Earth-Friendly Homes

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April 22, 2005 | Business Section | By Toby Mantheny

Architect’s environmentally conscious work earns recognition.

Nathan Good remembers a time when his projects included a $20 million, 36,000 square-foot bachelor pad in Boulder, Colo.
Good, a Salem architect who pursued undergraduate architecture studies in California during the 1970s energy crisis as well as in energy-conscious Denmark, found the wasteful use of space a cultural shock.

“We did a lot of energy-efficient things in that home, but there was something fairly absurd about it,” he said.

Good’s current focus promises to be truly green: consulting on or designing small, energy-efficient homes, even for wealthy people who have the means to build bigger.

The most notable example is a 2,268-square-foot home in Cannon Beach designed to produce more energy than it consumes and minimize its environmental impact. The home recently won Good the most prestigious award of his career: The National Association of Home Builders’ 2005 Custom Green Home of the Year.

Good, who has designed or worked as a consultant on projects, including a winery for the Gallo family and structures for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, says the amount of news coverage resulting from the award is becoming embarrassing.

“But that was the point of that home -to change the market,” he said.

In November, Good was listed as one of “25 green-building leaders in the Northwest” by the Sustainable Industries Journal.

Friends such as Mike O’Brien, a green-building specialist in Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development, say that Good’s environmentally conscious work deserves the attention.

“With Nathan, there’s a kind of beauty that arises with integrity,” O’Brien said.

The Cannon Beach home inspired O’Brien and his wife to ask Good to design a smaller, 1,580 square-foot home for them. The couple, in their early 60s, is looking for a smaller home and to limit their use of cars. Good is working with the couple on a northeast Portland home about a block from a Max light-rail line.

Beside the O’Briens’ home, Good is working with developer Don Myers of Sustainable Development Inc. on about 22 “net-zero” homes as part of the 32-acre Pringle Creek Community, a first stage of the mixed use Fairview project in southeast Salem. Road and utility work on the Pringle Creek project is scheduled to begin this summer, Good said.

The project should allow people of more modest means than owners of the Cannon Beach vacation house to afford an environmentally friendly home. Owners of the homes will be able to purchase environmental features “a la carte,” with the goal of them ultimately producing as much energy as they use up. Among other features, the homes will be staggered on a hill to take advantage of Salem’s strong southern breezes to air them out and increase air quality.

Good likely will have a personal stake in Pringle Creek.

He plans to put an office there and hopes one of his adult sons, who has Down syndrome, will be able to own a cottage there. In that way, Good said, the project could be seen as a natural progression for Fairview, which in the past was the site of a home for people with mental or developmental disabilities.

“There’s something poetic about that coming back around,” he said.

Environmentally friendly housing is becoming more mainstream than in the 1970s, in part because architects are designing beautiful homes that are also “green,” Good said.

“The solar homes didn’t sell. People didn’t want to live in home with these freakish slopes.”

Good, who still works as a consultant for large companies such as the multi-national CH2M Hill, says he’s more satisfied designing small homes at his small Salem company than when he worked in Boulder on mammoth projects at the 12-person firm he owned.

O’Brien thinks designing small takes more skill.

“You have to squeeze in a maximum of serviceability and livability,” he said.

The reason Good has attracted such attention, he said, is because he combines aesthetics with efficiency. This, O’Brien believes, will make them last for generations.

“Buildings don’t survive because they’ve got a glossy kitchen,” he said. “They survive because people fall in love with them.