Home, landscape tour showcases energy-efficient building, craftsmanship in Whatcom County

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 18, 2014 

In a green-minded town like Bellingham, it's not uncommon to hear folks talking about saving energy, recycling, reducing their carbon footprint and efficiency. During these conversations, have you wondered if these principles apply to your home? Of course they do!

Bellingham is known as a leader in the green-building movement, and for good reason. The Building Performance Center, Community Energy Challenge and Sustainable Connections all call Bellingham home. These organizations are pushing for increasing building performance in both the residential and commercial sectors, increased re-use and recycling of materials when possible and an overall reduction in the carbon footprint of buildings. Reducing a building's carbon footprint is key when you consider that in the United States nearly 40 percent of energy is used on residential and commercial buildings.

To increase the energy performance of a home, good contractors generally start with the most cost-effective measures such as air sealing and insulation. In addition to increasing the energy efficiency of the home, these measures improve comfort, health and durability by reducing drafts, cold spots, moisture infiltration and mold issues that can cause respiratory problems. Homeowners frequently ask us if it's possible to make an older home as efficient as a new home. Actually, it is possible to go beyond code minimum when completing a major remodel. Bellingham's new Birthroot Birth Center was recently remodeled and is now twice as air-tight as the 2015 energy code requirement.

Another important consideration in deciding to remodel or build new is the ability to reuse and recycle materials. Remodeling a home dramatically reduces waste and requires less new material, therefore improving the home's carbon footprint. Remodeling a home also has the advantage of maintaining the historic character of both the building and the neighborhood. In the new Birthroot Birth Center, the Birthroot midwives worked hard to maintain the character of their building, and if you drove down Broadway Avenue today you would likely notice the building for it's historic character and charm as opposed to it looking out of place.

The decision to reuse materials instead of buying new can be complicated. Some people might be passionate about reducing the overall carbon footprint of the project by reducing waste and use of new materials. Other people might make that decision based on aesthetics alone. It is often possible to find higher quality, reused materials than new materials. You simply cannot purchase new wood that has 100-year-old patina. Commonly reused materials include flooring, framing materials, timbers and occasionally doors and hardware. One of my favorite strategies for reusing materials it to build new cabinets out of old materials.

If you are interested in seeing first hand how other homeowners and businesses are re-using materials, increasing building performance and working to reduce their carbon footprint, check out Sustainable Connection's Imagine This Home and Landscape Tour on June 21-22. The tour will showcase a variety of homes and landscape, including two older homes that easily could have been torn down and replaced with new building. The Birthroot Birth Center and the Blanchard Mountain Farm are both turn-of-the-century homes that were transformed into efficient, comfortable, healthy and durable buildings using a variety of green-building techniques. In addition to touring local homes and gardens, tour goers will have the opportunity to talk with green-building professionals, participate in workshops, view demonstrations on saving energy or water and find creative solutions to common homeowner issues.

The Imagine This Home and Landscape Tour also includes an Arts and Craftsmen exhibit at Bounday Bay Brewery that will highlight the depth of skill and creativity of many of our local craftsmen and women. Unique handmade household and outdoor items will be available for sale, workshops will be provided by the REVision Division of the RE Store and local building experts will be available to answer your questions. Participants can preview site locations and purchase tickets now on Sustainable Connection's website, at Village Books or either location of the Community Food Co-op. We hope to see you there.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenny Rae is marketing director of Chuckanut Builders in Bellingham.

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