It's So Trendy Building Green

by Jessica Wambach

Yakima Herald Republic

The wood that Steve Weise used to build his newest house has seen better days.

He has turned the rubble of the three story Hollingbery & Son Inc. Fruit warehouse that burned to the ground in Yakima in September 2000 into one of the finest features of his latest spec home.

"All of the wood - the floor, trim, beams - is out of the Hollingbery warehouse" he says.

Several years ago, Weise pulled the charred logs from a landfill not far from his building site on a hill that overlooks the Cowich Valley. He used a pressure washer to peel off the bleakest spots and had the logs precessed into usable lumber at the mill in Tacoma.

It was a nice fit for his project - it looks good, it was cheap and it saved a few trees.

The green house, as these energy efficient homes are called, represents a new concept in construction that's spreading around the world.

In fact, over the past few years the movement has been slowly catching on in Yakima, says Brad Taylor, a Yakima attorney who is the vice president of the Central Washington Home Builders Association.

"From what we can see, it's a trend that is moving into Eastern Washington from Western Washington," Taylor said.

Saturday at the Home and Garden Show at the Yakima Valley Sun Dome, Taylor will take part in a presentation about a new green building project he is working on with developers from the Suncadia resort in Kittitas Valley. By the end of May, the group hopes to have a prototype green home that will have all of the environment-friendly bells and whistles.

"It's not the mud hut and straw built structure that one might think of," Taylor said.

They're simply designed to save energy and minimize construction waste.

The greenest homes feature systems for recycling water that falls into storm drains and are sometimes insulated with straw and other natural materials.

People who build less-green homes focus more on minimizing disturbing nature at the construction site and using nontoxic paints and cleaners.

"You've got some people who won't buy anything unless it can be recycled, then you've got others that don't give a darn," says Weise, who doesn't fancy himself an environmentalist, although he did build his own home from logs he recovered from a decaying cabin.

"I am more into building a home that fits the environment" he says. "I would rather use an old log than a new log just because they're cool and they look better."

And for those who share his taste, Yakima Valley Partners Habitat for Humanity offers ReStore, a thrift store for building materials on Meade Avenue.

People in the market for everything from used doors to nails can purchase what others have donated. Proceeds go to Habitat's housing programs and other projects.

Michael Nixon, executive director of the Yakima branch of the national organization, says ReStore has doubled its volume over the last three years as more people start building with conservation in mind.

Green building is also a great way for nonprofits to secure grant funding for housing programs, Nixon says.

"You get extra credit in your application," he says.