EcoHouse Methow is meant to be an aid for people in the Methow Valley of Washington State who would like to build or remodel a house in a sustainable manner. It is a survey of houses in the Valley that have been built with sustainable concepts in mind, and a list of builders, designers, consultants, suppliers, and the techniques that have been used to to create the houses. It also includes links to other sites that may be useful, and information about state and federal tax benefits or rebates that may be available. While there is no one perfect way to build a house that has as its goals, to cost little to make and inhabit, heal environmental and social degradation, and suit your dreams, people in the Valley have been working on these goals for many years. Fortunately, they have been willing to open their houses to us, and share their experience and knowledge with the community. We are grateful to them for their participation and generosity.
A bit about the Methow Valley
[This is a bit of background information on some of the factors that influence sustainable housing design in the Valley.]
The Methow River Valley is about 60 miles long, and is located in north central Washington State. The Methow and its tributaries, the Chewuch and Twisp Rivers, drain a substantial portion of the eastern and northern slopes of the North Cascades. The Valley has a rather extreme climate. Its temperature can vary from roughly -30°F to 110°F. It is relatively dry, with ca. 20” of precipitation per year, much of it as snow between November and February; snow pack is usually between 24 ft., making snow-loading on roofs an important consideration. It is a sunny climate. Water availability is becoming a growing area of concern.
A few other design issues include considerations for dealing with: forest and brush fires, the control of non-native plants, dealing with wildlife (and free range cattle), and, in our opinion, development concerns including the improper siting (and sizes) of houses, e.g., along ridge tops, that diminish the natural beauty of the Methow Valley. There are no large towns in the Methow Valley, with Winthrop and Twisp being the principal population centers. The economy is mostly based on tourism, farming, ranching, and various service or timber related businesses.
There are a number of non-profit organizations (The Partnership for a Sustainable Methow, and The Methow Conservancy, among others) in the valley who are working towards keeping the Valley economically sustainable while preserving its natural beauty. The "Good Neighbor Handbook", is an important resource for an overview of building considerations in the Methow Valley, and is free from the Methow Conservancy (also available as a download). The annual "Methow Valley Building Guide", from the local newspaper, The Methow Valley News is a remarkable resource for the most up to date information on building and builders. "Sustinere" is a local journal produced by PSM (Partnership for a Sustainable Methow) concerned with all aspects of community self sufficiency.
About the authors
This survey was started in 2007 by Teresa Toole and Joseph Hall. We have both had a longstanding interest in sustainability. Our combined experience is in small business, science, urban and regional planning, art, and design. We have been members of various non-profit organizations focused on sustainable issues. Currently, we live near Winthrop, WA.
Limitations and Liability
The authors make no endorsement or claims about the techniques, ideas, materials, or professionals mentioned in this survey. It is your responsibility to get the best professional advice you can. Building can be a difficult process, but hopefully it will also be a rewarding and joyful part of your lifebe careful, be wise, be open.
We welcome your comments and feedback.