This page is a list of some of the techniques and products that have been used in the Methow Valley to build in a sustainable manner. Click on [ More Info ] for a very brief discussion, or for more information, about the selected technique/s or products—please refer to references, or browse the web, for a fuller discussion. New topics and products will be added to this page from time to time-to-time—check back occasionally.
Products & Materials—A list of some of the products and materials that have been used, or could be used, to build sustainably in the Methow (suppliers names are also included).
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Design Approach and Building Envelope (or Shell)—The Envelope or Shell is what gives the house its form. It’s what you see when you look at the house from the outside: walls, roof, etc. Design, in this context, refers less to aesthetic approaches, than to the house's placement on the site, it's size, and special site considerations that were either required, or desired, by the owners.
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Heating, Cooling, and Indoor Air Quality—Beyond orienting the house to take advantage of passive solar heating, using the correct amount of overhang for the eaves to prevent excessive summer heating, insulating well beyond code minimums, and placing windows properly, there a number of techniques that can reduce heating/cooling bills, and your carbon footprint. "Annualized geothermal", heat pumps, and radiant heating systems are a few. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important consideration in a tightly sealed house; heat exchangers, and whole house ventilation systems are part of designing a healthful house.
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Plumbing—Water availability, and its wise use, are growing issues in the Methow Valley. Using low-flow fixtures are mandated by code, but sustainable methods go far beyond this minimal requirement. Designing in solar hot water, building in gray-water systems, installing composting toilets, and creating cisterns to store rain water are a few examples. Another concern is to avoid the use of PVC piping by replacing it with safer alternatives (PEX, where applicable, for example).
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Electric Generation and Conservation—Most houses are simply connected to the electric grid, but some or all of the electricity can be self-generated by using photovoltaic (PV) panels, water, and/or wind. Reducing the amount of electricity your house uses, by using CFL's, and "Energy Star" rated appliances for example, is another facet.
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Windows—The number, placement, and type (fixed, casement, double-hung, etc.), and construction of windows are important considerations in building a sustainable house. Some of these may be largely a matter of preference, but others, like how the windows are constructed (number of panes, low-e coatings, and U-values, etc.), and their placement, can significantly affect the comfort and efficiency of a house.
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Insulation—Understanding insulation is critical in the building of a sustainable house. Along with the size and solar orientation, the type, and amount of insulation you chose will significantly determine the energy efficiency and comfort of your house. R-value, and the new Dynamic R-value ("Whole wall R-value"), are important to understand, but there other considerations, including ecological and health considerations.
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