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By Linda Velazquez

The Pacific Northwest in general is known for eco-friendly, sustainable building policies, high-performance green architecture, and local innovative building designs.  In fact, Seattle holds the distinct position of being the first U.S. city government committed to Silver LEED™ facilities, adopting its Sustainable Building Policy requiring new city buildings over 5,000 sf to obtain the U.S. Green Building Council’s certification rating in 2000.  But the Seattle area also distinguishes itself in that it has an unusually high number of residential greenroof applications.

Our GPW through today is the lovely 280 sf “Private Seattle Green Roof Garage,” built in 2003 by architect Rob Harrison and his wife, Frith Barbat.  Located in a geographically diverse southeast Seattle neighborhood, the area is filled with parklands, lakefront, wooded hills, and quiet residential streets and boulevards.  Aside from the living roof, construction methods were eco-conscious from the beginning as the homowners capitalized on the property’s existing carport foundation and built the garage mostly with materials salvaged from the previous deck.  It’s really not surprising, since Rob Harrison, AIA, is a Certified Passive House™ Consultant and principal of HARRISON architects.

The Seattle, Washington firm has been in business since 1984, with the last 18 years devoted to sustainable design.  HARRISON architects’ work is based in “lyrical sustainable design”: conserving energy and resources, using healthier materials and finishes, reducing long-term costs, and making poetic places.  By working with consultants, contractors and suppliers who share their values, the experience results in a convivial, collaborative design and construction process.  And when you’re the client/architect, and it’s easy to be creative in this environment.

“Since it was our own house (rather than a client’s!), we thought it would be a great opportunity to experiment with a less expensive residential alternative to $15/sf proprietary (and warrantied) green roof systems used on commercial projects, and so promote the use of green roofs in residential applications.” ~ Rob Harrison

And since Rob was a member of the local chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, he had plenty of local expertise and volunteers for help.  The Northwest EcoBuilding Guild is an alliance of builders, designers, suppliers, homeowners, and partners concerned with ecological building in the Pacific Northwest.  Their mission is to provide leadership in education to transform the built environment and build a sustainable society.  In those years, hadj design directed the greenroofing efforts for the Guild, and the firm’s principal, Patrick Carey (also our Architecture Editor), was one of the consultants and volunteers on this project, as seen below in the bucket brigade system used to haul the growing media up to the roof.

Originally, Rob designed the space to call his own for a “manly” workshop (the garage is featured on the cover of the book ManSpace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory by Sam Martin, about “dens, caves, lairs, hangouts, hideaways, workshops, studios, drinking sheds and man houses”).  The one-car garage housed space for tools, one bicycle, two vintage motorcycles and their Mini Cooper.  But things have changed – at present, the garage now holds just one motorcycle (a new gas-efficient model with a catalytic converter) and the family’s six bicycles.  They sold the car seven months ago, and have been giving the car-free life a try – so far, so good!

Read the full article with detailed project pictures…

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