Despite all the foundation and structural problems homeowner Colleen Groll found after peeling back the old metal siding, she plowed ahead with LEED Homes Gold certification as her target.
A SIMPLE HOME
COLLEEN GROLL is a brave woman. She bought a dilapidated 1918 bungalow in Leschi that was so stripped down by earlier, unsuccessful remodels that the only salvageable item was a pedestal sink. The sole relic of the original house, the sink now stands in her new powder room. Groll dived into a total rehab of the house, taking it down to the studs and resurrecting the old place as a contemporary green home.
Despite all the foundation and structural problems she found after peeling back the old metal siding, Groll plowed ahead with LEED Homes Gold certification as her target. Because of all the inherent limitations in working with an aged structure, it’s almost unheard of to achieve that level of green on a remodel. But Groll not only has experience rehabbing houses, she works as a green building consultant for O’Brien and Company. This wreck of a place, with its urban location and water view, was a chance to put all she’d learned into practice.
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Seattle architect Jamie Fisher designed the remodel within the existing footprint, but with a dramatically changed roofline. He popped up the second floor to fit three bedrooms and two baths into the home’s previously cramped upstairs. “I’ve never as much as built a deck without an architect,” says Groll, who appreciates that Fisher designed privacy from neighbors into the 1,800-square-foot house. Her collaboration with contractor Kristian Nunnelee of NW Contour Building Co. brought great energy to the project.
“When you do this for a living and you do your own house there’s a high bar,” says Groll, who seems to have jumped right over it to complete the stylish remodel.
“It’s all about the envelope,” says Groll, whose mantra during construction was “Caulk, Foam, Pray, Repeat.” She built an extra layer of wall within the old exterior walls, then pumped insulation into it to create, in effect, an insulation sandwich. “The heat-recovery ventilator is my favorite thing,” says Groll, because it performs the neat trick of using the old air exhausted out to heat the fresh air coming into the house. Hidden from view, it runs quietly and continuously, except in summer when the windows are open.
Not all the green is hidden. Interior doors and every bit of the flooring and cabinetry in the home are salvaged. The handsome kitchen counters, as luminous as soapstone, are made of PaperStone, a 100 percent recycled product. The wood flooring was torn out of Garfield High School. “Just think, Jimi Hendrix or Quincy Jones might have walked on these very boards,” says Groll, who loves the sense of history implicit in using materials with a previous life.
The hearth was built of leftover construction materials. The sturdy wooden mantle is a beam from a neighbor’s remodel job. Even the furniture lends a sense of history. The dining and coffee tables are handmade from salvaged wood. Groll recently recovered the sofas she brought back from England 20 years ago in indoor/outdoor fabric to accommodate her dog and two cats. You’d never guess the bookshelves in the living room are simple warehouse shelving Groll stained dark and piled high with design books.
“We had scary times along the way,” says Groll of the necessary economizing after the structural and foundational expenses. What about the cost of all the green systems involved in achieving LEED Homes Gold? “It cost about $167 per square foot to take the house down to a raw shell and install new everything, which compares favorably with non-green construction,” says Groll of her modern perch in an urban canyon.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “The New Low-Maintenance Garden.” Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.