Lean and Green

Photos by Dane Gregory Meyer

No doubt about it, this playful and modern Olympia home stands out. It’s practical while being dramatic; it’s whimsical while being smart and it’s green while being, well, green. It’s an adaptation of Passive House design.

“The term ‘Passive’ means without outside means,” homeowner DT North explained. “In the case of our house, there is only minimal additional heat needed. Otherwise, the structure is heated by the sun, human heat and appliances.

”The Artisans Group of Olympia is a Northwest leader when it comes to building homes modeled similar to Passive Houses, a movement that originated in Europe. Homes like this are ultra airtight, super insulated green homes that are built with smart design and quality materials that attempt to leave a lighter ecological footprint and greatly reduce energy consumption. The Artisans Group designs homes with the environment in mind to achieve maximum efficiency.

In December, gas useage fees for the house were about $15.
A custom home like this built by The Artisans Group costs about $170-$200 per square foot. They are currently developing a second product that will be more like an ultra green “spec home” that will range in the $140-$170 range, according to designer Tessa Smith, co-owner of The Artisans Group, a company with an 18-year history.

“I don’t think all green design is accessible,” Smith said. “There are a lot of approaches out there that aren’t cost effective, simple, or even that green for all their claims.” She’s excited that The Artisans Group is changing that.

The North home was built for DT, his wife, Kim, and their kids, Gabe and Sidney, in 2011 in the Upper Northeast neighborhood. The couple owns a small business less than a mile from their home.

“The home was designed as our final home,” DT North said. “We used durable but cost-effective materials. The master suite is on the bottom floor. All of the doors and hallways are extra wide and the shower is barrier free. We used neutral colors: blues, browns, grays, whites with wood and metal that we hope will stand the test of time.”

Builder Information
The Artisans Group1508 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.570.0626

A Power-Hungry Family
As the family produces their own solar energy, the meter is literally running backward and they are making about 54 cents on every kilowatt hour their home produces. They estimate the solar panels, made by iTek Energy in Bellingham and installed by Sun Energy in Seattle, will pay for themselves within 9-11 years. If energy rates go up, maybe even sooner!

Stylish Stairs
The stair treads are reclaimed black walnut salvaged by Windfall Lumber in Tumwater. The risers are hemlock. The railing was created by Studio 23 in Olympia.

Durable Floor
The first floor of the home is made of bare, sealed concrete. It’s easy to maintain and gives the home a modern, edgy look. It also is a strong foundation and captures heat from the sun. Under the concrete is 15 inches of foam insulation.

Let the Light In
The triple-pane windows throughout the home are strategically placed (many are on the sunny south side of the home) to capture the most light and heat possible.

Shut the Barn Door
The walnut barn-style door with aluminum strips was custom-made by Mike Anderson of Olympia. When it is open, it makes the great room space even bigger. When it’s closed it creates a quiet space. It’s often used by the kids when they want to watch movies or for house guests.

Metal Awe-nings
The front and back porch both have custom metal awnings made by Studio 23 in Olympia. In the back there is clear roofing material so the family can enjoy the great outdoors no matter what the weather.

Super Squares
The outside of the home is hardy planks like you’d find on a lot of new construction — the shape and color was a style choice made by the homeowners.

The entire heating system for this home is about the size of two cereal boxes. The heating system takes about the same amount of energy to run as a hair dryer.

Cleaner Air
This super air-tight home has a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) the grabs the heat from the stale air before pushing it out of the home and uses that heat to warm the fresh air being brought in. The HRV actually infuses the entire home with fresh air around the clock.

What’s Cooking in the Kitchen
The kitchen counters are Ceasarstone, one of the builder’s favorite materials because it is super low-maintenance, made from recycled content and it lasts. The maple cabinets are by Crystal Cabinets that are sold by The Artisans Group. They like the cabinets because they have a low-VOC finish and other benefits. The recirculating hood with a charcoal filter has an exhaust duct next to it that connects to the HRV. The two elements combined literally suck all smells, grease and moisture out of the space without allowing heat to escape. 

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