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METRO TALK SPOKANE’S ARCHITECTURAL CROSSROAD - PART TWO Building Green Means: Thinking Like a Living Thing The trend is saving money in designing and building while saving the planet


by Paul K. Haeder


men and shortly afterward. I was delighted to know about the great Missoula floods and how the Spokane River got its flow, and the ecology of the scablands. Geologically speaking, Spokane has one


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heck of a pedigree. Luckily, many in our collective community embrace design and planning around some of these cultural, biological, historical and geological characteristics. Spokan Falls, (it was originally spelled


without the “e”) was settled by Anglos in 1871 around railroads, logs and ore. The Inland Salish says Spokan(e) translates to “children of the sun.” Sun! I came from El Paso and Tucson


respectively – two cities with 193 days of cloudless, sunny days each year, compared to Spokane’s 86. Despite the comparatively few sunny days, sun and sun-power is in Spokane’s future. The world’s future will be PV-centered – photovoltaic – and built to utilize the passive solar features cultures thousands of years ago configured. Or at least that’s the hope of many deep


SPOKANE CDA • May • 2012


hen I first moved to Spokane in 2001, I was hungry for stories about the place, and the


contact with white


green activists, entrepreneurs, builders, engineers and scientists. Some hail and work in the Inland Northwest.


history before


Here Comes the Sun Bruce Gage and his sister Nadine have run


Eco-Depot on Sprague for 16 years. Their green materials venture is emblematic of the hard work the people in Spokane, tied to building and construction with an eye toward deep green, have accomplished to gain a foothold and create a niche. Gage said he saw the light bulb go off,


so to speak, while at Ferris High School in 1974, as a senior and head of the school’s earth club. One science teacher did it for him: “She taught me the importance of the whole earth attitude . . . and I got it,” he says. “I was thinking about energy, alternative energy and recycling when I graduated.” Since then, he’s tried his hand at waste


fluid equipment sales – the machines that recycle anti-freeze, motor oil, the water from car washes. He’s known as the “solar panel guy,” and his new motto is, “Solar Saves Salmon,” an allusion to solar arrays giving homeowners and businesses energy independence, but also giving the salmon burdened by the four dams on the lower part of the Snake River a fighting chance. He’s fiercely libertarian, but advocates for the


McGovern Residence Sarah McGovern, Milieu


dams being breached. Incidentally, he sells a lot of bamboo flooring, LED light


systems and recycled


paint. That product comes from a company in Portland, Oregon, called Metro Paint. Even with the huge economic tsunami hitting our shores, Gage says Eco-Depot’s top four years volume-wise were 2008-2011. Much of it has to do with the sun – solar power. His big project was


installing Jim


Sheehan’s solar panels on the Community Building and Saranac – a huge curved frame bedecked in panels at Brown and Main. It’s one of the biggest private solar arrays in Washington State. That was 12 years ago. The building


complex is way off the charts in terms of “green.” Think of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating, “beyond-platinum,” given to very few green buildings worldwide. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) developed this building and operational formula in 1998. Gage knows LEED inside and out, and he


works with Spokane architects and builders like Kurt Rathmann and Kelly Learner, helping with photovoltaic systems that get installed even on straw bale homes. Oroville Housing Authority has created


16 such straw bale units with a 20-kilowatt solar power unit installed by Eco-Depot.


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