such wonderful Craftsman, Mid Century Classic, and NW Contemporary styles of architecture.  Along with the solidly built homes full of historic charm so carefully decorated and loved lies the evil money pit (cue the daunting music in minor chords). It actually resembles more of a sieve.  Small and sometimes larger cracks, holes and circuitous routes so small the eye doesn’t even see the stealthy thieves.  When the pressure from our forced air furnaces or the heat stack effect takes over during our cold winter nights, physics charms all the heat that good money and fossil fuels create as a by-product of combustion. It coaxes heat to find a way to escape our carefully locked-down fenestrations and into the wilds of the the outdoors.

In plainer language, the heat we pay so much to create leaves our homes too quickly around unintentional gaps in the inner walls of our homes and businesses. I recently was lucky to have Steve Hoffman, a contractor with Community Power Works, to my Phinney Ridge home to perform what is the state of the art energy audit.

Leaky Home Assessment
Just a few parts to the equipment for the test, surprising how much can be learned in a couple of hours.

This involves a large red piece of nylon fabric, some Velcro, an aluminum stretcher frame, a large box fan and a couple fancy electronics. In some ways the test is deceptively simple.   My part of the work ended at cleaning the ashes out of my fireplace. I also locked up my indoor dog and cat for a couple of hours just so they wouldn’t escape during the test as there are times the front door is open.

As I suspected, indeed my chimney flue leaked, but I also learned the double pane windows I installed to save energy were a large source of heat loss around the factory assembled mullions and transoms. No surprise of course the 10 year old can lights in the kitchen were also a source of money escaping through the ceiling and into the attic. I learned of some cold spots in the walls I need to investigate more thoroughly and a few other surprises.

To top off the deal of the decade, the auditor went through the house and provided me with replacement low wattage compact fluorescent lights to replace the soon to be outlawed incandescent bulbs. I plan to see how far I can go with this program, so far I have $95 out of pocket expenses for a $400-600 assessment, and about $50 or more value in light bulbs.

Community Power Works is funded by a federal stimulus bill and won’t be around for much longer.  I highly recommend seizing the moment. This deal is too good to be true! My plan is to install a mini-split heat pump with two heads, one for each floor of my home. Not only will it provide me an inexpensive source of electric heat, but will also provide me with something I haven’t experienced in the 25 years that I have lived in this home. . . . air conditioning! Of course Community Power Works will be there to help me with the rebates and incentives I can collect while saving myself money in the long run and increasing the value and comfort of my home. Sometimes it’s not too good to be true. Seattle, like Oz, really is the Emerald City and there is no man behind the curtain unless it’s the red door.

Backyard Cottages in Seattle

Backyard Cottages in Seattle

Part 1

Welcome to the beginning of a series. The plan is to follow this Backyard Cottage from this point (City of Seattle Planning Department permits in hand) to completion and being featured on the NW Green Home Tour. Detached Accessory Dwelling Units are also known as an DADUs in the City of Seattle. One can go to the DPD’s website and find the CAM 116B or “Client Assistant Memo” regarding the separate living structures Seattle homeowners may build on their single family property.  Much depends on the the size of the lot as well as available setbacks etc., but this is a great solution for increasing density without disturbing the feel and the lines of the neighborhood.

Seattle DADU
The beginning stage, nothing to write home about . . . . yet!


If there is room on your lot this might be a great option to investigate, perhaps above an existing garage or the space at the back of the lot by the alley. Many Seattle neighborhoods are no longer car dependent and have readily available public transportation and such is the case of the build we will be following. The owner of this build could easily rent it out to a young professional who buses or bikes to South Lake Union or a student who attends the University of Washington. These projects can easily be built without having much long term impact on the neighbors or affect on-street parking.

An underused part of pricey Seattle Real Estate
An underused portion of pricey Seattle Real Estate


Seattle DADUs can be a great option as extra guest space, as an income producing unit or as a home office or studio. Quite often these are designed as an “aging in place” solution using universal design techniques. The old wonderful homes we have here quite often have the kitchen and bedrooms on different levels. Accessory Dwelling Units can be a great solution for downsizing when the time comes to transition into an ADA compliant structure right in ones own back yard. The main house can become the younger generation’s family home or as a rental when social security may not be enough to cover the bills.

I will be following this project through completion  with thanks to the generosity of the General Contractor Wayne Apostolik, and the patient homeowner.

Stay tuned as this project progresses over the next 3 months.

Green Building Slam

Green Building Slam

The NW EcoBuilding Guild’s anual green building slam is this Saturday night. It also happens to the the 10th year it’s been presented.

