Mother Earth Living

GreenPods: Small, Low-Impact, Energy-Efficient Homes

A builder offers healthy homes and a boost to her local economy.
By Susan Melgren
September/October 2011
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The 420-square-foot Port Townsend model features a front porch with two built-in benches.
Photo Courtesy GreenPod Development

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Architect Ann Raab strives to give her clients the big picture in a small frame. Founder of Port Townsend, Washington-based GreenPod Development, Raab designs and builds small, energy-efficient, low-impact homes ranging in size from 300 to 800 square feet. Designed as much for indoor air quality as they are for energy efficiency, the GreenPods are finished inside with organic fabrics and nontoxic furniture. “Everything that goes into the houses is under scrutiny and has been researched for its environmental impact, its embodied energy and its effect on indoor air,” Raab says. “It’s not so much a house as it is a lifestyle choice. I can build a healthy house, but it doesn’t mean anything if the homeowner wants to bring in products covered with flame retardants.”

The GreenPods feature many energy- and resource-saving features—solar panels and passive solar design, graywater systems, recycled countertops and green roofs, to name a few. But Raab’s real testament to sustainability lies in her commitment to the local community. When choosing clients and sourcing materials for the pods, Raab limits herself to a 200-mile radius around Port Townsend. She also employs 20 local artisans to make everything the homes need, from cabinets and doors to sinks and even the modular furnishings that make living in the small homes possible. “If we can encourage a lot of local industries instead of buying from the big guys, then we can capture money that’s leaving our town,” Raab says.

For those outside the Washington area interested in the GreenPod designs, Raab offers home plans for sale. In the future, she also hopes to design building kits.

The Good Stuff 

• The 420-square-foot Port Townsend model features a front porch with two built-in benches.

• Homeowners can choose between 100 percent recycled metal or living green roofs.

• Highly efficient structural insulated panels form the home’s exterior.

• Offsite, prefabricated building minimizes waste and site disturbance.

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