Growing up on a farm in Cottage Grove, Ore., Lesa McIntyre’s childhood was filled with the natural beauty of the Willamette Valley, a region that includes scenic waterfalls, crystal clear lakes and recreational rivers as well as wooded hills and the west slopes of the Cascade Range.
“I learned to love the outdoors and always traveling around the Northwest,” said McIntyre, who combined that love with another passion of hers, building design, to start Greenworks, a firm specializing in “environmentally friendly architecture” as well as interior design, remodeling, staging and rehabitation.
Before launching the Lynnwood-based company in January, McIntyre worked for architectural firms in Oregon and Seattle, including Callison and Mithun, gaining experience as a project architect and project manager for residential, retail and commercial construction and remodeling.
McIntyre, who earned a master’s degree in architecture with a specialty in sustainability from the University of Idaho, said she jumped at the chance to work for Mithun, which is a leader in sustainable design practices, but the need to be her “own director of projects” eventually won out.
“I just really wanted my own hands deep into every project,” she said. “I get to have my own creative direction and also bring the sustainability factor into every project.”
To discuss her new venture, the concept of sustainability and what it’s like to be part of a two-person staff, McIntyre talked with SCBJ.
SCBJ: What do the terms “green” and “sustainable” mean to you?
McIntyre: Green and sustainable to me means we have a light and minimal footprint on this environment — taking care of this planet in a manner that we’re stewards of the planet … and seeking out old and new ways to obtain that goal. Whatever we do has to be healthy for human beings as well as the animals on the planet. We can live well and take care of the planet at the same time. A lot of people are afraid to be sustainable because they think it will cost them. But that’s (not always the case).
SCBJ: What are some examples?
McIntyre: I have a deconstruction contractor I work with. Instead of demolishing a house, he can, in a matter of days, deconstruct a house to save 70 percent of the materials. Fees for the work are only 10 to 20 percent above what a regular (demolition) contractor is, but you can get 50 percent of fees back in the sale of (saved) materials. So it’s actually less expensive, and he’s very quick.
In paint, zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint is the same price as regular paint and is high quality.
SCBJ: What do your building design services encompass?
McIntyre: It’s typical architecture (responsibilities). I’ll even help clients select a piece of real estate, if they like. With site selection … you can build a really good project because the land is a really integral part of design. Community is an integral part of design. … I’ll do the schematic design, bidding, permitting. We’ll help select the contractor, and then I go into project administration. We close out the project for them. … A year out, I reassess systems for them to make sure everything is working before warranties are void.
Residential clients are really cute. They come in really excited about the project. … We make their dreams into reality, think of things for them that they didn’t even know they wanted. Materials and building concepts (such as) passive solar, regular solar, wind power, the orientation of the building, the flexibility of the home to use space for many activities.
SCBJ: What do you mean by “staging”? Is that getting a house ready for sale?
McIntyre: It’s not real estate staging. When clients can’t figure out where to put things, I come in and rearrange furniture and decor to create a better flow. … It makes it more of a home instead of a place to dwell. That helps people remain in their existing homes rather than having to move.
SCBJ: What about rehabitation, what does that involve?
McIntyre: We go into an existing house or commercial facility to help clean up the place and make it more environmentally friendly, (reducing) allergens and (chemical) cleaning solutions. You can use vinegar and water to clean glass. Plain baking soda cleans really well. I had someone who had a problem with wasps. Use mint extract and rubbing alcohol, and that will take care of that. Just planting mint around your yard will deter wasps.
SCBJ: Greenworks is made up of a staff of two — you and your husband, Jonathan. What are his responsibilities?
McIntyre: He’s my marketing and IT person. His main training is graphic design and photography. Before starting Greenworks, he was vice president of marketing at another company. He’s in charge of all my marketing, photography and Web site (needs), and he also is very good at interior design.
SCBJ: Having a home-based business — what has the experience been like so far?
McIntyre: I have zero commute. I don’t waste my time in traffic and put off carbon into the atmosphere. I can double my home space as my office. It makes the family unit tighter, and it would be the same with future employees.
For more information on Greenworks, call 425-787-1000 or go online to www.greenworksarchitecture.com.