Recently I ran into a friend from work who I hadn’t seen in almost a year. She asked me what I was up to and I told her we just built a house. She was impressed that we had found land in Seattle to build on and was equally impressed that we had moved to South Seattle. Apparently the Ballard and Capital Hill area were “so played out.”
As we walked, she asked me about which Green Builder I used. I let her know we didn’t use a green builder, we used my Dad. He may not be “green” but he’s really good at recycling materials and advising customers to invest in something that will last forever because he’s a cheapo. That’s green right?
My friend, or now co-worker, seemed a bit put off that someone from Seattle would not build green. I’d heard it before, so recited my usual speech. You know, “My Dad(tractor) built the house and we only paid subcontractors (at a deeply discounted rate) and his crew. We wouldn’t have been able to afford to build ANYTHING with a green builder. It’s just not in the cards since Micah’s a teacher and well, you know, our salaries here.” She seemed to think we were just being cheap (which we were) and that if we saved up for a year or two, we’d be able to afford someone green to build the house. OK yes, we were being cheap, but seriously, we would have had to save for about 10 years.
After a “friendly” back and forth, I finally told her she had no idea how much it cost to build a green house or even a regular house for that matter. She was looking at a green 1 bedroom condo for $290k less than a mile from us, how much did she seriously think a 3.5 story house cost? She guessed about $350k since we already owned the land. **Shaking my head**
Micah and I thought long and hard about a “Green House” early on but soon realized it wasn’t going to happen. We’d need way more than a “green” contractor,” we’d need a “green” architect and “green” materials. We did a very, very conservative rundown of what building green would cost for the same size house and we came to something in $550k neighborhood. Um, yeah, our entire project including architect fees, building, materials, permits, subcontractors and eventually landscaping will be about $280K. I’m pretty sure we can’t save $270k in two years.
In the end, we didn’t give up on Green. We went with the environmentally friendly Hardie Board for siding. We liked all the design options and we’ll never have to replace it. It’s fire resistant and is the #1 choice of Green Builders. All our appliances are energy efficient. We splurged for a tankless water heater which is much more energy efficient than a tanked one. We bought AMAZING energy saving Pella windows. We LOVE them. Seriously, they work so well! They keep the heat in and the noise out. On another note, windows are expensive. We spend over $9,000 on windows even with a 10% discount. Isn’t that insane?
We also went with cork floors for the kitchen and bathrooms and wood throughout the house. I know, wood? But our thinking is we’ll never have to replace it like you do carpet. We bought a high quality wood that can be refinished unlike bamboo. We’ve also thought about being more green in the future. The design of our roof makes solar panels possible in the future. Of course, we’d need more global warming to make more sun in Seattle possible. I guess the roof isn’t quite a win – win.
She still didn’t seem to understand, but I guess it doesn’t matter since the rent for her green, 1 bedroom apartment is the same amount as our entire monthly mortgage payment. Um, SO THERE.
Given the circumstances, would you build a house now that wasn’t entirely green but was affordable, or would stand firm on an entirely green house even if it meant it was out of reach for a very long time. There’s no wrong answer, we’re just curious. We wish we could have gone entirely green, but it just wasn’t in the financial cards. Actually, we knew that if we didn’t build now, we couldn’t have afforded to build (green or not) at all.