Creative building techniques and recycled materials give this structure a sustainable edge

Eco-savvy garage
Rob Harrison
The wide-open shelter with garage doors and wall panels of translucent plastic houses a cherry red Mercedes roadster and a hobby shop.

A desire to have minimal impact on the environment inspired thedesign of this handsome garage in western Washington. “We justcouldn’t see ourselves adding to the impervious surface area of ourcommunity,” says homeowner Susan Sproull, who wanted to create ashelter for her vintage roadster as well as a workshop for customwoodworking projects. Susan, along with husband Jim, is involved inan environmentally focused nonprofit neighborhood organization; in2003, the Sproulls’ yard was certified as a Washington Departmentof Fish and Wildlife Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.

Architect Rob Harrison positioned the 20- by 40-foot shed-roofstructure outside the dripline of a mature Douglas fir tree. Heplanted the roof with drought-tolerant sedums and wildflowers.Translucent polycarbonate panels cover the garage’s upper wallsections, wrapping the structure like a clerestory window andallowing natural light to brighten the space (which cuts down onenergy use).

The green roof is heavier than a standard roof, but because ofits thinness ― only 4 inches of soil ― Harrison wasable to compensate for the extra weight by using roof rafters oflaminated veneer lumber (LVL), which is stronger than wood. Toconserve energy, Harrison installed an infrared radiant heatingsystem, which warms people and objects rather than air. Forinsulation, he used blown-in cellulose (recycled newspaper).

The workshop is a well-used place. “It was the perfect spot forJim to build a sea kayak with his grandson,” Susan says. “The airy,woodsy feel makes us forget we live in an urban environment.”


Many of the materials used inside Susan and Jim Sproull’sbackyard structure had a past life or are eco-conscious in theirown right.

Reclaimed furniture
The long workbench and shelving in the garage are made fromsections of a yellow pine bowling-alley lane. Behind the table is afloor cabinet used for storing tools; the drawers came from aschool science-display cabinet. The wall-mounted glass-frontcabinet for hobby supplies is a vintage kitchen cupboard.

Daylight and green construction
The building is wrapped in a ribbon of translucentpolycarbonate panels, which suffuse it with natural light. What’smore, the architect employed a building technique called stackframing, which uses 25 percent less lumber than conventionalconstruction. Exterior walls are covered in fiber-cement panelsfrom James Hardie.

Green roof
A carpet of plants on the roof provides insulation andmatches the surrounding meadow, which makes the little buildingblend into its environment. When surrounding trees cast theirshadows, the dark green walls effectively disappear.

Design: Harrison Architects,Seattle (206/956-0883).

Roof: Northwest EcoBuilding Guild GreenRoof Project, Seattle.

Construction: Jon Alexander, Sunshine Construction, Seattle(206/782-4619).

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