Spring Home Design: Loom House on Bainbridge Island weaves design and sustainability into a one-of-a-kind tapestry of connections
WE WILL NOT dwell long on the “front” of this story. We could – this 1968 Bainbridge Island beauty has stood solidly for half a century as a classic paragon of design, craftsmanship and the Pacific Northwest itself – but that’s the ‘after’ that weaves inspiring threads of connection, comfort, nature, sustainability and residence in a harmonious home like no other on the planet.
This incomparable “after” is called Loom House, the first renovated house everywhere to achieve full Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification, which means it has met seven extremely rigorous fundamental standards – “petals” – of sustainability: place, energy, water, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty. (Heron Hall, also on Bainbridge — clearly an island of cutting-edge building and living — is also LBC certified, but it was built from the ground up.)
Equally significantly, only Loom House is inhabited by Karen Hust and Todd Vogel, who purchased this “beloved and manicured, but not updated” home (originally designed by North West Architect Hal Moldstad), planning to conscientiously renovate it for energy-efficiency – and in the happy consequence, they set a stratospheric standard of green living that enriched their daily existence and could (should) inspire a global renovation revolution. .
“When we knew we were going to do a renovation, we wanted it to be as green as possible. But we didn’t know what was possible,” says Hust. “We realized there were a lot of standards, and we thought, ‘Well, standards are cool, because if you come across one, people will hear about it and things will hopefully get passed on. And then we heard about the LBC… and although it sounded like a tough bar, we thought, “It will be such a useful and effective tool if we go there.” We were excited from the start.“
It was huge. (But their surprisingly groundbreaking home isn’t: 3,200 square feet split between a south-facing main house and a north-facing guest and office space, connected by a stunning expansive outdoor deck.)
“My number one secret to a successful Living Building is owner engagement. That’s it,” says architect Chris Hellstern, director of LBC services at the Miller Hull Partnership (the company behind Seattle’s LBC-certified Bullitt Center). “I think this project was certified because the owners were really invested. I don’t know if you could go through this process with people who had been “talked to”. ”
As Hust and Vogel eagerly deepened their understanding of LBC and their connection to the house and the essential nature that surrounds it (while documenting the historic project and the depth of their engagement on their awesome blog), Hellstern and the team who came together to make it happen – Clark Construction Inc., interior designer Charlie Hellstern (who is married to Chris), Anne James Landscape Architecture, and a good handful of engineers and consultants – came together put to work cultivating petals.
The original structure (all wood, no Sheetrock) “showed good and bad manners,” says Justin Ansley of Clark Construction – high-quality wood, handcrafted craftsmanship, general architectural “bones”: good . Oddly small rooms, asbestos stains, an overabundance of bunk beds but no real entrance: not that much. “It was a real challenge to figure out how to fill in and create a watertight, modern and energy-efficient building, but because of that, the superstructure is still there, and that’s a big part of the look that everyone love so much.”
When those not-so-loved dividing walls came down, Vogel recalled, Ansley pulled out a piece of wood and said, “This is first growth. I couldn’t buy such a strong piece of wood. And then he would turn around and find a place to use it in the wall. First, it’s great for reuse, and second, it helps us understand what’s going on behind the walls and gives us a connection to the love and care people put into building this place.
In itself, building by renovating, rather than razing and rebuilding, is like gardening with starter plants instead of seeds: you get a good head start towards something beautifully green. “There’s obviously an embodied carbon advantage to that, and both Todd and Karen took advantage of that,” says Chris Hellstern. “We certainly find that when we reuse materials, we don’t have to make new plastic products. Also fewer chemicals of concern. So overall, from a materials perspective and reducing global warming, it can be really good for the environment.
As Loom House blossomed into a showcase of regenerative design – with new insulation; perfectly adapted ventilation, lighting and air conditioning; triple glazed windows; an underground cistern that captures enough water for year-round self-sufficiency; a new carport for charging electric vehicles; Red list of chemical-free furniture, furnishings and building materials; 16 kWh of photovoltaic panels; a backup battery system rather than a generator of peace disturbances; life-affirming nature all around – the benefits have multiplied. Even beyond all the awards and accolades Loom House has won.
Financially and environmentally, Hust and Vogel are happy to collect checks from the electric company at the end of the year. “It’s great to feel like we’re able to harvest enough energy to be part of the community, but not necessarily take in more than we need,” says Hust. (Vogel reports that his biggest utility bill is for his cell phone.)
Spiritually and ecologically, Hust says, “The proportions of the space and the beautiful furnishings certainly help reduce stress levels. There are spaces that work for us, and the systems work so well that it becomes a subconscious pleasure to be here. Vogel adds: “Environmentally, we’re really comfortable, in terms of air temperature and that sort of thing. But also, we have a connection to nature with our home, and we’ve already seen that there’s a place to explore here, and getting out into that space and doing that exploration in itself reduces stress.
Always, everything comes back to nature. And this harmonious house. And its own crucial “after” effects.
“It kind of hit us that we were moving here to be near our niece,” Vogel says. “And what sense did it make to move here to be near our niece and build a house in a way that set her future on fire?”