April 11, 2012
Everyone knows that going green is on the rise. It has been, slowly but surely, for many years. But one industry that’s taken a bit longer to catch up to greening up is the building industry. Now even that’s changing. And with the help of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, those changes are happening faster and building green is moving much more quickly into the mainstream.
“It’s becoming the norm for building contractors these days,” says John Ketola, president of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild South Puget Sound Chapter. “We’ve basically tipped the scale. We look at it as kind of a teeter-totter and we’ve always been on the down side of it. Now we’re on the up side.”
The South Sound Chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild was formed 20 years ago and works with leading green builders in Thurston, Pierce, Mason, Grays Harbor, and Lewis Counties to advance green building technologies and also educate the public about the best green practices for construction and sustainability for our environment.
The Guild has grown to seven chapters across Washington, Oregon and Idaho and currently has about 354 members, mostly small business owners.
The Guild has a wide range of partnerships including small-to-large businesses, local government, and non-profit organizations and neighborhood groups who support it with funding and through volunteerism and collaborative efforts.
“We’re a nonprofit and depend solely on contributions from public entities, private individuals, corporations, and grants,” says Ketola. “Just like any nonprofit, we’re out there struggling to pay the bills to get our mission out there and get the word out more.”
Ketola and his partners are always looking to bring in new members who understand what the Guild is about and can help drive its mission forward.
“We’re getting close to our biggest event of the year, our Green Tour, on Earth Day weekend,” says Ketola.
The Green Tour will feature 18 of the “greenest” homes and buildings in Thurston County, that the public can visit to see what’s been done to make them green. It’s a mix of commercial and residential applications of green building. The theme this year is: “Sustainable is Attainable. It’s Easier Than You Think!” ((For a Virtual tour of the sites, and Tour Guide Map, visit))
A resource hub will be set up in downtown Olympia, at the corner of 4th and Capitol Way in the old Schoenfeld Furniture building, to answer green building questions explain the inspiring, innovative examples which tour-goers will see in the field.
Vendors will also be on hand at this centralized location, along with builders, installers, and other service people, to talk about what tour-goers will see in the field.
Intercity Transit community vans will travel from the hub to certain sites, which may be further out or logistically difficult to reach. “The van will be on a scheduled circuit run. People can jump in, visit a few sites then come back to the hub and get in their car or bike to go to other sites. Two sites with parking issues are only accessible by taking the Green Tour shuttle,” Ketola explains.
Some of this year’s Green Tour sites are within easy walking distance of the hub, such as the LOTT Clean Water Alliance and, right next door, the Hands On Children’s Museum. The museum won’t yet be open to the public, so Green Tour visitors will receive a preview of this highly anticipated building.
“The Hands On Children’s Museum is going to be top-of-the-line, as far as green construction goes,” says Ketola. “And LOTT Alliance has a methane converter, which is taking the off-gas from the regurgitation of the sludge down there and converting it into energy and power that feeds the Hands On Children’s Museum.”
Other events the Guild puts on include Monthly Educational Meetings, and ongoing hands-on workshops for the public to learn green building techniques for their own projects.
The Guild regularly offers symposiums. “We put together a summit last year on glass aggregates, which is totally recycled materials and how that can be applied out in the field,” Ketola explains.
The Guild’s new Symposium Series, Vision2Action: A Conversation on the Built Environment. This will be a string of eight quarterly meetings at SPSCC super-green Natural Resources Complex. We kicked it off last Friday with a discussion of the new State Energy Strategy written by the WA Department of Commerce. It was attended by more than 50 local government officials, non-profit leaders and Solar Energy companies who talked strategy for 3 hours on how building code incentives and transportation choices can help society save energy and build more sustainably,” says Ketola.
Ketola grew up in Aberdeen and has owned Ketola Targus Painting in Thurston County for 35 years. He volunteers his time to the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild.
“About three years ago, I met our education coordinator, Chris van Daalen, and we got to discussing the Guild,” Ketola says. His interest was piqued, and he went to a few chapter meetings. “When the time came for some volunteers to help drive the mission forward, I volunteered and eventually became the president of the local chapter.”
Ketola’s interest in ecological issues goes back to his college days. He has a degree in biology and grew up in the era of the original Clean Air Act of 1970.
“I wanted to study the extinction of the northwest marine whale, but I got a little sidetracked and became a painting contractor,” he says with a laugh. “Now I’m actually going back to my roots.”
Part of Ketola’s goal as president of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild is to help clarify people’s misconceptions that to green up, add green, or build green is expensive. “Now, it is, to a point,” he admits. “But we’re trying to make people understand the payback and how quick it is.”
Ketola says part of the Guild’s missions is to pull on people’s heartstrings and remind them that building green is simply a good thing to do. “You’ve got to put that factor in there, along with the monetary factor, and then make up your own mind,” he says.
“We’re giving you examples and the pathway to do that,” he says of green building practices and sustainability. “And we can even help you do it and empower you.”
The Northwest EcoBuilding Guild’s annual South Sound Green Tour takes place Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, 2012, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Learn more and receive daily updates on the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild South Puget Sound Chapter Facebook page.