The Tour That Sparked My Interest in Net-Zero Building

What: The 2014 Northwest Green Home Tour

When: Saturday, April 26, 11am – 5pm

Where: 47 homes and commercial sites throughout the greater Seattle region

Info and map:

Tickets: Free event, no tickets required. Official tour program printed in Seattle Natural Awakenings magazine

Since last January, I’ve been hard at work organizing the 2014 NW Green Home Tour, but my history with the event starts much earlier than that.

Back in 2011, shortly after Alex and I moved to Seattle, we saw a sign on the street for the tour while we were taking a walk. We were looking for building ideas at the time and wandered into a beautiful 100+ year-old home that the owners had substantially renovated and insulated to the point where their solar panels almost produced all their power. This was still a somewhat novel concept for us at the time, and it  helped inspire us to build our own net-zero-energy house a few blocks away.

In fact, the next year our house was complete, and we had made the last-minute decision to include a full PV array in our construction loan and target net-zero ourselves. I got involved as a volunteer with the tour, and it eventually occurred to me to try to give something back to the Seattle community by putting our own house on the tour. Another nearby resident, Becky Chan, toured our house that year and eventually went on to hire our builder, Ted Clifton, to substantially renovate her own fixer-upper house into a modern net-zero-energy home, which, you guessed it, she put on the tour to inspire yet more potential home builders and renovators to take on the net-zero goal.

Sure enough, Ted Clifton is back this year with another net-zero house, this one designed to power not only itself but the owners’ electric car. Another impressively renovated home on this year’s tour does the same.

Last year, the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild and Built Green hired me and a colleague at Sustainable Ballard, Jenny Heins, to organize the tour. It’s been a ton of work, much more than I had anticipated, but an honor and a pleasure to organize such a fantastic event.

If you live in the Seattle area, I hope you’ll consider touring some homes on Saturday. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next to continue the virtuous cycle of taking inspiration from what you see and building your own net-zero house.

We’re also still looking for about five volunteers, and we’d appreciate your help. More info.


NW Green Home Tour