|Gina*and Robert Meredith worked as river guides enjoying a close relationship with the natural world. They went on to build a number of houses for other people, where they tried out many sustainable building ideas, honoring their connection to the environment. They built and live in a well designed earth-bermed house that uses advanced framing (double wall offset) and SIP's under a green roof. The curved living room design idea (see first picture) was inspired by a visit to Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite National Park. The north facing bermed walls are covered on both sides, inside and outside, with 3" XPS (rigid foam panels) for extra insulation. The exterior walls are constructed of 2x4's on 2x8 plates (effectively 12" on center); this allows for a double layer of R-15 fiberglass batts yielding roughly an R-30 value and effects less thermal bridging (air transfer). The ceiling is made of 10" SIP's which gives an R-value of approximately 40. The house has a green roof over an EPDM membrane; it includes a raised bed garden, and native plantings (the original grass plantings required too much water). Tankless, "on-demand" hot water heating is used. While the house has a radiant heating system, the solar orientation, and a wood stove supply most of the heating needs (only two cords of wood are needed for the heating season, Robert says that up to six cords are more typical for a house this size). CFL's are used throughout the house and were free from the local Okanogan PUD. The windows are vinyl dual pane low-e. They are planning to install a solar hot water heating system in the future.
The owners have made extensive, beautiful, and inspiring use of recycled and re-purposed materials. They traded and bartered for many house elements. A key design approach in this house, a few examples:
• The kitchen counters are from bleachers of an old school gym, purchased at the Re Store in Bellingham..
• The downstairs bathroom has bamboo panels, and tiles that were leftover pieces from previous construction sites.
• There is an interesting armoire in the living room made with found materials from MRR (Methow Resource Recovery/ (509) 997-5643),and built by Linda Mortensen.
• An old bread drawer that was cut and welded for a spice cabinet.
• A culvert piece is the house and garden entry portal with vines growing over it.
• Reused the scrap wood from the construction process for trim details inside the house.
The finishes are nicely applied. One excellent example is the continuing of the ceiling color down the wall by a few inches; this gives the illusion of a significantly taller ceiling than it's 8 feet might otherwise feel. Another example is incorporating timothy hay into the plaster of some walls for an interesting and natural texture.
The owners are happy with the quiet and comfort of their house. In retrospect, they feel that they probably wouldn't have build the second story, which consists of one bedroom and bathroom. Because it doesn't get the use they expected. (An interesting note here is that the second story was originally built with a gable roof, this has been changed to a shed roof to handle snow better. This would have been a much more difficult project if the roof was conventionally framed (trusses), than have been built with the reuseable SIP's).
• Read the "Good Neighbor Handbook" and the "Restoring Shrub-Steppe in the Methow Valley" (from the Methow Conservancy), before you build.
• Hang out on your site before you build, observing the wind and sun patterns.
• Pay attention to snow dump-zones.
• Insurance on a flat roof can be prohibitively expensivecheck before you build or buy.
• Remember to think a lot about what it is you really want and need in your home. Research....it is fun, the internet helps.
* Gina has 15 years creating specialty wall finishes. She periodically teaches a 6 week class at the CONFLUENCE GALLERY entitled, COLOR of COMFORT--TEXTURE of LOVE. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (509) 997-2787 for more information on possible upcoming classes.