• Green and comfortable

    Wash. state couple's home is a lesson in sustainability
  • SEATTLE — Before she got into the construction business 41 years ago, Donna Shirey was a teacher.
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  • SEATTLE — Before she got into the construction business 41 years ago, Donna Shirey was a teacher.
    Turns out, she still is.
    "Our first project with SIPs was in 1987," says Shirey, co-founder of Shirey Handyman & Remodeling, discussing the benefits of building with structural insulated panels. "The first show we ever did was the Tacoma Home Show in 1987. People said to us, 'You're gonna put foam in houses? I read about that in Popular Science.' "
    The Shireys, Donna and her husband, Riley, have long believed that sustainable building is smart building. And in 2005 they decided to go for it: build the greenest, most affordable, healthy, comfortable and quiet home possible on the shore of Lake Sammamish in Bellevue, Wash. The Shireys would be their own client, and they would open the house to anybody who wanted to come have a look, from construction to completion.
    Its sustainable credentials are many: photovoltaic panels, solar hot water, tankless water heater, hydronic radiant heating, heat-recovery ventilator, living roof, recycled-content tile, salvaged-wood flooring, metal roof, local materials, rainwater collection using a 3,000-gallon cistern, small footprint, wind turbine, 5-star Built Green rating. More.
    "We had 3,500 people come through, and that's not including groups," Shirey says brightly, sitting in the golden kitchen of their 1,630-square-foot home, a little bit country, a little bit contemporary and designed by architect David Clinkston. "Riley thinks the lookie-loos added three months to the process."
    The more the merrier, is how they look at it. Why, Shirey (who's fond of such construction bon mots as "build tight; ventilate right," and "use built-ins, not furniture") has lived all of her years in a sustainable frame of mind.
    "My parents went through the Depression; my dad was a butcher in Cleveland. We saved and recycled everything," she says. "You never knew what you were going to need."
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