The House was Smokin'

[photopress:issaquah_highlands.jpg,thumb,alignright]Randy (husband) and I are buying a new home in Issaquah Highlands, a neighborhood I really love. Won’t we be neighbors, Robbie?  Reminds me of Queen Anne with the local community feel.  It was supposed to be the new home for Microsoft, but the company decided to stay in Redmond although Issaquah Highlands is home to many Microsofties. It didn’t seem to matter that Microsoft didn’t take up residence there as it is booming anyway.  I’m looking forward to seeing it continue developing.  I understand the shopping district will be like the U Village and that they’re just waiting for an anchor grocery store before they begin building the village. In ground internet and intranet, acres of playgrounds, in community grade school, wine restaurant, everything you need in a community.[photopress:smoking_house.JPG,thumb,alignleft]

The Highlands has several green builders and we’re buying from one of them, Specialized Homes who specializes in the Healthy Habitat approach to building. It’s educational to understand the purpose behind the eco friendly materials and systems he’s using. One of the really interesting things I’ve learned watching the home get built is the heating system.  Most heating systems lose up to 50% of the heat in leaky ducts making the 92% efficient furnaces hardly worth the extra money when the system is really only 46% efficient.  

One day, my duct work was all gunked up with a gray substance which I’d never seen before. It was applied to about 90% of the ductwork in the entire house. Bob, the builder, told us that he had conducted a ‘smoke test’ by running smoke thru the ductwork to look for leaks. The gray gunk was applied anywhere and everywhere there was smoke coming thru. They applied it until it was totally sealed and no more smoke! It improves comfort, lowers heating bills and improves air quality.  There’s also better windows, totally sealed doors, better insulation. it all adds up, but the smoke test I thought was cool and it makes sense now to spend the extra cost of the 92% efficient furnace.

These are great websites to learn about this if you’re so interested. Not only am I happy to know that the house will be healthier to live in, but I predicting a heating bill 1/2 of what I am now paying which I’ll need with the higher payments! Check out those web sites to learn more ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home.


Interesting Insurance Program from King County Metro

I just received a newsletter from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute that describes an innovative project that is being tested by King County Metro.

King County Metro, the Washington State Department of Transportation and other partners has $2,2 million to develop a Pay As You Drive (PAYD) Insurance Pilot project for Washington State over a 4-year period to evaluate the impacts of a pilot including at least 5000 participants. They are in the process of recruiting an insurance carrier to join in the project. The deadline for expressions of interest is February 15, 2006. For more information contact Bill Roach ( or Bob Flor (

I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it, but I noticed that the Cascadia Scorecard had an article on this topic today, Pay As You Drive Insurance, and they didn’t mention this interesting program. This makes me think that the project must be really below the radar and in need of some Rain City Guide attention!

So how does it relate to Seattle real estate? Barely… But what’s important is that if you are a King County resident whose car spends almost all day at home, then you may be able to save money by joining this program and only paying insurance on the miles that you drive.

Introduction, The CanterHole and other reasons you shouldn't live near a bar

Howdy folks, I’ll be guest blogging here for a while. Like Dustin said, I’m the co-creator of I’m not much for introductions, so I’ll jump right in.

Since Washington’s smoking ban went into effect, I have been happily wearing my nice-ish clothes to bars and generally enjoying the dank, non-smoky smells of the bars near my house. I tell you this because if you live near a bar or are considering buying a place near one, you might soon be savoring the sweet smell (and noise) of smokers hanging out at the door. In densely populated Capitol Hill, the complaints have already begun, as supra-bar apartment dwellers have found that just enough air gets through the cracks in their windows for them to reconsider their hip living quarters. The Stranger reports:

Maybe a case can be made for the enforcement of the laughable 25-foot rule that comes with the smoking ban. Just ask those on the first floor of the apartment building above Canterbury Ale & Eats on 15th Avenue. On Friday night they felt like a chimney for the pack of smokers who gathered outside the bar’s entrance. The Seattle police told one apartment dweller that they weren’t enforcing the 25-foot rule but that the public health department was. Naturally, the health department said the police were enforcing it. Which is it? In practice, none of the above.

