Whidbey home efficiency nearly eclipses its views

  • Wed Mar 28th, 2012 7:50pm
  • Life

By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer

If you can look past the bamboo floors, the radiant heat, the highly efficient structural insulated walls, the smart layout and myriad other energy-saving features of Barb and Richard Gohlke’s modest home on Lagoon Point, you’ll see the spectacle of Puget Sound.

The busy waters between Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula are constantly churning with ship traffic, winter storms and pods of resident orcas, all framed by the windows in the home’s great room.

Even Zoe-Mei, an 8-year-old Weimaraner, watches the scene from her chair.

“We don’t need TV,” Barb Gohlke said.

On Saturday, during Whidbey Watershed Stewards second Green Home Tour, visitors will be encouraged to inspect the recycled cork-and-rubber kitchen flooring, the passive solar heat welcomed by the windows and the space-efficient design, but no one can miss the view from this award-winning house.

The tour helps raise money for the stewards’ year-round commitment to environmental education for children, said John Lee, a board member of Whidbey Watershed Stewards.

Still, opening up five showcase homes on Whidbey is a way to demonstrate how environmental stewardship can start with conscientious building materials.

“It’s a way to responsibly inhabit our environment,” Lee said.

In addition to homeowners welcoming guests, contractors and architects proficient in green building will be at the homes to talk with people interested in environmentally sustainable building projects, Lee said. Some of the homes have solar heating panels, geothermal heaters and green-roof designs.

When the Gohlkes moved to Whidbey in 2005, they purchased an aging double-wide manufactured home in an old fishing camp on a cliff overlooking Lagoon Point. The rebuild, which was completed in 2010, had to conform to the small original footprint of the mobile home.

The couple — she, 66, a retired schoolteacher, he, 68, a semi-retired analyst with John Deere — are experienced in do-it-yourself home construction. They worked with Ted Clifton of Clifton View Homes on the design and completed much of the finish work themselves.

“When we actually moved in, I didn’t have a kitchen,” Barb Gohlke said.

They lived in a bedroom, part of a 2008 garage and expansion completed to pair with the mobile home, and incorporated into the new design. For space efficiency, the garage was built with high ceilings, leaving enough space to install vehicle lifts. That allows two cars to be parked one atop the other in each stall. A ‘66 Mustang is parked above the big pickup. The fishing boat above the Jeep.

The floor plan, 2,500 square feet in all, includes a main floor with a small library, great room including kitchen, laundry area and his-and-her spaces.

His includes a workbench and tools in a room that opens to a carport, which doubles as a covered porch when company visits. Hers is a sewing area tucked into a loft accessed by boat stairs, a steep narrow staircase that’s almost a ladder.

A full basement contains “The Sis Suite,” a self-contained in-law apartment so named because Richard’s sister visits frequently from San Diego.

Downstairs also is where the radiant-floor heat system is located. The couple uses a very efficient air-to-water heat pump. There’s a backup electric heater, just in case.

A wood stove in the great room also provides heat during power outages.

The new construction is valued about $225,000, according to the builder. Barb Gohlke said the couple found savings in doing some of the work themselves and using affordable finish products. Many of the cabinets in the home are from IKEA.

After building seven homes in several states, the Gohlkes said this might be their last.

“It would be very difficult to live anywhere else,” Barb Gohlke said.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; jholtz@heraldnet.com.

Green Home Tour

The Whidbey Watershed Stewards tour of five homes and two businesses is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20 each or $35 for two people sharing a ride. Buy tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com; Bayleaf in Coupeville and Oak Harbor; Book Bay in Freeland; Moonraker Books and Wander on Whidbey in Langley; and Anchor Books &Coffee in Clinton. For more information, go to www.whidbeywatersheds.org.