Monday, July 27, 2009

The Sage

The Sage, 1261 Crenshaw Road, Eugene

Much to Arbor South Architecture senior principal Dan Hill’s surprise, his firm’s design of The Sage – a sustainable demonstration home for the 2009 Lane County Home Builders Association Tour of Homes – has been a smash hit.(1) One of nineteen homes on the tour, The Sage is the lone example that truly attempts to alter the prevalent American paradigm for the detached, single-family residence.

Arbor South not only designed The Sage, the firm also acted as developer and general contractor (as Arbor South Construction, Inc.) for the speculative project. They sought and (comfortably) secured a LEED/Earth Advantage Platinum rating, making The Sage the first such home in Eugene and the highest-rated LEED Platinum single-family residence in Oregon.(2)

Living Room

As a demonstration project, The Sage pulls out all the stops and carries the price tag to show for it: the proposed sale price of $450,000 buys a modest 1,447 square feet of living space. The list of sustainable design features for The Sage includes:

  • Passive solar water heating
  • A 2.1 kilowatt photovoltaic system
  • A super high-efficiency heat pump
  • A heat recovery ventilator
  • Double stud walls with sprayed foam insulation
  • Low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets
  • Reclaimed lumber flooring and recycled cork floors
  • Drought-resistant native plantings
  • Landscape irrigation using collected rainwater

However, of all the green strategies pursued by Arbor South, it is its selection of the site for The Sage and the home’s relatively small size that are the most significant. The house is built on a tight, previously developed infill lot, located within short walking distance of basic community resources (public transit, commercial services, churches, and schools are all nearby). The essential modesty (price tag notwithstanding) of The Sage is its principal virtue.

Rainwater is collected for landscape irrigation purposes.

If we’re to wean our culture from its unsustainable penchant for keeping up with the Joneses, we’ll need to redefine what “keeping up” means. Conspicuous consumption and materialism unfortunately remain the benchmarks for many homeowners. This year’s Tour of Homes not only showcases The Sage but also several bloated McMansions greater than 5,000 sq. ft. in area. The biggest of the bunch (7,900 sq. ft.) features four full bathrooms plus four half baths. That’s eight – yes, eight – toilets in one single-family home! The annual Tour of Homes has enormous influence upon the tastes of Lane County home buyers. I’m hopeful that future Tours will feature more projects that, like The Sage, eschew bigness and ostentation. Education is the key.

The 2009 Tour of Homes continues through Sunday, August 2, 2009. If you haven’t already done so, make plans to visit The Sage, located at 1261 Crenshaw Road in Eugene.

(1) Over 1,000 visitors toured the house on Saturday, July 25 alone. In addition, The Register-Guard published a couple of feature articles about The Sage, and Eugene Magazine has likewise extolled the virtues of the project in its summer 2009 issue.

(2) Bill Randall, Arbor South’s other senior principal, produced a series of twenty short YouTube videos about The Sage. Each video offers a brief explanation about the sustainable features of the design. The key lesson conveyed in the series is that we can build any home to be much more sustainable with relatively little effort.


Reed said...

Informative post about a great house; thanks!

dennis said...

I think the Sage House with all its waste space, high ceilings and architectural chic is simply a vanity project, sort of like buying a Prius to save the planet, especially at that price!

Jerry said...

Hmmm. I'm curious, Dennis, where do you see "waste space"?

My main objection is there is no garden space. Nothing could be greener than growing your own veggies.

Anonymous said...

Nice house with basic green features. And unlike Dennis I like Architectural chic with it's high ceilings and open space. So call me shallow.

The only thing I can't figure out is with all the available space in Eugene, why it was squeezed into such a small lot on a nowhere street. At $450.000 it's not a normal working slob's home. I wonder how the neighbors feel.