For this special installment of “Evergreen homes” — a monthly series of posts in which I break out the geographical bias and spotlight green residential building projects from my home state of Washington — I’m really returning home to that “dusty old jewel in the south Puget Sound” known as the city of Tacoma. The last “Evergreen home” in my native Tacoma that I featured was a green demo house in the city dump, so I thought I’d spotlight much more habitable digs this time around.
Located in Tacoma’s North End in between the Old Town and Stadium business districts, Gillian and John Chappell’s Verdant Home is a solar-powered abode that I blogged about back in the summer of 2009 after the project was completed. I was recently reminded of the 2,400-square-foot custom-built home (hat tip to Re-Nest), so I thought it was high time for a more detailed revisit.
As mentioned, Verdant Home was built as an urban infill project more than two years ago and measured so off the charts in terms of sustainability that the Tacoma-Pierce County Built Green program had to revise its energy system — from three stars to five — to properly classify it.
Builder Duke York, former president of Master Builders Association of Pierce County, told The Tacoma News Tribune in a 2009 profile that “the Chappell’s house was so far off the chart, we needed a new chart.” Gillian Chappell even admits to making some of Duke’s subcontractors cry with her unheard of green building demands. And York explains his reaction when John Chappell laid out their plan of attack to him in an initial interview ..."I looked at him with my head tilted to one side like a puppy looks at you when it doesn’t understand a word you’re saying."
Well, the tears and confusion were well worth it. York and his crew may have been inexperienced in working with some of the home’s more radical green features — most notably, super-insulating Lego-like Rastra wall construction — but the result is a true self-sustaining beauty.
In addition to the Rastra-insulated concrete form (ICF) construction, green highlights of the leak-free, open-planned Verdant Home include a rooftop photovoltaic system that provides the home with all of its electricity needs (the Chappells receive about $500 a year from the city of Tacoma for the surplus juice produced by the home that’s pumped back into the grid); a Brac greywater recycling system along with a whole house water filtration system; energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting; sustainably harvested wood features including eucalyptus hardwood floors and fir beams; recycled-content Squak countertops; and a high-efficiency gas-fueled heating system. Outside, there’s a runoff-preventing driveway, a Trex deck, and a lush rain garden along with vegetable and herb gardens. Oh, and then there’s the classic North End views of Commencement Bay (scroll to bottom of page for that).
In terms of the all-important Walk Score, Verdant Home receives a 66 … not the best (my nearby childhood home scored an 88) but, hey, there’s a Starbucks .39 miles away. Plus, the home is super close to the lovely Garfield Park and there’s a top-notch private school, Annie Wright, basically a block away (the public Stadium High School, forever immortalized in “10 Things I Hate About You” is nearby as well). Recently revitalized downtown Tacoma, the ammenity-heavy Proctor District and one of the nation's largest urban parks, Point Defiance, are a bit further afield.
And get this: Gillian and John Chappell are attempting to sell Verdant Home and build a new residence that Gillian described to me an email as “really, really off the grid.” Verdant House — which was built for upwards of $600,000 — is not listed with an agent but interested parties can contact the Chappells for more information.
For floorplans, an overview of sustainable features, and a photo-filled room-by-room tour of this North End stunner, head on over to the Verdant Home website. I think you'll like what you see.
Is there a notable green residential building project in Washington that you'd liked to see featured in an upcoming installment of "Evergreen Homes?" Tell me about it in the comments section!