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Issaquah Eco-Modern Dream Home

John Capestany and Karen Kane had always dreamed of building the perfect home while using “green” building techniques. The couple spent years pouring through Fine Homebuilding magazines and conducting countless property searches in preparation.  With careful planning and meticulous attention to detail, their vision of environmental sustainability combined with exquisite design came to fruition in a beautiful new home.

Prior to excavation of the building site, the couple collaborated with the Native Plant Society to organize a native plant salvage.  Several teachers came out and removed trillium, native huckleberry, salal, Oregon grape, salmonberry and lots of big, beautiful sword ferns that would be used to create a native plant garden at their school.  Other folks grabbed their shovels and joined in the fun, carefully transplanting native plants with intentions of establishing native garden sanctuaries in their own yards.

Once the trees were logged from the building site, they were moved to the couple’s existing property to await their transformation into lumber and the milled fir soffits, and fir trim used throughout the house. Various pieces of the milled fir lumber were used for blocking and drywall backing.  It was a natural way to incorporate some of the native wood into the structural framing.

The house is positioned to take advantage of the natural sunlight for lighting and temperature control. Since the couple decided against an air-conditioning system, radiant-barrier plywood was used to sheet the roof to minimize heat penetration during the hot summer months.  Keeping with the modern design, the couple selected a galvanized, colored metal roof, a durable and sustainable roofing material. The aluminum-clad fir wood windows made a perfect match for the native fir interior trim, presenting a seamless transition from one to the other.  Prior to installing the pre-finished (on all four sides), tongue-and-groove cedar siding, a 3/4-inch rain screen was installed, facilitating an air-gap between the back of the siding and the front of the wall sheeting.  Rain screens provide moisture and heat control, a sound buffer, and wall durability.

A variety of insulation materials was used throughout the home to ensure energy efficiency.  Walls were insulated with a recycled denim batting called UltratouchTM and also a blown-in non-toxic insulation material called Aircrete, rated with high energy-efficiency.  After extensive research, John chose to use a sprayed-in Icynene® insulation in the small, difficult to access areas of the home.  He also used it as a sub-insulation on the large concrete walls in the basement prior to framing in and insulating all the basement rooms.  Aircrete was used in some of the large exterior walls for sound attenuation and energy efficiency, a synergistic choice with a properly installed rain screen.

The concepts of energy efficiency and conservation also apply to the interior. Since the couple has small children, indoor air quality was a top priority.  To protect indoor air quality and to support the use of green products, formaldehyde-free plywood was used for cabinetry, a non-toxic and natural product hard-wax sealer was applied on all wood beams, interior (wheat-core) doors and wood finishes, and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints were used on all wall surfaces. Additionally, the attached garage is well-ventilated with high-power electric fans set on timers to remove car exhaust and VOC’s off-gassing from car tires.

Non-toxic and rapidly renewable wool padding and carpeting in the Master suite, cork flooring in the remaining bedrooms, and a milestone coating over gypcrete on the entire main floor allows the radiant floor heating system to operate with maximum efficiency.  Energy Star rated appliances were selected in the kitchen and laundry room.

Each bathroom features use of recycled glass tiles and countertops were locally made from recycled concrete and glass by Tiger Mountain Innovations.  Low-flow, dual-flush toilets were installed in each of the three bathrooms and have proved to be problem-free, despite the minimal amount of water used per flush.

Lots of windows on the south side of the house provide plenty of natural lighting, minimizing the use of interior lights (most of which use compact fluorescents light bulbs).  In the winter, the house gains solar heat due to the low positioning of the sun shining directly into the house, keeping it a toasty temperature without even triggering the heating system on sunny days.  In the summer the sun is high enough in the sky that it does not shine into the house, keeping it nice and cool.  Fans are used in the vaulted ceiling of the Master bedroom for cooling purposes as well.

The key to building a quality green home is to focus on the functionality and sustainability of materials used, bearing in mind the long-term benefits gained.  Products throughout the interior of this home were selected based on where they were made and how they were made, and then the price of the material came into consideration.  The couple’s philosophy is to seek out and explore alternative specialty products and use local resources whenever possible to support a sustainable legacy for our future generations.

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