Sustainable Projects

A green and sustainable approach to design and construction is important to Ten Directions Design. Our earth is the basis of all life and activity, therefore we want to minimize our impact on it, and even restore it through our choices of materials and approaches to using energy. We are fortunate to have great choices for the materials we use: low-impact, recycled content, and reused items. We also have high-level choices to make about our energy use: minimizing our use via proper insulation and tight construction, as well as looking at passive and active ways to use natural energy from the sun, water and earth.

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wish list: net zero house

Ten Directions Design is looking for a special client who wants us to design a Net Zero House for them. 

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This project is a complete renovation and addition to a 1920 house.  In general, the extensive updating to the house systems and structure has renewed the life of this house. A second-story addition makes this house more usable in the future to larger families as well as suitable for couples or an individual resident.  The work includes a variety of energy-saving and water-saving features, as well as the use of sustainable materials and practices.


  • Installation of a heat-recovery ventilator. This unit removes heat from air that is being vented out. This heat is then used to pre-heat supply air entering the house from the exterior.

  • There is a radiant heat system in the upper bathroom floor. This low-voltage system allows the owners to keep the heat lower than normal in the cooler seasons and delay turning the heat up in the mornings.

  • The new hot water heater is an energy-saving tankless unit.

  • New high-efficiency gas-furnace installed.

  • Crawl space is a conditioned space. Therefore none of the heat ducts are in an unheated space.

  • Used a soy-based spray foam insulation. Expanding foam insulation seals gaps and cracks, resulting in a more airtight house. 


The owner installed a motion-sensor triggering a re-circulating pump. The sensors are in both bathrooms and the kitchen. This system saves energy because the pump and the hot-water heater do not operate until someone has actually entered the room, unlike the typical set-up where the pump is constantly on. 


Fir flooring was removed, saved and then reinstalled on the main floor. Similarly, the oak floor was re-used on the upper floor. 


Contractor separated the waste material. Recycled wood waste, dry wall scraps, and metal.  All excavated dirt sent to Pacific Topsoil to be reused.


  • Shingles from a local mill on Olympic Peninsula. The mill uses logs that don't have other lumber value.

  • Kitchen counter: durable stone (Pietra del Cardosa).

  • Upper Bathroom counter: IceStone, a recycled glass and concrete product. Also, the slabs were partial slabs left over from someone else's project, which prevented the slabs from going to waste.

  • Shower and tub surround: long-lasting tile.

  • New flooring consists of cork, and all-natural linoleum.


  • No carpeting was used anywhere in the house.

  • No MDF or particle board was used in the construction, including the cabinets, trim, etc.

  • Used a soy-based spray foam insulation that is formaldehyde-free.

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not-so-big getaway House (lopez island 2003)


  • On 5 acre wooded site. 

  • Workshop/apartment.

  • Total 2000 SF. 1000 SF each floor.

  • Additional 500 SF of deck. Facing south for sun, east for view.


  • Geothermal heat source. 1600 feet of 1” pipe buried 5’ along side of the driveway.

  • Radiant heat in thermal mass (concrete topping slab) on both floors

  • SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) construction. Above minimum insulation R value. Minimizes heat loss though wall studs that bridge from interior to outside.

  • 50 year metal roof.

  • Residential fire sprinklers.

  • Not-So-Big bedroom dimensions.

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Ballard Green Basement (ballard 2012)

Wonderful ‘green’ basement remodel with a playroom, laundry and new bathroom.

  • Yolo Colorhouse primer and paint with zero VOC content.

  • Daly’s waterborne wood stain.

  • Strand woven eucalyptus flooring.

  • Recycled rubber underlayment.

  • Marmoleum (linoleum) countertops and flooring.

  • Dual flush toilet.

  • Recycled denim insulation.

  • LED bulbs in all lighting.

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Asian in America (blue ridge 2004)


In 2005 I was asked by a couple to help them as they moved to Seattle.  They were retiring here after a life spent on the east coast and Asia. They need a makeover of a 1950’s Northwest classic house to make space for their new life here, plus two large and diverse collections.

They lived for 11 years in Asia and created a marvelous Asian art collection. Additionally, Ted’s love of airplanes has led to a collection of 5000 volumes on aviation history plus memorabilia that includes parts of classic planes.

The owners made an emphasis on sustainable materials throughout. Here is a list of some of the challenges and solutions created by a team of NW Eco Building Guild members.


Challenge:        Display Asian art treasures
Solution:          Custom display shelf made from reclaimed wood from urban salvaged Madrona tree.

Challenge:        Dark wood cathedral ceiling produced a dark environment.
Solution:          Created open soffit at peak of ceiling with continuous high-efficiency lighting.

Challenge:        Outdated narrow brick wall with fireplace – owner wanted a lighter colored and more monolithic surface.
Solution:          Covered brick with Clayote, a natural earthen clay material available in a variety of colors. Can be removed in the future to restore original conditions.

Challenge:        Locate 5000 volume library, with memorabilia, in daylight basement.
Solution:          Created library in basement bedroom, installing linoleum in floor. Small adjoining office updated with cork flooring.

