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Natural Balance House

Written By Rashad Merrell on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 | 1:52 AM

The Natural Balance House, the first home in the San Juan Islands to seek LEED Platinum certification, features a massive rainwater cistern, geothermal heating and an Orca-cam that provides truly killer views.

For this month’s installment of “Evergreen homes” — a series of posts in which I spotlight great green homes from my home state of Washington — I’m stepping away from the green building hotbed that is Seattle (the projects that I featured in March and April were both within Emerald City limits) … way far away. Today’s featured “Evergreen home,” the Natural Balance House, is located about 100 miles by car and ferry from Seattle, in the bustling little town of Friday Harbor on beautiful San Juan Island.

Armada House in Naturally Design and Beautiful Balance
Armada House in Naturally Design and Beautiful Balance

The LEED Platinum-seeking Natural Balance House is a testament to the concept that green home building can be done right (and then some) outside of a green building-crazy metropolis of more than 600,000 people. The waterfront home, designed by British Canadian firm Blue Sky Design and built by San Juan Island-based Ravenhill Construction, received a fair amount of press from both green building websites and local media outlets this past winter during its final months of construction. Now, with the home completed just several weeks ago, owners Glen and Deb Bruels are opening the doors of their low-impact retirement residence to the public for tours every Saturday in May from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. 

Armada House in Naturally Design and Beautiful Balance naturally
Armada House in Naturally Design

That said, Friday Harbor isn't the most easily accessible place on earth (unless you just happen to be tooling around the San Juan Islands in your private seaplane) but if you live or are visiting the area, by all means stop by.

If your May travel plans don't call for the San Juan Islands, no sweat, as the Natural Balance House is a green building showcase of sorts, not just a private residence. Having fastidiously documented the building of their home through blog entries and photos, the Bruels hope their home will be both inspirational and educational. Hell, not every home, no matter how exceptionally eco-friendly, has its own website, Twitter account and Facebook page.

Natural Balance House
Natural Balance House

Not surprisingly, the 3,600-square-foot home’s laundry list of eco-friendly features is impressive: Geothermal in-floor radiant heating, LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances throughout, solar hot water heating, an advanced home automation system, a heat recovery ventilation system, structurally insulated panel (SIP) roofing, triple-glazed windows, low-flow Kohler fixtures, reclaimed wood furniture from Meyer Wells, salvaged wood cabinetry and flooring, sustainable landscaping, and more — you name it, the Natural Balance House has it.

Modern Barn House Balance
Modern Barn House Balance

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the Natural Balance House is the 19,500-gallon rainwater cistern that acts as the sole source of water for the residence. Yep, all of the water used in the home, even for drinking, is reclaimed rainwater. When relying strictly on rainwater harvesting having such a massive cistern does help (check out the view into it from cistern from the repurposed ship hatch that’s in the master bedroom closet, below) as does having a 3,000-square-foot vegetation-covered roof that naturally pre-filters rainwater in addition to moderating heat gain and loss through the roof.
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