On a large lot in South Seattle, one house was deconstructed to make way for another, larger house that hits a triple crown of sustainable certification. It's all thanks to the vision of a woman committed to going green and Lindal Cedar Homes, the longtime kit-house builder, which collaborated with the homeowner to customize a...
FOR MORE than a decade, Wendy Jans lived in a 600-square-foot, foundationless cottage in Rainier Beach. She needed more space, but didn’t want to leave her big, wooded lot in Seattle. And though she was interested in building green, she figured it might be a challenge within her strict budget.
Jans made the unexpected choice to replace her cottage with a house from Lindal Cedar Homes. But hers would be no formula-designed kit house. Instead it’s a prefab myth-buster — about as customized as a house can be.
Jans set her mind to making environmentally conscious choices, from insisting on the vigilant deconstruction of her old house to installing a load of green systems and details in her certified-sustainable new one. Her home is so eco-friendly, in fact, that it is the first in Washington state to be certified under the new National Green Building Standard of the National Association of Home Builders.
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An education consultant and yoga teacher, Jans was drawn to Lindal not only because it’s affordable but also because it offers the potential for open space and extra-large windows through post-and-beam construction. With the help of a friend, she made her home unique by putting together the design from a variety of floor plans that Lindal offers. The result of all this tinkering is an airy, colorful, 2,400-square-foot home well-suited to the family of three.
Lindal homes may be crafted on the post-and-beam model, but the company’s system allows for plenty of green features in a house that takes advantage of the site, from the daylight basement to a rain garden by the front door. Generously scaled windows overlook the back garden and greenbelt that used to be a city Parks and Recreation Department nursery.
“The post-and-beam roof system allowed Wendy to have vaulted ceilings upstairs and as many windows as she wanted,” says senior project consultant Tom Schuch in explaining the benefits of such construction.
The project was lengthy and thoughtful; planning and permitting took one year. Deconstructing the old house was a monthlong effort, rather than the day it would have taken to knock it into landfill-destined rubble. Jans hired Olympia Salvage to painstakingly take the home apart so everything could be recycled or repurposed. A bonus: She got a tax deduction for the deconstruction. “I got to watch the whole process,” she says, and found it fascinating. “One day I showed up, and there was my toilet sitting out on the lawn.”
“If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right,” says Jans, who knew nothing of green construction at the project’s outset. She used the Washington State Master Builders Association Built-Green Checklist as a road map and counted on the advice of her green-savvy contractors, MC Construction Consulting. Schuch of Lindal Cedar Homes worked with Jans every step of the way; Lindal even paid for the home’s certification process. Schuch explains that Lindal wanted to get up to speed as a green builder and be a resource for its customers. He says he discovered that by being flexible, builders can earn sustainability certification points a lot of different ways. “I learned from this project that there are many shades of green.”
Jans got started by setting clear priorities. She wanted the house to be energy-efficient and built of sustainable or recycled materials whenever possible. Indoor air quality was a priority, both for her family and because she plans to teach yoga classes in a studio on the home’s lower level.
“From the beginning it was Wendy’s desire to have a green-built garden to match her home,” says garden designer Virginia Hand, who used mostly native plants to create a natural-feeling, drought-tolerant Northwest woodland garden.
All the earnest and responsible decisions in no way dim the home’s comforts and practicalities. The handsome bamboo and cork floors avoid the air-quality issues that come with carpeting. The bathroom counters are made of a recycled-glass product called IceStone with the sparkly, chip-like look of classic terrazzo. Downstairs contains a little kitchen and a light-filled space for gathering or teaching yoga on that glossy sweep of bamboo flooring. While there’s plenty of cedar in this Lindal home, the wood on the ceiling is washed rather than stained to keep the interiors as light as possible and to contrast with the darker wood beams. The master bath has a deep, Japanese soaking tub, the tile and wall colors are lively, and tall windows with deep windowsills look out to a bubbling stone fountain in the garden.
The garden, which includes a broad stone terrace, is filled with bird-friendly plantings, berries and winter flowers.
And the price of a clear conscience for someone paying close attention to the cost/benefit of every decision? “It’s hard to figure out, really, what the green cost is,” says Jans. She went over her budget on the stained-alder cabinetry because she chose to have the boxes built green, which means no toxic chemicals were used in their manufacture. The radiant heat in the flooring ended up costing about twice as much as gas heat, but the home is cozy-warm and there’s no dust or allergens blowing about.
Outside, the native plants, once established, will require less water than ornamentals, and the stone patio and steps are the essence of timeless durability. The handsome metal roof has a lifetime guarantee, which is a comfort because Jans and her family are staying put.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “The New Low-Maintenance Garden.” Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.