How a Green Dream Becomes Reality

Sourced from Barron's Penta

Architect Jason McLennan is one of the most prolific and well-known figures in the green-design scene. He launched the world’s most rigorous green certification program, called the Living Building Challenge, in 2006; runs a Seattle-based sustainable design firm; and is founder of the nonprofit International Living Future Institute. He has also received the highest honor related to socially responsible design and was even hired by Leonardo DiCaprio to design Blackadore Caye, the actor’s soon-to-open 68 villa eco-resort on an island off the coast of Belize. So, when it came time for McLennan to design and build his own family compound a short ferry ride away from Seattle, on Bainbridge Island, he naturally went all out.

The result is Heron Hall, a 3,300-square-foot home largely built with reused stone and locally salvaged wood. It’s powered by solar panels and is entirely off the water grid, relying instead on collected and treated rainwater for showers, dishwashing, and drinking water. It also boasts compost toilets that make soil rather than waste, as well as finishes and furnishings free of asbestos, formaldehyde, phthalates, and volatile organic compounds.

After a five-year process that included time to find the land, understand the site, collect salvaged materials, and build, McLennan and his family moved in last March. So far, “it’s been fantastic,” says McLennan. “The air quality is amazing and the home is incredibly comfortable, with great acoustics and no draft. It’s just very soulful and beautiful to live here.”

Like McLennan, 44, plenty of other industry insiders have built their own green homes, driven by a desire to “walk the talk,” as they say. Dan Sweeney, 59, director of project engineering and field service at energy-storage company Demand Energy, is one of them. He built an Earth Advantage–certified home that makes all of the energy it needs along the Little Deschutes River in Oregon about five years ago.

Another is Terry Hancock, 60, who owns Hancock Real Estate, a commercial real estate business, and has worked on projects that are LEED-certified projects, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Five years ago, he built his own LEED Gold-certified vacation home on Oregon’s central coast—ideal for family gatherings.

“Our goal was to have the most energy-efficient home possible so energy bills would never run them out of the house,” he says of his family.

Together, these homes demonstrate a key point that sustainable designers stress: You don’t have to sacrifice anything to construct a home built to the highest environmental standards.

Click here to read the full article