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A homegrown festival for all things Green
Kitsap’s inaugural Eco Tour, combined with an eco-themed Home and Garden Show, a kid-friendly Eco-Village and even Eco Elvis all slated for this weekend on Bainbridge Island.
“Do you think this is too much green?” Eco-tour organizer Elizabeth Gadbois leans in to ask me.
She has just handed me three sheets of event information, packed to the gills with all things green, from greenhouses to green building practices, solar panels to watersheds, electric cars and “un-driver’s licenses,” all slated for three different events across Bainbridge Island this weekend.
She’s worried that too much “green” might turn people away, worried that all the eco-speak might make folks blue in the face. Which is valid, given that words like “sustainable” and “going green” are catch phrases that have become borderline cliche, if they’ve not already overstayed their welcome. But the eco-speak that might conjure images of tree huggers or new age hippies is becoming more the status quo.
More importantly, perhaps, it has become a rally cry.
“Anymore, it’s the exception if you’re not using green building practices,” award-winning, sustainable practicing Bainbridge Island architect Matthew Coates noted.
“But at the end of the day,” he added, “I still don’t think we’re doing enough. We have to stop being less bad and start being good ... we need to start giving more back than we take, for a long period of time. Even though this house goes 90 percent further than typical homes ... it’s still not enough.”
It is, however, a step in the right direction. A step that’s being taken by more builders, and homeowners, to the point of community festivals being created around the topic.
Coates is one of more than a half-dozen architects who make up Bainbridge Island’s inaugural Eco Tour — slated for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 8 — in conjunction with an eco-themed Home and Garden show March 7 at Woodward Middle School.
The Eco-Tour is an event akin to the annual studio tours held by groups of artists around the region each year, only instead of artwork, sustainable building practices are what’s on exhibit. Stops on the Eco-Tour include Grace Episcopal Church, Bloedel Reserve and the Vineyard Lane Project, in addition a retrofit private residence, the solar panel project at Sakai Intermediate School and one of Coates’ newest projects, a Madrona Avenue residence that is targeted for the prestigious LEED Platinum Designation.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is a points-based system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998 as a green building rating system.
“To put it simply it’s the measuring stick for the greenest of practices,” Coates said.
There are silver, gold and platinum LEED designations (with platinum being the greenest) and Coates’ Madrona Avenue residence, currently under construction, is targeted to become one of, if not the first LEED Platinum designated buildings in Kitsap County.
That thought conjures up images of a space-age, state-of -the-art building covered in solar panels being built by unheard of practices and an army of specially skilled craftsman. But in reality, it looks like an average construction site. It’s actually quite simple.
While the Madrona residence will have all the green bells and whistles, like plans for a green roof, photo-voltaic solar panels, a solar and geo-heated hot water system and rainwater reservoir beneath the drive way, most of the practices which give the project its targeted LEED platinum designation seem like no-brainers.
It all comes down to cognizance, discipline and dedication.
“Being green is not just one big decision,” Gadbois noted. “It’s thousands of little decisions that you have to make throughout the day. It’s kind of like going on a diet.”
“We start from Day One,” Coates said. “We evaluate what kind of conditions to we have and how do we make the best choices from here on out.”
For the Madrona Avenue residence, Coates said, they started with an old 1930s-era house on the property in need of demolition. But rather than bulldoze the structure and haul the debris off to the dump, Coates and crew opted to have the building deconstructed by hand with the focus on recycling.
“People said, ‘You’re crazy, you can’t do that, you’re going to lose your shirt with what that will cost,” Coates said. “But I felt very strongly we could do better.”
Which they did. Coates said they wound up saving 97 percent of the materials from being taken to the dump and actually ended up saving the owners a couple thousand dollars by re-using what materials they could on site.
From that point, it comes down to a series of environmentally concious decisions that had to made, and paid for. While green building practices may certainly be no-brainers for some, they are also not cheap. Estimates are, collectively, these type of sustainable building practices can add up to 10 percent onto the total building cost.
“It isn’t too complicated, but it is expensive,” said James O’Connor, another leading local architect whose Vineyard Lane Project is featured on the Eco-Tour.
O’Connor’s been working with solar technologies since the 70s and has seen the ebb and flow of technological advancements in the field, dictated largely by popular demand.
When the gas crisis hit in 1974, he estimated that 90 percent of the people coming to their offices were asking about soil. As the crisis died down so did the interest in solar. Now it’s back up and accompanied by an interest in all things green.
“The technology is improving and as it does, the prices will come down,” O’Connor said. “The more people have an interest in it, that’s when evolution gets a push.”
ALL THINGS GREEN WEEKEND
• The “Going Green” themed Home & Garden Show, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 7 at Woodward Middle School, 9125 Sportsman Club Road, free, featuring a host of energy efficient speakers and architect Matthew Coates talking about “dealing with change.”
• Eco-Elvis, an environmentally friendly Elvis impersonator from Kansas City singing tunes like “Viva Las Vegans” and “Compost Hotel” at 7 p.m. March 7 at the Island Music Guild, 10598 Valley Road on Bainbridge. $10 for adults, $5 for kids. Info: www.ecoelvis.com.
• Eco-Village, an interactive, kid-friendly green trade show, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 8 at Sakai Intermediate School, featuring Sakai’s solar panel project, a Seattle Tilth puppet show, un-drivers licenses and more. Free.
• Bainbridge Island’s inaugural Eco-Tour featuring green buildings and sustainable gardens by leading local architects and designers 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 8 throughout Bainbridge. Tickets are $10 per person or $25 for a car (with up to four passengers).
• For full schedules and more info, go to www.bainbridgechamber.com.