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Green Building

Green Building 

Green building is a way to approach the design, construction, and operation of your home to have the least negative impact on your local environment and community.  Find definitions, tips, and ideas in the content below. Check out the many resource links and plan a visit to the EnviroHouse to see products and materials in a residential setting.

For more detailed information:


Beth Jarot

Resilient & Green Building Specialist,

(253) 208-4351



Janda Volkmer

EnviroHouse Coordinator

(253) 573-2426



Why consider green design and construction?

By incorporating green building and sustainable living practices, you can provide for your needs now and help sustain resources for the needs of future generations. Choosing green design and construction can:

  • Reduce environmental impacts by being resource-efficient and minimizing waste
  • Create a healthier home environment through improved air quality
  • Increase resale value of your property
  • Save you money through lower operating and maintenance costs

 How to get started with building green

  • Identify what aspects of green building/sustainable living are important to you.
  • Talk with a professional (contractor, architect, landscaper, real estate agent) about building and living green.
  • Ask local suppliers to stock green building products and materials.
  • Check resources at the bottom of this page for more information

What should I consider when choosing green?

  • Products with natural content, materials, fibers, and substances that are sustainably harvested
  • Products incorporating re-used, recycled, salvaged, or repurposed materials
  • Durable products and materials that last longer and require less maintenance 
  • Products with resource and energy efficient features for consumers (EnergyStar, Waterwise, etc.
  • Manufacturing process that requires less energy, water, and waste, to produce
  • Manufacturing process that supports a healthy work environment, eliminates or substantially reduces off-gassing and pollution, is less harmful to produce, and is safer for end-users. 
  • Product and material end-of-life considerations; can it be reused, recycled or repurposed
  • Products sourced regionally or in the US to reduce transportation energy and pollution
  • Products and materials vetted by credible sources with honest and transparent labeling

Five easy ways to "Go Green" without the commitment of a major remodel or building project:

  1. Use products and materials with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC) to avoid off-gassing chemicals (examples include fabrics, blinds, paint, finishes and adhesives).
  2. Install water-saving fixtures and devices displaying the WaterSense label
  3. Select Energy Star appliances, heating/cooling systems, and LED lighting
  4. Seal air leaks with weatherstripping, caulk, duct tape, etc. (see Home Energy Audit below)
  5. Use products with renewable, recycled, repurposed and salvaged content.

Green Building materials on display at the EnviroHouse

Visit the EnviroHouse to explore sustainable, energy efficient building materials, wall systems, windows, and more! Discover products that are structurally sound and pre-insulated with non-toxic materials to save construction time. Examine exterior cladding products made with recycled materials including wood fibers and compressed paper. Many of the materials and products are manufactured and supplied regionally.

EnviroHouse Kiosk Display examples include:


Structural Wall Materials

  • Board Formed Concrete
  • Faswall Blocks
  • Glass Blocks
  • ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms)
  • Kalwall Translucent Panels
  • Sraw/Clay with stucco finish
  • SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels)

Siding Materials

  • Cedar Horizontal Shiplap
  • Cedar Board and Batten
  • Rain-shadow Panels (Resin infused compressed paper)
  • Poly-Ash Exterior

Other Display Materials and Products

  • Fiberglass Triple Glazed Windows
  • Insulation (cork and rock wool)
  • Permeable Paver Systems
  • Rain Barrel
  • Green Roof

Do Your Green Building Homework

Green design uses up front planning and research to create a design with wide-ranging benefits. Start by assessing existing conditions of your home through:

  • Home Energy Audit
  • Home Health Assessment
  • Asbestos Testing & Abatement
  • Site Assessment 

Next, determine how you want your home to perform and identify your priorities. This can include:

  • Accessibility
  • Comfort & beauty
  • Durability
  • Ecological benefit
  • Efficiency
  • Health
  • Space
  • Usefulness

Selecting the right team of professionals

Having the right team for your project is crucial. Find your designer, engineer, contractor and subcontractors through personal referrals, certification programs and the Better Business Bureau.


Conduct an interview to ask about trainings, certification and accreditations. Ask about other green projects they’ve completed and how they’ll approach your particular project. Ask to see their contract documents.

Check the WA Secretary of State Corporations & Charities and the WA State Dept. of Labor & Industries websites to confirm a business is currently registered, licensed, bonded and free of safety violations or lawsuits.

Defining and Understanding Cost, Design, and Construction Process

High quality materials and products are often used in green building, resulting in higher upfront costs, but overall savings. In addition, utility incentives for new and renovation projects are often available.

Building green requires a new way of looking at costs through:

  • Life-cycle and long-term savings vs. only upfront costs
  • Value and ease of lower maintenance
  • Conservation (with lower utility bills, for example)
  • Durability (longer lasting materials with less frequent replacement)
  • Rebates from local utilities; Federal Tax Credits
  • Value of better health

Understanding the Design/Construction Process


Before you start contacting contractors or applying for permits, it’s important to decide what you want and your project scope.


A typical design/construction process includes some or all of the following steps:

  1. Preliminary research
  2. Professional selection
  3. Pre-design
  4. Permit pre-application
  5. Conceptual design
  6. Schematic design
  7. Design development
  8. Permitting & construction documents
  9. Construction
  10. Occupancy
  11. Maintenance

Green Building Certifications and Resources

Several certification programs are available for residential projects and offer guidance and verification of best green homebuilding practices.

  • Built Green (Washington) – a residential green building program of the Master Builders Association developed in partnership with King and Snohomish Counties. Also available in Pierce County.
  • Energy Star® - product labeling through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency focused on quality, performance and energy savings.
  • Enterprise Green Communities - national green building program designed explicitly for the affordable housing sector.
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes – a national rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance homes.
  • Living Building Challenge – a regenerative focused program that consists of seven performance categories including place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity and beauty.
  • National Green Building Standard – a third-party verification program for homes, apartment buildings, or land development focused on achieving high performance in six key areas: site design, resource efficiency, water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and building operation & maintenance.
  • Passive House - a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building's ecological footprint. It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling

Additional Resources

Water Conservation/Incentives

Energy Efficiency/Incentives