From the EcoGuild’s email blast:


10th Annual 10x10x10 Green Building Slam

10 projects.  10 slides.  10 minutes.

Saturday, September 15, 2012    5:00 – 10:00 PM

Kane Hall, Walker Ames Room, University of WashingtonTickets are available from BROWN PAPER TICKETS!
Were Ready!!
The venue is outstanding, the appetizers will be scrumptious beyond belief, jury decisions are made – winners are notified, adventure get-a-ways ready for auction and raffle. The latest in green innovations within the Puget Sound area will be presented making this 10th year a wowser for all to enjoy.
Registration / Blueacre / Networking          5:00pm – 7:00pm
Slam Presentations start promptly at         7:00pm – 9:00pm
Dessert, coffee ‘n tea / Adventures             9:00pm – 10:00pm
Adventure get-a-ways are up for auction and raffle:
Way out west into the Pacific is the Waldorf Astoria, Maui providing the ultimate  luxury in paradise…….
Going South of the boarder – Puerta Vallerta, Mexico offers a five star condo  that is outstanding, with views to take your breath away, luxury at its best…..
Our own back yard is the Ultimate Seattle – see our town like a tourist, from staying in the Olive 8 to seeing Seattle from the air with Kenmore and Ride the Duck……..
Woodinville, Seattle Country has us staying at Willows Lodge & Spa, enjoying dinner at Barking Frog., and just for the sheer adventure, an exclusive private reserve wine and cheese pairing for ten of your closest family and friends at The Woodhouse Wine Estates……
Kitsap Adventure stay at the incredible Cedar Cove Inn BnB, where you will be welcomed like family in this truly one of a kind Kitsap Inn.   Complimented with dinner at Amy’s on the Bay…….
Finally to the North we have Tree Frog Inn & Spa offering a perfect Northwest in the woods experience, sustainable and rustic, …
Bring your family, friends, associates, coupled with the spirit of adventure for great fun, networking, good eats and libations. Take one (or two) of these adventures home with cash, check or credit card.  Must be present to win.
Tickets are now available from BROWN PAPER TICKETS! Secure them early for the best discount.

This is a most enjoyable event. It has something for everybody and this year it even has food and drink.  Support the Guild and learn something in the meantime!

Green Building in Seattle

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.

The Seattle Waterfront
Green Homebuilding In Seattle

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.

Seattle Green Home Tour
Earth Day 2012 Green Home Tour
  • 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.

Don't turn those Wheels
Don’t turn those wheels, unless they are going backwards
  • 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

Kent Award Winning Home on the Seattle Green Home Tour

Kent Award Winning Home on the Seattle Green Home Tour


5 star built green
This Home is on the Seattle Green Home Tour

Do you have a preconception of Kent? I have to admit I did having spent some time there in the past. I love the city of Seattle and all it has to offer, it’s quiet sophistication, it’s culture and yes it’s beauty. I also happen to love getting away from the city to enjoy the great outdoors Washington State. All the water, the forests, the vistas and viewing the wildlife. Just like Ruth Anne on Northern Exposure, I go shooting quite often when I go out to the country, but it involves F-stops and lenses, and finding the elusive perfect lighting.

So I have to admit, when I heard a house was in Kent on the tour this year, I thought it was great, that green building concepts were spreading further out than just Bellevue into the suburbs of our metropolis. Then I opened the file with the pictures attached. All I can say now is WOWIE! (In my best Christopher Walken voice)

What a view inside or out
Award winning home
Awarding winning green home
Worth the drive from Seattle to see this home

Here is what Sockeye has to say about it:

Located in Kent, this custom home is so packed with ideas it has been named The Northwest Idea House of the Year. Come see for yourself the incredible design ideas, cutting edge systems, and Built Green features, making this a 5 star demonstration home and Click Here to View Case Study

Especially if you are in the south end of the Seattle grid I urge you to go see this home and be inspired by the creativity in solving the matrixs of what green can be to come up with such a lovely solution!

You can see the whole tour brochure at the NW Eco Building Guild’s website

Eco Building Guild Home Tour

Eco Building Guild Home Tour

Show Us Your ‘Green’!

