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I've been waiting a long time for this moment, the moment when I can show all my fellow Kossacks what it takes to build green. This past year my mother has been working hard building her green house. She bought a piece of land on the Washington Peninsula, hired a green designer and a contractor who wanted to get more involved with green building. It has been a long, expensive and sometimes frustrating process. Whatever setbacks my mother faced while building green, it really was all worth it in the end. Follow me below the fold to find pictures, pricing and maybe some features you've never heard of!

Down to the Bones

My mother used FSC certified lumber; FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. FSC respects indigenous people living on the land. Lumber producers certified by FSC makes sure to conserve biological diversity, water resources, soils, and fragile ecosystems and landscapes. FSC makes sure to monitor the environmental and social impact, and they also enhance the social and economic well being of workers and the local communities. The cabinets and doors were also made from FSC lumber. Here's a pic of the FSC certified lumber:

FSC Lumber

My mother used formaldehyde free insulation, but the trick to saving energy with the insulation is to have the insulation blown in. Having blown in insulation gets rid of any air pockets and makes a tighter envelope, saving energy in the long run. The paints and grouts she used were non-toxic (low VOC), which is quite common nowadays.

Solar Tubes

This was a first for me. I never had heard of solar tubes. My mother led me into a bathroom with no windows and pointed at the ceiling. I looked up at what I thought was a light fixture. I was wrong. She installed two solar tubes, that are wrapped in aluminum to better reflect the sun light. It's a great source of light without using any energy. I just think this feature was so cool!

Here is a pic of the solar tubes:

Solar Tube

Dual Flush Toilets

I can't get over this one. There are two settings on the toilet, one to flush pee and one to flush poop. My mother bought two Sterling dual flush toilets, which start around $260 per toilet. For a family of four, one of these toilets could save up to 6,000 gallons of water a year. I strongly suggest people with a little extra cash get rid of their wasteful toilets for one of these Sterling toilets, or another model!

Here's a pic of the flushing mechanism on the toilet:

Dual Flush Toilet

Here's a link to view reviews of a number of dual flush toilets currently on the market:

Using Sustainable Materials

My mother chose to use tiger wood to build her deck. Tiger wood needs no toxic treatments and can last up to fifty years. Tiger wood is more expensive than cedar; however, it lasts longer and doesn't need the treatments like cedar does. Trex is another alternative to cedar or tiger wood; it's made up of recycled materials. Both Trex and tiger wood are more expensive, but in the long run they will pay for themselves. If you have the it! Here's a picture of tiger wood:

Tiger Wood

Instead of using granite counter tops my mother chose to use quartz. While quartz counter tops do use a good amount of energy in production, it is made of silicon which is much more abundant than granite. Plus, quartz does not need any kind of sealing like granite does. Did I mention that quartz is less expensive than granite? There are plenty of green alternatives to granite, and quartz is just one of many. Here's a picture of the quartz counter top:

Quartz Counter Top

My mother chose bamboo flooring for most of the house, except a portion of her downstairs which will have cork flooring (not quite finished with the downstairs). Bamboo flooring does not need any treatments, has a natural sheen to it, and can be grown at a much faster rate than trees. In a green home, people are supposed to avoid carpeting for multiple reasons. Carpet is usually made of synthetic fibers and needs cleaning regularly. My mother discovered a really cool company who makes rugs out of recycled materials. Flor creates carpet squares made out of recycled materials. They are not only inexpensive, but green! Plus, you can mix and match and make the carpet as big or small as you need. My mother has these throughout the house. Here's a picture of one of the rugs on top of the gorgeous bamboo floors:

Recylced Rugs & Bamboo Floors

More Green Features

My mother purchased a flash water heater. Instead of constantly using energy to keep water hot, a flash water heater heats the water as you turn it on. You may think it would take a lot longer, but that's not the case. They may be more expensive than regular water heaters, but you're saving energy and giving mother nature a break!

Oh, the recycled glass. It's really beautiful and awfully expensive. My mother wishes she could have used more of it in her bathroom, but she only used it for decor. It was just too expensive.

My mother had a great time rummaging through thrift stores and used furniture stores. She bought light fixtures, a bathroom vanity, and a sink with fixtures that were all second hand. The downstairs, which isn't quite finished yet will be furnished completely with used furnishings. This is not only the green way to go, but it's also quite a bit cheaper.

All of my mother's appliances are Energy Star appliances. I got a kick out of her refrigerator. I had accidentally left the door slightly open and it sounded an alarm. This way no one leaves their refrigerator door open and you don't waste all the energy that would be used if you left the refrigerator door ajar.

The Features My Mother Could Not Afford

My mother had her house wired for solar panels. The problem was they were out of her price range. To provide the needed energy for an 1800 sq. ft. house, she would have needed to buy a $20,000 system. Her green designer advised her to wait a year or two in hopes that the prices go down. This is one example of how we need serious investments in green building so prices can go down and more people can build green. That's supposed to be the point, right? The other feature my mother wanted to install was fiberglass window frames. Unfortunately, they cost $10,000 more than vinyl frames. Vinyl frames aren't considered green because they aren't a natural material and they give off gas in production. However, she did install double pane windows, to better keep the house warm.

Passive Solar

Passive solar means locating the house to take advantage of natural sunlight. By building your house with the windows facing south and west you naturally warm your house throughout the day. This saves energy, and makes for beautiful sunsets. Here's a picture of how my mother took advantage of the sun's natural warmth:

Check out the view!


A number of posters have stressed concerns about what my mother had to do to the habitat in order to build her home. Let me clarify, her home was built on an empty lot in a community that was already developed in the 60's. There were a total of two trees on the lot. She cut down one tree and incorporated the wood into her home. She went to great lengths to save the other tree. Part of the plan is to have an ADU, an accessory dwelling unit, in the basement which means that she is maximizing living space. Plus, when she gets old and gray and needs her daughter to come and take of her, there will be space!

Originally posted to sarahlane on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 09:39 AM PST.

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