Challenge:        Existing color palette would not work with client’s taste or furnishings.
Solution:          New color palette throughout. Low VOC interior paints made by a local manufacturer were used throughout.

Challenge:        Utilize on site rainfall for gardening.
Solution:          Install a 1000 gallon cistern at the mid-slope of the property to allow for gravity feed of water during dry summer periods.

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The existing kitchen was completely gutted. A newly enclosed mudroom area was created next to the rear door.  The old banquette area became a stool-height counter for mail, paperwork and hanging-out.  The owner also used:

  • Paperstone. A green product made from high-content recycled paper, plus non-toxic resin.

  • Salvaged exterior light from original house. Reconditioned.

  • Salvaged and stripped heat registers and door hardware, throughout house.

  • Low energy use and low water use dishwasher, European style.


The client preserved the leaded glass built-ins on the common wall with the kitchen.  They kept the original windows with decorative mullions, and will put up storm windows every winter. South facing windows were upgraded to new double-pane low-e coated windows with matching decorative mullions.


  • The existing bathroom was very cramped with the sink cabinet blocking a second doorway, and was gutted.

  • We put in a dual-flush toilet, pedestal sink and a new shower where the tub was. The contractor used 2x10 studs to form a wall at the end of the shower, and then put shelving in between the studs, as a space-saver.


Stairs were very steep and intruded into the center portion of the adjoining room ceiling. The new design created safe L-shaped stairs that shift to the side of the adjoining room.  They also have a “Harry Potter” half-closet underneath.


The upstairs was just two oddly shaped bedrooms with no bathrooms. We reconfigured the existing space and added a dormer, creating two bedrooms and a bathroom laundry. Welcome to living under the rafters.


This hallway features a skylight for daytime illumination, lessening the need for electric lighting.  A whole house exhaust fan goes on briefly every 24 hours to help with proper indoor air quality.  And a hallway shelf helps us remember items that are going downstairs or have come upstairs.


The master bedroom is in the new dormer.  We designed large casement windows facing north, and two small awning windows at opposite ends of the room for good cross ventilation.  The closet is tucked in under one of the roof beams coming down. There is enough room in the closet for a double-stacked hanging poles and a wall of cubbies.


We added a new common bathroom with two sinks, a dual-flush toilet, jetted bath, and glass-surround shower.  Two windows at the bathtub look out onto I-5 and the Cascades, if you stand on tiptoe: our peek-a-boo view!

A doorway in the bathroom leads to a nook just large enough for a stacked, front-loading washer and dryer. The client reused the old kitchen sink-cabinet unit (all-metal) as a laundry sink and extra storage.


  • Added 16 solar electric panels to the south facing roof.

  • Eliminates the electric bill during summer months.

  • Owner also receives yearly check for selling excess electricity.

  • Owner received 30% federal tax credit.

  • No sales tax on purchase of panels (until 2020).


  • New 94% efficiency furnace with variable speed fan for highest effectiveness in heating.

  • Hospital-level furnace filter, and pre-filter, for highest quality air quality.

  • New ductwork for maximum efficiency.

  • New on-demand tankless Hot Water Heater. No need to heat 40 gallons of water while you sleep or are at work.

  • Ceiling of unheated basement completely insulated.

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  • LED Lighting

  • Tile has recycled contents

  • Low VOC paint

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Green Dancer House (shoreline 2011)

The Green Dancer is a new house in Shoreline. The owner wanted to create as green a house as possible on a limited budget.  She is a dance enthusiast and wanted to integrate a ballroom into the design, hence the house name.  This was a collaborative effort between 2 architects, a green contractor, and an energy engineer, all members of the Seattle Chapter of the Guild.

The efficient building design maximizes space while minimizing energy loss and construction costs.  It features a large multi-use space upstairs.  This space is large enough to be used as a ballroom, but can also be used on a more daily basis by the owner as 4 spaces relating to the 4 corners: home office, exercise space, crafts area, etc.

  • The house has above code insulation in the walls and attic. The attic has R-50 foam insulation. The walls are a combination of R-21 batt insulation plus R-10 rigid insulation over the exterior of the studs. The floor over the crawl space is insulated with R-30 batt.

  • Other features include a heat recovery ventilation (HRV), tankless hot water heater, ductless heat pump system, and a large south facing metal roof for future solar panel installation and rain water collection.

  • The old house was deconstructed. During construction there was no dumpster used, because all excess materials were reused, composted or recycled.

  • The shell of the house features fiber-cement board for durability. It was installed over a rain screen.

  • Interior paint was created from recycled paint supplies and color blended in a 55 gallon drum.

  • The exterior landscaping will be all native vegetation.

All in all, this project was a labor of love for the Owner, who was involved in all aspects of the design selection and construction.  That effort paid off in both the process and final result as a wonderful and affordable very green house. But this house is not only a wonderful home.  It is also an educational exhibit where guests in small groups or large dances will learn about the benefits of green design from an enthusiastic owner.

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  • Ultra-low-VOC cabinet finishes

  • Recycled paper-resin countertop

  • Ultra-low-VOC paint

  • Very low-VOC wood stains for wood trim.