We won’t get too much into the “before” of this story. we can -The beauty of Bainbridge Island in 1968 has stood steadfastly for half a century as a classic of design, craftsmanship and the Pacific Northwest itself – but it is “beyond” that weaves inspiring threads of connection, comfort, nature, sustainability and Homepage In a harmonious dwelling unparalleled on the planet.
This unparalleled ‘after’ is called Loom House, the first renovated home Anywhere To achieve the full Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification, which means it has met seven very strict core criteria – ‘petals’ – for sustainability: place, energy, water, health and happiness, materials, equality, and beauty. (Heron Hall, also in Bainbridge—obviously an island of forward-thinking building and living—is also LBC-certified, but built from scratch.)
Equally important, only Loom House is inhabited by Karen Hest and Todd Vogel, who purchased this “loved and cared for, but not updated” home (originally designed by Northwest architect Hal Moldstad), whose renovation he consciously envisioned For energy-efficiency-and in the wake of happiness, set the stratospheric level of green living that has enriched their daily existence, and can (should) inspire a global renewal revolution.
“When we knew we were going to do a renovation, we wanted it to be as green as possible. But we didn’t know what was possible,” Hest says. “We realized there were a lot of standards, and we thought, ‘Well, standards are great, because if you meet one, people will hear about it, and hopefully things will pass. Then we learned about LBC…and although it sounded like a tough tape, we thought, “This would be useful and effective as a tool if we used it.” We were excited from the start.”
That was huge. (But their stunningly groundbreaking home isn’t: 3,200 square feet divided between a southern main house, northern guest house, and office space, connected by an expansive, striking outdoor deck.)
“The No. 1 secret to the success of the Living Building is the commitment of the owner. That’s all there is to it,” says architect Chris Hellstern, director of LBC services at Miller Hull Partnership (the company behind the LBC-certified Bullitt Center in Seattle). “I think this project got approved because the owners were really invested. I don’t know you can go through this process with the people who have been ‘talked to’.”
As Hust and Vogel eagerly deepen their understanding of LBC and their relationship to the home and the underlying nature around it (all while documenting the historic project, and the depth of their commitment, on their wonderful blog), Hellstern and the team come together to make it happen – Clark Construction Inc. , interior designer Charlie Hellstern (married to Chris), Ann James Landscape Architects, plus a healthy handful of engineers and consultants—worked on growing the petals.
Clark Construction’s Justin Ansley of Clark Construction – the original structure (all wood, no Sheetrock) “appeared in good and bad ways” – high-quality wood, handcrafted craftsmanship, and general architectural “bones”: good. Oddly small rooms, asbestos stains, abundance of bunk beds but no real entrance: not quite as much. “It was a real challenge figuring out how to backfill and create a narrow, modern, energy-efficient building, but because of that, the superstructure is still there, and that’s a lot of the look that everyone loves so much.”
When those unloved dividing walls fell, Vogel recalls, Ansley pulled out a piece of wood and said, “That’s the first growth. I couldn’t buy a piece of wood that strong. Then he turns around to find a place to use it in the wall. First, that’s great for reuse, and second.” It helps us understand what is going on behind the walls and gives us a connection to the love and care that people put into building this place.”
By itself, building by renovation, rather than shoveling and rebuilding, is like gardening with starter plants rather than seeds: you get a good start toward something beautiful green. “There’s clearly an embodied carbon benefit to that, and Todd and Karen have reaped that,” says Chris Hellstern. “We certainly see that as we’re reusing materials, we don’t have to make new products out of plastic. Also fewer chemicals of concern. So overall, from the point of view of materials and reducing global warming, it can be really beneficial from an environmental point of view.” ”
The Loom House also flourished in a showcase of renewed design—with new insulation; correct ventilation, lighting and climate control; Triple windows an underground cistern that captures enough water to be self-sufficient all year round; new garage for charging electric cars; red list of chemical-free furniture, furnishings and building materials; 16 kWh of photovoltaic panels; Backup battery system instead of a peace disturbing generator; Life-affirming nature is everywhere – the benefits multiplied. Even after all the accolades and accolades the Loom House has received.
Financially and environmentally, Hust and Vogel happily collect checks from the energy company at the end of the year. “It’s great to feel that we are able to harvest enough energy that we can be a part of the community but not necessarily take in more than we need,” Hust says. (Vogel reports that their biggest utility bill is for their cell phones.)
Spiritually and ecologically, Hust says, “The proportions of space and beautiful furniture definitely help reduce stress levels. She has spaces that suit us, and the systems work so well, that it becomes a pleasure to be here.” Vogel adds: “In the surroundings, we’re really comfortable, in terms of air temperature and that kind of thing. But also, we have a connection to nature with our house, and we’ve already seen that there’s somewhere we go to explore here, to get out into that space and do that exploration in itself. It reduces stress.”
Always, it all comes back to nature. And this harmonious house. and its critical “after-effects”.
“We were kind of shocked that we were moving here to be near our niece,” Vogel says. “And what does it mean to move here to be near our niece and build a house in a way that has set her future on fire?”