The Northwest EcoBuilding Guild will sponsor its second South Sound Green Tour on Saturday and Sunday - an opportunity to educate the public about the efforts of area architects, contractors, builders and artists to build sustainable, green homes and commercial offices.
We encourage South Sound residents to participate in all or part of the 20-stop tour where they can learn about new and emerging technology to make buildings and landscaping more energy efficient.
South Sound has always been an environmentally conscious community – quick to embrace sustainability with an honest desire to tread a little more lightly on Mother Earth.
As a community, we’ve moved at lightning speed over a short period of time. Thirty years ago, those who embraced a more simplistic lifestyle were ridiculed. Then, with rising energy costs, more people began to embrace home improvements to save money. Homeowners added insulation to attics, installed heat pumps, low-flow toilets and shower heads, and installed more energy-efficient windows.
With an increase in awareness about global warming and climate change, many of our neighbors have taken additional steps – moving to solar panels on the roof of their home or business.
While passive homes – which require very little energy for space heating or cooling – have been standard in Europe for 25 years, this country has been slow to respond. In August 2010 there were an estimated 25,000 certified passive homes in Europe and just 13 in the United States, according to John Ketola, a South Sound painting contractor and president of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, South Sound Chapter. By January of this year, 100 passive homes were under construction in the United States. Two of them are on this weekend’s green tour right here in Olympia.
Chris van Daalen, guild education coordinator, said for years those involved in the green building industry in South Sound, simply talked to one another about emerging technologies and the advantages of building green. “We decided to stop talking to each other and start talking to the community,” van Daalen said. The result was last year’s inaugural green tour, which drew about 2,000 people.
Cory Eckert of Laupen Homes, chair of the tour, said he saw a big uptick in the number of South Sound residents interested in building green when gasoline prices shot up. People wanted to build more energy-efficient homes. And now, with an increasing number of people suffering from allergies to home construction products, the market for built green homes in South Sound has really taken off, Eckert said.
Ketola said it’s a myth that “built green” is going to be more expensive than conventional construction. Studies show that a 30-year mortgage can be cut to 17 years when considering the long-term energy savings. Those additional costs to build using green technology usually are recouped in the first five to seven years, Ketola said.
Green industry and green technology have outpaced the general knowledge base. For example, some home insurance companies are unfamiliar with green technology and don’t know whether or not to cover the policy holder. South Sound officials also are educating appraisers, lenders, realtors, and others about the technology used so they can better do their job.
The tour – detailed in an advertising insert in today’s Olympian – provides officials and the general public with an opportunity to visit 20 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 Saturday and Sunday dealing with such topics as food forests, use of solar, greenhouse construction, safe led paint removal and a host of other topics. Go to the guild’s website at www.ecobuilding.org for more information.
A good place to start the tour, which runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. both days, is at the LOTT Clean Water Alliance new headquarters office at 500 Adams St. at the Port of Olympia. Most of the 20 sites are within walking or biking distance and Intercity Transit will run a shuttle. Owners of electric and hybrid cars are taking guests to the different locations, too.
Take a look, then think about ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. This weekend’s tour will convince you that the green movement is here to stay.