Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Logical Green Building Features for the Northwest

One would presume that building in a cold temperate region such as the Pacific Northwest would create its own genre of traditional architecture. Living in a cold damp climate raises issues with mold inside a house and moss on its roof. It demands that indoor heating is turned on for nearly 9 months of the year and that it is rare that one walks in without bringing in traces of mud. If one was to design for these conditions what elements of a house would naturally emerge? The first three that come to mind are a roof design that either reduced or altogether avoided a north slope -- no moss to clean with toxic chemicals or zinc strips. The second would be a closed foyer. This would help minimize the loss of conditioned air (heated or cooled) from the interior. The last feature would be either a small manual window or a mechanically ventilated opening to bring in a constant, though small, amount of fresh air to reduce the buildup of moisture within the house. Many old homes have a generous porch that does much of the work in keeping mud out, but a foyer does double duty by reducing unnecessary heat (or cooling) loss. Similarly while many old homes are naturally drafty, this uncontrolled loss of heat is more damaging than ventilation that can be initiated and shut when needed. Lastly, modern buildings with flat roofs can altogether avoid the mossy north slope, but for those partial to traditional pitched roofs, try a design where the north face extends vertically to a gable roof ridge to achieve the same results.