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By John Dodge
The Olympian

OLYMPIA – The green-building movement in South Sound is sharing some of its successes this weekend by hosting its first South Sound Green Tour.

The tour, sponsored by the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, is designed to showcase the work of area architects, contractors, builders and artists who have embraced sustainable building practices.

“With the growth in interest in green building, we decided it was time to share our message with the general public and the construction industry,” guild chapter president Chris van Daalen said.

The tour is an opportunity to visit 12 South Sound homes and businesses that use renewable energy sources, reclaimed and environmentally friendly building materials, energy- and water-efficient appliances and fixtures, and other features.

In addition, more than 50 workshops are scheduled throughout the weekend about such topics as rain gardens, home energy audits, sustainable design techniques and geothermal heat pumps.

The tour reflects increased consumer demand for homes that save money on energy bills, improve indoor air quality and use space efficiently.

“We can’t keep building McMansions and expect to sustain our natural resources,” van Daalen said.

One of the tour stops is the recently completed, Mediterranean-style home of Dennis and Kay Cooper. Anyone who drives through the West Bay Drive roundabouts above the Fourth Avenue Bridge has seen this home on the hillside with the panoramic views of downtown Olympia, Mount Rainier, the state Capitol and Budd Inlet.


At first glance, it appears quite large. But it’s actually two housing units in one – a 1,400-square-foot upstairs home and a 900-square-foot downstairs apartment ideal for visiting family members or even a live-in caretaker at some point.

“Part of sustainability is adding flexibility in the design of the home,” said home architect Tessa Smith of The Artisans Group.

The Cooper home is the first residence in South Sound in line to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, Smith said.

Recycled materials are incorporated throughout the home, noted builder Cory Eckert of Laupen Homes. The stucco is 49 percent recycled tires, which makes it long-lasting and more earthquake-resistant.

Beams in the dining room are recycled timbers from an old Packard car dealership in Seattle. The window frames are 40 percent sawdust. Rainwater from the roof feeds an outdoor water feature.

The home is energy-efficient with an hydronic radiant heat system built into the concrete floors and a heat-recovery ventilator to maintain fresh air flows in the well-insulated home.


“The energy efficiencies and recycled materials were the most satisfying part of building this home,” said Dennis Cooper, 65, a retired state employee. “These homes can last 200 years when they are built right.”

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service began keeping tabs of environmentally certified homes for its members in 2007.

A recent review of that data for new-home sales in King County revealed that green-certified homes made up 33 percent of the new-home market, sold for a 9.1 percent premium per square foot and stayed on the market 24 percent less time than other new homes.

Consumer demand for environmentally friendly homes is about to explode, Eckert predicted, estimating that 30 percent or more of new-home construction in South Sound has environmental features above and beyond what is required in building codes.

“Green-built homes are selling faster than traditional homes,” he said. “Consumers want it; it just makes sense.”


The South Sound Green Tour runs from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Other stops on the tour in Olympia include the 510 Interiors green-building materials store, South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity Restore, The Artisans Group, Sherwood Press, Matter!Gallery and several homes, and the New Market Skills Center in Tumwater.

“We need to be training the trades for the green-building industry; that’s why the skills center is on the tour,” van Daalen said.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

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