Though long-time home builder Gary Dorris was a seasoned professional with 20 years in the industry, the Carstens’ home was his first venture in resource- and energy-efficient building.
“Working with the new materials and techniques was by far one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in construction, but certainly one of the most rewarding,” says Gary, who became certified as an Energy Star builder for the project. He also joined Earth Advantage, a nonprofit organization devoted to green building education and training in the Northwest, and supplied each of his workers with Energy Star handbooks on energy-efficient construction techniques.
Construction challenges came with procuring building materials that weren’t available locally, as well as becoming familiar with the wall-form system. Subtle inconsistencies in the shape and size of the block made the wall assembly difficult at times, and raising the heavy blocks required a fair amount of coordination and muscle, Gary says. “Running the electric and making changes was not easy with the Durisol,” he adds. “For the wiring, you have to run plastic conduit through the blocks’ hollow spaces, which are then filled with concrete. That means you have one chance to get the wiring right.”
As a newcomer to green building, Gary researched each step thoroughly and approached every task as an opportunity to hone his skills. “It didn’t take me long to realize that the process is not all that different from conventional building,” he says. “The difference is that green building raises the quality. It’s all about building a better home and focusing on the details.”
Gary’s attention to detail paid off. He won an award from the National Association of Home Builders for his work on the Carstens’ home. Thanks largely to referrals from Tom and Kathy, more than 75% of Gary’s current business is building new homes or remodeling existing ones using Earth Advantage and Energy Star practices. “Builders do what we’re told and follow the plans we’re given,” Gary says. “So, I can only hope that more and more architects will get on board and give us [builders] more opportunities to build green.”