Green from the Ground Up

Green from the Ground Up

Above Southern Oregon University's campus in Ashland lies an eclectic neighborhood that clings to the side of a foothill, serving up awesome views of the southern Cascade Mountains.

Fred Gant had been eyeing a parcel in the area for some time. A former builder specializing in solar design, Fred thought the cottage on the lot would be a good rental investment. He purchased the lot in 1999, outfitted the cottage with solar and found his first tenants, all the while searching for the perfect place to build his own home.

Five years later, he discovered he had already found it.

"I was building a spec house near where our cottage is, and we started getting to know the neighbors, who are great," Gant recalls. "That's when I started thinking about building there."

Fred began designing his 2,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath house in 2005; finished in 2006, it has become one of Rogue Valley's premier green homes.

"This is the first home I've built for myself, and you can see all the things I learned and felt were important from the 15 other homes I've built," says Gant, now a consultant and field sales representative for Earth Advantage, a group that certifies green-built homes.

To comply with Ashland's hillside ordinance, Gant designed a pagoda-style home with cascading walls to follow the sloping land. A daylight basement, accessed from street level, houses a double garage and fully furnished apartment that Gant uses as his Earth Advantage office. The main-floor terrace sits on top of the basement, creating space for outdoor living and a container garden for Gant's wife, Jeanne LeGrand. A master suite occupies the home's top tier. Extended eaves on every level complete the Japanese look while providing shade from summer sun, which is important for energy-efficiency.

"Everyone was happy that the roof didn't block views, which helps keep property values up," says Gant. Harmonious design that works with, not against, the overall neighborhood is part of the green-building philosophy.

"We also tried to bring in Feng Shui, adding extra energy to the entry with the barrel vault, warm colors and Oriental feel," Gant says. The curved, vaulted ceiling is the first clue of Gant's love affair with wood.

"I have my own little bone yard," he admits. "Lots of little gems that we were able to work into this house." A redwood pony wall separating the living room from the kitchen was salvaged from a fence job; the redwood lintels and parting beads on all window and door casings were formerly part of a deck; and the Douglas fir casings themselves, along with all the home's baseboards, were once bleachers in a local school's gymnasium.

To optimize views, Gant built large windows into every room of the open floor plan. A window seat on the living room's east wall is a favorite resting place while three south-facing openings allow for passive-solar heat gain. In the southwest corner, a sun room (entered through two salvaged French doors Gant transformed into a slider) offers privacy, bleacher-board plant shelves and interior, single-pane windows that bring natural light to the stairwell.

"Showers from the sun" come compliments of a solar water heater installed on the living-room roof. "We proudly turn our conventional water heater off in May and can make it into October before turning it back on," says Gant.

Economical birch and alder cabinets outfit the open kitchen; a remnant piece of black granite becomes a luxe surface for the L-shaped peninsula. The vaulted ceiling with a skylight for venting, Energy Star appliances and a hand-me-down pendant light over the sink (made by Red Oak Glass in Central Point) complete the room's eco-consciousness.

Two sliders in the dining room open onto the terrace with views of Grizzly Peak. LeGrand, a stitcher at Oregon Shakespeare Festival who also owns ComeBack Clothing, made the window treatments using Warm Window brand materials.

"It has four layers of insulation for an R-value of 7.69 and magnetic strips for total sealing around the edges," says LeGrand, who purposely left the dining-room curtains long so they pool on the floor, creating an additional seal against outdoor elements. "And I like that you can choose your own fabrics."

Chemical-free, Forest Stewardship Council-certified, manufactured ash flooring hides a hydronic heating system. A super-efficient gas boiler in the basement heats water, which is then pushed through in-floor pipes, delivering radiant heat throughout the home.

"We felt we wouldn't need cooling because a green home is designed to protect from and wisely use the sun," explains Gant. "The extended eaves, well-placed windows and extra insulation keep us comfortable, even in the heat of summer."

Gant chose building materials with indoor air quality in mind — natural ceramic tiles, wool carpet and paint with little or no volatile organic compounds. "Miller and Rodda both make a good, affordable, low-VOC paint," he says.

A centrally located vacuum system further sweeps pollutants, including dander from the couple's dog and two cats.

The entry's arches are echoed in the hall, where Gant repurposed a custom mill end to create another of the home's custom curves. Over the sunroom doors is another artistic touch — a striking transom window commissioned from Canterbury Stained Glass in Ashland.

A four-door pantry, powder room, coat closet and Jeanne's sewing studio are entered from the hallway; at the end, a door opens onto the west-facing backyard, fully shaded to block hot sun. The stairwell plant shelf leading to the lower level camouflages 13-inch-wide, insulated concrete form blocks that are used as the home's foundation.

Upstairs, his-and-hers closets are tucked under a 7-foot ceiling that gives way to a 12-foot-pitched, cedar-lined vault ceiling. Two huge view windows on the east wall and a north-facing fresh-air intake provide great ventilation.

Comfort meets conservation in the master bath, where a radiant floor heat loop keeps the walk-in shower warm through the winter, a custom back splash adds a personal touch and a two-flush, low-flow toilet meets standards for LEED, the U.S. Green Building Council's green-building rating system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

"We went through the Earth Advantage checklist to identify all the features in a green home and to help analyze how to use them," says Gant. "There are over 100 measures in all, from the foundation up."

The result of the couple's forward-thinking efforts is inspiring — a beautiful, bountiful, locally sourced abode.

"Green building is a long-lasting solution," says Gant. "I hope this house will be here long after I'm gone."

To learn more about Earth Advantage, go online to www.earthadvantage.org. To reach Gant at his Southern Oregon Earth Advantage office, call 541-324-2902 or e-mail fgant@earthadvantage.org.

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