Dream home, green home

Of the News-Register Light pours into Bill and
Janet Decker's new
energy-efficient home in
McMinnville, but excess
heat stays out, along with
wintry chill, noise and
other worldly elements.
Built by Winsome Construction, a
local green builder, the house has all
the features today's homeowners crave:
skylights, wood and tile floors, customfinished
cabinets and
granite and
quartz countertops.
But it's
the things you
don't see —
walls, freshair
radiant heat,
hot water and the construction process
itself — that make the home so comfortable
and environmentally friendly.
"It's a very attractive house," said
Bill Decker, a former NASA aeronautical
engineer. "We're blessed to be able
to live in it."
He and his wife, who worked for a
school district, said they were fortunate
to be able to retire to what they are
calling a "permanent vacation home."
Finding Winsome Construction
helped make the home of their
dreams possible, they said. They were
impressed that owner Shan Stassens
and other members of the Winsome
crew focused on making the house
energy efficient.
"We knew it needed to be efficient,"
said Bill, a former California resident
who returned to his home state to
retire. "That was our biggest concern."
He and his wife couldn't be more
pleased with the results.
The radiant heating system under the
tile floor is the primary heat source. Set
to a constant temperature, it keeps the
house warm enough most of the year
with no need for the supplemental furnace to kick in.
The result is comfort as
well as substantial energy
savings. "I walk barefoot
most of the time," Janet
A fireplace graces the
high-ceilinged living room,
but it's more for ambiance
than heat. In fact, since the
house is so well-insulated,
a fire can quickly make the
house too warm.
The insulation includes
two-inch closed cell spray
foam inside walls built
with offset studs so the
wood won't conduct heat
in or out. Additional cavities
are filled with blown-in
The double insulation
seals the house air- and
moisture-tight, said Aaron
Kumnick, project manager
for Winsome Construction.
It also screens out noise.
"This is a very quiet house,"
Janet said.
In the entryway, a compass
rose created from
hand-cut stone tiles greets
In the kitchen, they will
find a large island created
from stock cabinetry
custom-finished by a local
craftsman. Using stock
boxes was less expensive
and more environmentally
sound, because they were
produced with very little
waste, Kumnick said.
Kitchen and laundry
appliances are Energy Star
rated. An efficient, ondemand
system provides
instant hot water.
One device in the kitchen
— a dumbwaiter — is
designed solely to save
human energy. Books and
other items, as well as food,
can be lifted from the daylight
basement to the main
floor of the house. And if
Bill is working on his hobbies
in the basement, Janet
can easily send down a pan
of brownies.
Bill's basement also features
radiant heated floors.
A separate ventilation system
delivers fresh air to the
large open space, keeping
any odors from entering the
main floor above.
He is especially pleased
with the way the basement
was constructed, featuring
insulated concrete forms.
He even keeps a sample to
show visitors.
Kumnick said the forms
fit together like Legos.
Rebar is insterted, then
concrete is poured into the
core between the two layers
of foam.
Construction goes quickly,
and the finished walls
are strong, well-insulated
and long-lasting. They're
mold and pest resistant, too.
Using insulated concrete
forms adds about 5 percent
to the total bill for construction,
Kumnick said.
It pays for itself quickly,
though, in terms of reduced
energy costs and durability.
"It's used a lot in places
with lots of natural disasters,
like hurricanes and
tornadoes, because of its
strength," he said. "This
basement will be here in
150 years."
Throughout the house,
CFL bulbs are used in most
lighting fixtures. Lights
aren't even needed much
of the time though, thanks
to Solatube skylights and
large, south-facing windows
shaded by the roof
overhang in summer.
Janet loves the Solatubes,
which flood two bathrooms
with light. "If we'd known,
we would have had more,"
she said. "We'd have a
polka-dot house."
Outside, there's no lawn,
just bushes and decorative
rock, including a dry
creek bed in a once wet
area of the sloping lot. The
landscaping is not only
low-maintenance, but also
friendly to Janet, who is
allergic to grass.
Many other aspects
reflect particular needs, as
well. Counters in the master
bathroom are extra tall,
for instance, to fit Bill's
6-foot-4 frame.
Everything was done
with the future in mind.
"We want to enjoy this
house as long as possible,"
Bill said.
Doorways and halls are
wide, in case a walker
or wheelchair is needed.
There are no steps on the
main floor, except for the
lip at the entrance to the
master bathroom shower.
If necessary, Janet said,
a ramp could be added
to make the shower more
accessible. It's already big
enough for a wheelchair,
she said.
The couple even had a
door installed between the
master bathroom and the
office, a room that could be
converted to a bedroom for
a caregiver someday.
Kumnick said it's an
example of what many
Baby Boomers are doing
these days: building houses
they can stay in for the
rest of their lives. "Aging
in place is a big trend," he
The Deckers had been
talking about what they
wanted in their retirement
home for a couple years.
Still, it was a lengthy and
involved process, they said.
"The good news and the
bad news is you have to
choose everything," Bill
Winsome Construction
was great to work with, he
said. He was the liaison
on exterior and structural
choices. He even built a 3-D
model of their house-to-be,
based on Winsome's plans.
Seeing the space in three
dimensions helped the
couple make some decisions
— they decided to add
a wall to define a formal
dining room, for instance,
and that, in turn, gave them
more wall space for built-in
Janet was in charge of
interior choices.
"My inspiration was
fresh air and sunshine," she
said. "The cool gray of the
walls, the neutrals, mixed
with the warm woods ...
like we're on vacation,
although we're
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