Green Home Tour in Seattle
Coming this Earth Day 2012


Northwest EcoBuilding Guild – 2012 Green Home Tour – Call for Sites & Sponsors

This just in:
The 2012 Green Home Tour hosted by the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild (NWEBG) is underway. People want to ‘do the right thing’ when it comes to remodels, retrofits, and new construction but often times need to see “green” in action and how the benefits to people, planet, and profit unite in everyday practice. To that end, the inaugural 2011 Green Home Tour hosted 28 sites and over 1,250 visitors with great success! This year we’re planning to build off that success and make it bigger and better! There are 4 ways to participate:
  1. Showcase Your Project. (early bird deadline Jan 16, 2012)
  2. Showcase Your Services/Products through Sponsorship.
  3. Volunteer Your Heart Out.
  4. Attend and Tell Your Friends to Attend!
Two Tours – One Great Weekend! 2012 Green Home Tour is being hosted by the Seattle and the South Sound Chapter April 21 & 22, 2012. Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union has already stepped up as an event sponsor, and we’ve just gotten started!  The earlier you get involved, the greater benefit will be realized by everyone!! Website updates are underway, in the meantime contact Cate O’dahl, Event Lead (Seattle Chapter),
Last year there were sites all around the Seattle area. Several in North Seattle, some in West Seattle, and several on the Eastside including Bastyr University. If you want to see your neighborhood represented then have a green home in your area sign up for the tour.
If you participate in the tour or just want to enjoy the weekend learning about sustainable building mark your calendars now.
Hope to see you Earthday weekend 2012!

It’s Time To Kick That John To The Curb

It’s Time To Kick That John To The Curb

Have an Old John spending too much time in your bathroom? Toss out that expensive no-good lout and find a more charming, less demanding and one that’s better with budgeting!

Dual Flush for even more efficiency

Most people don’t put much thought into the porcelain bowl in the bathroom, but something we take for granted can take up a large portion of our utility bills. The Saving Water Partnership is offering homeowners in a certain income bracket rebates to throw out the outdated 5 gallon guzzler for a more efficient one. In the City of Seattle we know that our home Combined Utilities bills keep going up, and they aren’t stopping anytime soon. For every dollar we spend on water, we will spend about two dollars more for the sewer charges. It’s as if we use one gallon of water and pay for three. This is a great opportunity to make the switch and perhaps even upgrade to a nicer toilet. Many functional commodes are well under $80.00, and of course there are plenty well beyond the price range that will add beauty to any bathroom.

Are you resistant change because of an experience with a so-called low-flow toilet a decade or two ago? Well, they have figured out the physics since then, and quite often one might find the new toilets work much better than the old ones. They operate just fine with gravity now and don’t need to sound like a Lear Jet fly-by.

While you are at it, you might want to consider replacing your showerhead at the same time for a real improvement with your utility bill. Once again, the showerheads work very well.  Some even have a valve so you can shut off the water and not have to readjust the temperature if you are into the “Navy” style of showering.  As an added bonus, some heads have a feature that allow you to easily clean out the accumulated scale to make sure every shower has the perfect pressure and water flow.

Typically most homeowners can replace the showerhead or add an aerator. The weekend warrior can usually handle the toilet replacement (even if it takes 2 trips to the hardware store). If you think you would need a professional plumber, why not get the neighbors involved? Most toilet replacements take more time for the plumbers travel time then for the actual job of replacement. So why not line up several neighbors on the block for the same time on the same day and make it worth everyone’s while? Remember to keep checking the City of Seattle website and your utility bills for recycling of the old toilets.

Old John doesn’t have to be completely out of your life. You might see him recycled into the next roadway or highway project.


What is a Northwest Energy Star Home?

This is not a Northwest Energy Star home

 What is a Northwest Energy Star Home?

 It’s a common misperception that it’s a house with “Energy Star” rated appliances. In fact many Real Estate professionals mistakenly label their listings on the Northwest Multiple Listing Service as NW Energy Star if the kitchen has an efficient dishwasher and refrigerator.  The “Energy Star” label is widely recognized and respected by the vast majority of home buyers.  Few people know that the Northwest Energy Star home goes much further in saving the occupants money on their heating bills as well as make their homes much healthier and more comfortable to live in.

 So what the difference? Short answer—quite a bit! The NW Energy Star house is third party certified. This means an accredited party inspects and signs off on the home from the beginning all the way through the end of construction. As a home buyer, you may not see what’s inside the walls but the certifier does.  Whenever a home is advertised as NWES, it should also have the accompanying paper work to prove its designation. Although it is slightly more expensive to build a home or a remodel, it pays for itself in a short amount of time in decreased heating and cooling bills, not to mention increased indoor air quality and comfort.

 The Northwest Energy Star program includes Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington States. The Northwest has higher standards than other regions, and the NWES program stays approximately 15% more efficient than current local building codes.

 The Northwest Builder Option Package (NW BOP) is the standard builders and remodelers are held to. With the concept of “Peak Oil” and the ever increasing costs both monetarily and environmentally, these homes are expected to hold their value better in a resell market as well as increase the comfort of the residents. Northwest Energy Star makes sense for Seattle area homes.

For more information go to: