PNW healthy home tour

PNW healthy home tour

By Brett Marlo DeSantis         March 2019

What does “being green” really mean these days?

Our modern world is loaded with urban words and catchphrases. According to urban dictionary, we must know certain words to even understand the internet, from awesome sauce and beer me to bromance and crunk. (By the way crunk has multiple meanings, Conan O’Brien’s replacement for curse words, a rap style, crazy/drunk, and something awesome; thought we covered that with awesome sauce.)

Some of the worst culprits of modern day jargon are: engineers, architects, designer and builders, even more so, in the world of green buildings and homes.

You may have heard some of the following catchphrases for energy, water, waste, nature-inspired design and small design: water conservation, energy efficiency, energy retrofits, alternative energy, storm water infiltration, net positive waste, alternative foundations, advanced building envelopes, regenerative design, Biomimicry, the red list, material transparency, regional healthy materials, indoor air quality (IAQ), accessibility, accessory dwelling units (ADUs & DADUs), urban farming, embodied carbon footprints, living buildings, human-powered living, multimodal transportation and more.

If some of these words spark your interest, the easiest way to interpret this jargon will be to go visit green projects.

Lucky for us, the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild puts on a tour of green sites every year. The Northwest Green Home Tour provides opportunities for community members to learn about sustainable building techniques and practices from the people walking the modern day talk; site hosts range from the builders to suppliers to homeowners living it everyday.

Over the weekend of May 4-5th, 11:00am-5:00pm both days in the South Sound, starting on Saturday in Olympia, and taking place the following day in Tacoma. All sites have at least one host if not more. It’s your chance to go pick some green builder brains. Even better, here’s your opportunity to hear from those living in those healthy spaces and their journey of pre-green to going green, and now living green.

It’s free and self-guided and includes healthy homes remodeled or newly constructed in your neck of the woods; from single family homes with small to big remodels, new builds of backyard cottages, tiny home communities to new condominiums and multi-family projects, each project featuring sustainable ways to live in the Pacific Northwest.

Last year’s Olympia sites included: the Swantown Inn, West Central Park Neighborhood Center and West Central Park Project, Calliope Ecological Farmhouse, Marie Bed and Breakfast, and homes such as the South Bay house. This year in Olympia, check out Annie’s Flats, a multi-use building containing 33 one-bedroom apartments and 15 studios, a gallery and commercial space. Other sites include solar installations by South Sound Solar, the Percival Street House, just to name a few.

Last year’s Tacoma sites included: The Environmental Learning Center in Point Defiance Park, LeMay Car Museum, Feast Arts Center, Alma Mater Arts and Community Space, Second Use Building Materials, Second Cycle, City of Tacoma Nursery and residences such as the Bowman house.

This year, the Bowman family opens their home again to showcase energy efficiency through its use of a roof-mounted solar array that integrates with a ductless heat system. This Tacoma family looks forward to sharing their story and lessons learned.

Point Ruston, a waterfront resort-inspired village, is opening its doors as well to show you green condominiums in a mixed-use community. And check out one of the three approved detached accessory dwelling units from the City of Tacoma’s Urban Infill Pilot Program that is going for a BuiltGreen certification.

Speaking of jargon, we’ve got our own PNW urban words: grunge, beard rock, chitzle, mucky-muck, sasquawk northwesternus, pnw drizzle, dissnowpointment (not this year), and certainly live like the mountain is out!

For more information, go to