Bainbridge Island shows off its Earth-friendliest homes

In today’s Sun, I profiled two Bainbridge homes featured on the lineup of this Sunday’s green buildings tour. One home, on Yeomalt Point, is aiming for the “greenest of green” designations: the coveted LEED platinum rating, according to its architect Matthew Coates (pictured above).

The other home, on the island’s northeast end, has taken a more subdued, traditional approach to green design.

The tour is part of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce’s two-day Green Festival. A home and garden show is happening tomorrow, as is a performance by Eco Elvis (don’t ask me).

You can read my story about the green-built houses below. See a photo gallery of one of the homes here.

With its bare frame sitting amid mud and wood piles, architect Matthew Coates admits his grand vision isn’t much to look at now.

But by late summer, when the geothermal system is pumping and the solar panels are humming, the house on Yeomalt Point will have taken green building to its deepest shade.

“We’re not cutting corners,” Coates said. “It’ll be the greenest of the green.”

Coates, a Bainbridge architect specializing in earth-friendly design, is aiming for LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Only a handful of other houses in the state have earned the council’s top residential designation, and all except Coates’ project are in Seattle.

Design rendering for the Yeomalt Point home
Design rendering for the Yeomalt Point home

Commonly referred to by its acronym, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification rates buildings through a series of checklists.

Buildings earn points for energy efficiency, water conservation, levels of construction waste and other criteria.

The Yeomalt Point home is one of five buildings featured in a sustainable design tour on Sunday. Part of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce’s two-day Green Festival, the tour will highlight the designs of two homes, a condo development, a church and a public school.

One of the things that makes Coates’ home so green is its geothermal heating system.

Taking advantage of year-round 60 degree temperatures about six feet underground, the system will serve as the primary source of heat for rooms and water. Other heating sources can add a touch more warmth in the winter, but the house won’t need much thanks to triple-pained windows and nook-and-cranny-crowding soy foam insulation, Coates said.

Other features that lessen the 2,400-square-foot home’s impact on the environment include a rain catchment system for non-potable uses, a roof deck planted with drought-resistant plants and a four-kilowatt solar power system that is expected to produce 40 percent of the home’s energy.

Capped with solar panels and built with plenty of concrete and glass, the Yeomalt house’s aesthetic fits its forward-thinking approach. But not all green homes are as easy to peg.

“One of the best compliment I ever got: ‘It doesn’t look like a granola home,'” said Molly McCabe, standing in the north island home she designed with island architect Miles Yanick.

“There’s nothing unusual or super high-tech about this home,” Yanick added. “It uses nothing (but) common sense and appropriate knowledge.”

In McCabe’s case, common sense directed her to reuse, donate or sell much of the modular home that she and her husband and two kids had been living in.

Poor ventilation and insulation had led to high heating bills and a black mold problem McCabe blames for a bout of adult-onset asthma.

She had the 30-year-old house stripped down to its structural skeleton in 2006. Much of what was added back was either reused from the previous structure or purchased with sustainability in mind.

The former house was made up of 46,500 pounds of material; only 4,000 of that went to the landfill.

Old cabinets, sinks and doors were reinstalled into the new structure. A fallen tree and a kitchen countertop were combined to form a coffee table. An old window seat forms the base of new bookshelf. Much of the roof now tops a house in Seabeck. The remaining roofing material keeps Yanick’s chickens dry. Untreated wood was donated to Helpline House for use in stoves, and broken tile was snatched up by a teacher for use in art projects.

McCabe upgraded the house with cork flooring, carpets made of recycled materials and paints that don’t degrade air quality. Her asthma symptoms, she noted proudly, haven’t returned.

The home’s greenest features are largely unseen, Yanick said.

“We focused on the envelope,” Yanick said. “Using recycled countertops and (sustainably harvested) wood is nice, but 90 percent of what makes a building green happens during the first 10 percent of construction.”

Yanick said the house derives substantial energy efficiency from soy foam insulation, a radiant floor heating system and a 16-inch thick roof.

With repurposing, reselling and a bit of sweat equity thrown in, McCabe and Yanick estimate that the rebuilt home costs about the same as if they had bulldozed the old building and constructed a conventional house of about the same size.

The Yeomalt house will come at a sizable premium compared to other houses of its size. But Coates believes its energy-saving and energy-producing elements will reward the owner with cost savings over time.

“There’s more on the bottom line than dollars,” he said. “There’s the health and safety of the people living there, and the responsibility of living in an environmentally-conscious way. When you add that all in, suddenly the equation is a no-brainer.”

Bainbridge Green Festival
The Bainbridge Green Festival begins Saturday with a home and garden show at Woodward Middle School from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The green building tour on Sunday begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. For more information on these and other festival activities, visit or call (206) 842-3700.

2 thoughts on “Bainbridge Island shows off its Earth-friendliest homes

  1. For those interested in seeing the house again before the walls are covered up, we are working with the Chamber of Commerce, (Bainbridge Island), to provide a second open-house style tour.

    Thank you for the opportunity and for your interest in this project.
    Matthew Coates, Architect

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