David Fisse of Northwest Design is all about building green, and this summer he has won the awards to prove it.
Fisse received national recognition from the American Institute of Building Design at the American Residential Design Awards, presented July 11 in Portland. He won first place in the sustainable category for a house he built on Timberlake Drive in Ashland, and he took home another first place in the "Unbuilt design 2,500 square feet and under" category for a model he designed for a future eco-housing development in Medford.
Locally, Fisse's model also won the professional scale model category of the Green Building Awards, sponsored by Sustainable Living Programs and awarded at the Oregon Green Expo July 3-5 in Medford.
Fisse also garnered the greenest home award at the Expo, but the award was later rescinded because somebody contested it, he said.
Contest organizer Shelley Lotz said the greenest home results were thrown out after some of the contestants complained about the judging.
Winners were determined by a combination of the judges' opinions and popular vote, she said. The judges visited the homes, but one house wasn't available for viewing, she said. Everyone who came to the expo received a ballot, but the homes' photos weren't all displayed properly, she said.
"The judging wasn't controlled enough. The criteria wasn't specific enough," she said. "It wasn't meant to be anything serious. It was meant to promote green building. We decided to throw out the results and just showcase the homes."
Fisse designed his house seven years ago with sustainability in mind, he said.
"The green design is where you have to start," said Fisse, who has been designing homes in the Rogue Valley since 1981.
This involves considering aspects such as how close the house is to public transportation, how to build without cutting down trees, the geology of the land and the availability of sun for solar heating and power, he said.
"You're using a combo of design ideas of where to put a house with the least disturbance," he said. "It's a matter of placement."
Then it's time to take the supplies into account, aiming for nontoxic materials that are recycled or produced with as little carbon footprint as possible, he said. The materials available are always changing, he added.
"Even in the last seven years, in the last seven minutes, green is still evolving," he said. "From this year to the next, how green are you if you don't keep up?"
Fisse built the 960-square-foot house with balloon framing, a form of construction that uses less material and results in a sturdier structure, he said.
Tall ceilings and an open floor plan give the home a roomy feeling and, combined with the cupola and ceiling fan, allow for air circulation — there's no air conditioning. An extended overhang keeps the hot summer sun from streaming in, and large recycled windows and the cupola let in natural light, he said.
In the winter, a hydronically heated floor (hot water circulating beneath the floor) and a woodstove keep the house warm. Last winter, Fisse used the woodstove for both cooking and heating, and his power bill stayed under $36 a month, he said.
He plans to install photovoltaic panels on the deck and put in a solar water heater (backed up by gas) to supply hot water and heat the hydronic floor.
Meanwhile, Fisse used his house as a blueprint to design a model for the Medford subdivision, Experiment Station Green Homes.
The model incorporates many of the same features, Fisse said, with the addition of another cooling feature: recycled drain water from the house Will be sprayed on the roof to keep it cool.
Jerry Peterson, the subdivision's developer, said the emphasis will be on "green" — using renewable energy and avoiding toxic materials. Other goals include having the homes ADA-certified on the first floor and building a co-housing community.
Peterson said he also hopes to have the homes run on an automation system — such as controls measuring the inside and outside temperatures and turning on the roof cooling system or opening clerestory windows.
Site preparation will likely begin this summer, and then Peterson plans to build the model house to fine-tune the green features before starting construction on the other homes in four or five years, he said.
The design of a green home is important in order to use natural light and thermal heat, he said.
"I wasn't surprised, but I was surprised," Peterson said about the ARDA award, since Fisse had put a lot of time and effort into the design.
Going green just makes more sense, Fisse said.
Green building costs about 10 percent more than conventional construction, but it's healthier for the building's inhabitants and better for the environment, he said. Plus, sustainable building may add to a home's value; Fisse has heard reports that green houses are selling for 4 to 13 percent more than conventional homes, he said.
"To me, it's kind of like a no-brainer," Fisse said. "Why not build green and healthy?"
Reach Kira Rubenthaler at 482-3456 ext. 225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Sustainable Ashland