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Originally published Sunday, April 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Environmental ethos dictated building of Capitol Hill home

Pouring sweat equity into a new green home can save some serious cash. So can being the architect. JR Fulton did both when he set out to...

Seattle Times Weekend Living Editor

COST: $360,000, or $150 a square foot, includes basement, site work and infrastructure, though not the land. JR Fulton put in at least another 15 percent of that cost in sweat equity.

Cool green features

No inner walls: First and third floors are each basically one big room. Advantages: cross ventilation; three sides of daylight; flexibility of use.

Triple hot: A 95-percent-efficient gas water heater warms water for showers in the inner tank, which naturally heats the outer tank used for radiant floor heating — the house's main heating source.

Sun savings: Double-paned, south-facing windows reduce heating bills and, most days, the need to turn on lights.

Dual-flush toilets (low and high-volume), all Energy Star-rated appliances, save water, energy.

Turf free: Instead, trees mostly rescued from Plant Amnesty, a green roof with mountain and lake views.

Ungrand entrance: Tiny, unheated entryway (with place to remove shoes) helps keep cold air from living areas.

Pouring sweat equity into a new green home can save some serious cash. So can being the architect.

JR Fulton did both when he set out to build his three-story, 2,400-square-foot home on Capitol Hill for himself and his wife, Cally. It helped that he is an architect in sustainability and capital planning for the University of Washington.

In addition to designing the home, Fulton laid the bamboo flooring, tile and slate; installed the radiant heat pipes; built wheat-board closets; stripped salvaged kitchen cabinets; and found many of the other green materials — from the recycled doors to the kitchen countertop made with recycled paper.

It's all part of his ethos: affordable, accessible green design.

And it works. Nothing's showy; it's not perfectly decorated. It feels lived in, bright, open, inviting.

What is clear when you walk into the Fulton home — after first taking off your shoes, please — is that these are not folks who have just jumped on the "green bandwagon."

Not born-again greenies

Their journeys started more than 30 years ago when he studied solar design in college and she lived in an ecologically focused international community in Scotland. Today, he bikes to work, she drives a Prius. He tries to "green up" UW's housing and food services. She's a broker for GreenWorks Realty, a local agency specializing in eco-friendly homes.

"We're not born-again greenies," Cally Fulton says. "We do what a lot of (environmentally) conscious people do every day — recycle, eat locally, drive less. It's not just about housing. It's about greening from the personal out."

With its sleek, elongated design enveloped in Energy Star-rated metal panels, the Fulton home stands out among the older bungalows in the neighborhood. And it doesn't face the street, a point of contention with some neighbors. As you pull into the sloped driveway, you see only a garage door and a few small windows. Walk up some steps in the pesticide-free-zone yard to the south-facing side of the house and there's the salvaged wood-and-glass-paneled front door.

Building up

JR Fulton believes one of Seattle's biggest problems is too few people building higher for smart urban-density planning. His house, built by Scott Engler of Heartwood Builders, has a footprint of fewer than 1,000 square feet and is 22 feet at its widest — but it is three stories high.

The first and third floors are virtually open spaces, for energy savings and flexible use, while the second floor has a light-splashed master bedroom, guest bedroom, two bathrooms, Cally Fulton's office, utility room and a future sauna.

In keeping with their philosophy of living healthy, environmentally responsible lives, the couple opted for as many green features as possible (many from local companies), from chopped-straw wheat-board shelves to radiant heat flooring as the house's main heat source, and sited the house to maximize solar energy.

In hindsight, changes they'd make: Shrink the size of east-west windows even further to reduce heat loss, and install thin concrete floors to hold in thermal energy from the sun. They still can add solar roof panels — if they have a spare $30,000 some day.

With their three daughters grown the house is "too big for the two of us and it works better when more people are around" but they're still thrilled with the results.

"I really know the house intimately," he says. "I followed what I thought to be important and fit how we hoped we would live."

206-515-5655 or cmcbrinn@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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