Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Julie and Bob Granger decided to embody their values in an environmentally sustainable house.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Julie and Bob Granger decided to embody their values in an environmentally sustainable house.
More and more Oregonians buy local when it comes to food. Bob and Julie Granger, members of St. Andrew Parish in Portland, decided to apply the principle to building materials.

The Grangers see green construction as one way to care for God's creation. They put their belief into action two years ago when they had a new 2,500-square-foot house built in the Cully neighborhood of Northeast Portland.

The Grangers bought local wood, much of it from salvaged logs and some from trees on site that had to be felled. The builders — Green Hammer Construction — found other recycled wood, like reddish staves from barrels used to cure maraschino cherries. The Grangers re-used items from old homes and installed a system that harvests and purifies rainwater for daily use.

"Building a house is all about decision making," says Bob. "We agreed from the beginning that environmental and social considerations would be an integral part of our decision making criteria because environmental and social justice are parts of our faith-based worldview and we are personally and collectively responsible for our impact on all of creation."

Local building items reduce a house's carbon footprint because it takes less fuel to transport the material. All the wood cut for the Granger's house came from forest plots certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.   

The floor in the kitchen is made of an earthen material, poured, smoothed and finished. Underneath are hot water pipes that radiate to keep the house cozy. Solar panels overhead help heat the water.   

The Grangers did not need to do all the research on their own. The Build Local Alliance presented the possibilities. Alliance leaders say the material they find is not just saving the earth, but is of high quality.   

The couple, who served in Sierra Leone in the Peace Corps, had an apartment built onto the house because they believe in higher-density urban development. That will keep pressure off Oregon's farm and forest lands.    

The Granger's house won an award in the Build Local Challenge sponsored by the Build Local Alliance.   

The Grangers eschew the notion that building green costs too much. It's a matter of trading off. For example, to afford the sustainably grown lumber, they bought used sinks and had some floors left as poured concrete. Instead of buying a new car, they had the rainwater cisterns installed. The bathroom counters are made of lineoluem instead of more expensive material. Counters in the kitchen are fashioned of maple boards from trees that stood on the building site.  

"Your values are what drives those tradeoffs," Bob says.

And when it comes to paying utilities, the energy efficiency and low water use will offset building costs over time.

For people who don't have the money for a down payment, several programs are available to help with green construction or renovation.

Clean Energy Works, a joint federal and local project, allows owners of older homes to do green renovations and pay off low-cost loans through their energy bills. The efficiency savings mean the homeowners might see little, if any, increase in monthly payments.

Solarize Portland helps amenable homeowners in neighborhoods order solar panels in bulk, meaning the cost per household drops.

"People can do this in inexpensive ways," Bob says. "It's accessible to everybody."