We wanted a house that was dramatic in design and green at the same time. The effect we were going for was WOW ... and you mean it's also environmentally friendly.
When we were putting together our team of architects, builders, landscapers and subcontractors, one key element was the interior designer. We interviewed a couple of interior designers, but Carl Williams, from Seattle, was the right fit for us and our home. In many ways Zelonedom would be just another house in the country without Carl. He added the WOW factor ... big time. Carl made a few modifications to the plans .. a soffit here a lighting plan there, etc...
In fact after, the initial blue prints were finalized, Carl was an active consultant on all aspects of the house. Our recommendation is to find an interior designer who you like who can get you to a decision point quickly and who understands construction. But, more importantly, he or she needs to understand your vision and take your tastes into account and guide you to the outcome. If you don't like something, don't do or buy it.
Carl came up with the use of color in the skylights. The concept was a modern version of the English manor house and the flags in the great room. We went along knowing that we could always paint over it, but he was right. Painting the skylights a different color added visual interest to what could have been a rather boring white ceiling.
When you select a color scheme, you need to consider what pictures and furnature you have and which you want to keep. Fortunately for us, we got rid of a lot of furniture when we moved from Minnesota. Our artwork was modern and the colors Carl helped us pick out worked with our art.
Probably the single greatest energy savings we can do is to replace incandescent bulbs with compact florescent bulbs which use just 25% of the electricity. Because they save energy and last longer, there is a rather fast payback for CFLs.
When picking out lighting fixtures, you need to make certain a CFL bulb of the appropriate lumination fit. There are special lighting fixtures for CFLs; however, we've discovered that CFL and fixture manufacturers apparently have worked together so that most fixtures can accommodate them. Our home has a tremendous amount of natural lighting and colors in sunlight and CFLs change, so you need to select fabrics, etc... that you're comfortable with in different lighting. Ours colors work in both lights.
Second, we wanted flooring that was durable and not add to internal air quality issues. Tile, bamboo and recycled tires fit the bill, with area rugs for conversation areas.
ECOSurface, from Dodge-Regupol, is a flooring that is derived from recycled tires. http://www.ecosurfaces.com/ecosand/ Dodge-Regupol has a number of products that vary in content from 30-70% recycled tires. Our counters were black granite and thus we went with the greener higher content option.
Environmental flooring has come a long ways in the past few years. However, the old Linoleum, brand name Marmoleum, was pretty darn good, because it is made from natural products like linseed oil and will decompose. Bamboo and cork are considered sustainable because they are harvested from fast growing bamboo or from cork trees. If you want a nice wood floor the sustainable option is one from FSC wood and that is sealed with low or no VOC coatings.
If you really want carpet, the carpet industry has dramatically changed in recent years, adopting environmentally friendly processes. There is a wide range of recycled content fibers and the backing and glues are less toxic than before. However, even industry environmental champions such as Interface are not yet at the point of sustainability and carpet continues to be a major item clogging landfills.
If you have a small project like a guest bathroom, many areas have a reuse company which sells the excess tiles from larger products. There apparently are also ceramic tiles that contain some recycled content. We used some glass tiles in our shower that were made from recycled glass from Oceanside Glasstile. Great accent, but a bit pricey.
For furniture fabrics we used DesignTex line of sustainable fabrics. The copy was founded by Cradle to Cradle authors Michael Baumgat and Bill McDonough. They are about as green as you can get. Carl Williams understood our vision and worked hard to bring his design knowledge to play with every item.
We don't really know if the base furniture is green, eg formaldehyde free. There is no new car/house smell from the furniture, and that is a good thing.
Saying that we could have done more. Our tile was imported ceramic tile, the kitchen counters were granite rather than concrete or Richlite, the latter is made from an epoxy and paper combination. Variations on Richlite use recycled paper in their production.
Our kitchen back splash was also a marble.
While not particularly green, the counters are gorgeous, cost about the same as Richlite, and the back splash works with the style of the house.
If you build a green house, you or someone else will live in it. Do your best, but make certain your furnishings and colors work for you. If they are green all the better. If not don't sweat it. There are many paths to saving the environment.
We welcome your comments on this site.
You can email Christine Garst at email@example.com
Sunday December 17, 2006 05:34 PM -0800
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