I will definitely keep this in mind when I next move. If it’s bad in the middle of December, imagine smoke sneaking into your sealed condo at 7 P.M. on a 90-degree summer day.

On a side note, I went to check out the “smoke-free” Canterbury last night (it wasn’t after 9:30) and met the “Rosa Parks of smoking.” I guess I have no idea what a hard life smokers live.

With a little help from Flexcar

Driving the ViperWith gas prices seeming to rise on a daily basis it seems like a good time to mention a little bit about Flexcar.

The Seattle Times describes the idea behind the organization pretty well in this article: Fueled by Flexcar. In short, Flexcar provides cars at specified locations throughout the City of Seattle and the Eastside that members can rent by the hour. For people who don’t drive a lot, these cars could provide their sole form of auto transportation. For the rest of us who need at least one car in the house, we can use these cars as our “second” or “backup” cars.

If you are a Seattle resident and you are seriously considering getting rid of a car, then consider taking the One Less Car challenge. It is a program where the City offers some pretty substantial rewards to families willing to give up at least one of their cars!

Katrina Donations Drop-off in Ballard…

Diane and Stephen of the Sip and Ship store/cafe in Ballard are organizing a donation drive for Katrina Victims and have offered to ship all appropriate donated items for free through the end of September.

What constitutes an appropriate item was not immediately appearent to me, so I emailed them to find out. Here is the response directly from the source:

We are looking for toiletries, diapers/wipes, baby formula, bottles, baby cereal/food, flashlights, batteries, and first aid kits.
Thank you for your support.
Kind regards,

Thank you Diana and Stephen for making it particularily easy for people to donate items.

If you don’t have any of these items, you can always donate money directly to the Red Cross.

Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair on Sept 10th

kid gardeningThe Seattle Tilth is a group that “inspires and educates people to garden organically, conserve natural resources and support local food systems in order to cultivate a healthy urban environment and community.” This weekend (September 10) they will be hosting the 2005 Harvest Fair in Meridian Park (in the Wallingford Neighborhood). Here’s a map of the park. The festival will include tomato tasting, backyard garden harvest, garden demonstrations, music and more.

Did you know you can raise chickens in Seattle? Seattle Tilth teaches a course on raising city chickens.

green living resources

Sand Storm at Burning ManI recently added some links on my sidepanel to some environmental resources that I’ve found interesting and/or helpful. Below are the sites along with a little description of why I decided to highlight them.

FreeCycle Seattle “lets you find new homes for things you no longer use and receive what you need–free! Clean out your house, save good stuff from the landfill, and help others at the same time.” The site is similar to the “free” section in most classified ads except EVERYTHING is free… A lot of good stuff turns up on this site, although it is often gone pretty quickly as the turnover rate is quite high.

GreenClean is “the environmentally sound guide to cleaning your home.” While promoting their book by the same name (GreenClean), the site gives some good advice and background on cleaning with the environment in mind.

ReStore has field crews that pick up, salvage, and dismantle building material all over the larger Puget Sound region and central Washington. They offer “quality building and home improvement materials, a wide variety of services including sales, pick-up, salvage, and whole building deconstruction.” Their store in Ballard is filled with hard-to-find materials like old bricks, stones, doors, lamps, etc. If you have an old Seattle home (like I do!), this store can be great source of “original” materials.

Rocky Mountain Institute “is an entrepreneurial nonprofit organization that fosters the efficient and restorative use of resources to make the world secure, just, prosperous, and life-sustaining. We do this by inspiring business, civil society, and government to design integrative solutions that create true wealth.” Based on the 30 years that they’ve spent researching efficiency improvements in everything from water to cars, Amory and L. Hunter Lovins at the RMI offer a glimpse into the environmentally-friendly future that we can create. The book they wrote with Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism, is a must read for anyone who wants understand how businesses (even small real estate companies!) can learn from natural processes to create positive impacts that benefit us all.

Tree Hugger “The Future is Green. Find it Here.” This blog offers frequent updates on environmental issues and products. Far from being an activist site, the blog is more likely to engage your “environmental aesthetic”. Even so, it is a fun blog to read with lots of good content.

Do you have another environmental-related links that real-estate minded readers might find helpful? Share the wealth by leaving a comment.