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I Live in a Green House 

How me and three strangers learned to live an environmentally friendly life

click to enlarge The Gee House is home to eco-minded Gonzaga students. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • The Gee House is home to eco-minded Gonzaga students.

When you picture college housing, you often think of a run-down house, perhaps with a ratty couch on the porch, beer cans strewn in the front yard, and maybe some Pineapple Express posters lining the walls. You picture students sweating out the summers and wearing parkas inside during the winter to save a few bucks. You don’t picture living in a green house — as in environmentally minded (technically it’s bright orange) — but I’ve been fortunate enough to call it home.

The Gee House, as it’s called, is a co-op home in the Logan Neighborhood. For me it’s been a one-of-a-kind living experience.

The residential building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certified, as well as Energy Star rated. It’s also won a bevy of awards, most recently the Best of America Living Award. Buzz Price, the owner, teamed up with Dennis Cunningham, President of ActiveWest Builders, to create, design and build his dream home. While Price knew he wanted to make the building a co-op style house, Cunningham brought the environmental aspect to the project.

Cunningham makes it quite clear that a LEED certification isn’t easy to come by. Every part of the building and its materials had to be inspected and certified, and inspected again. The building’s main source of heat comes from water under the cement floors. Every appliance, from the laundry room to the kitchen, is Energy Star rated. The windows are strategically placed throughout the house for natural light, and the design allows for the airflow to negate the need for much air conditioning. All materials used to build the Gee came from within 500 miles, and 90 percent of the waste material was recyclable. The list goes on, and makes it apparent how much thought and dedication went into creating the house.

The Gee as a building is a work of art, but the uniqueness of the co-op lifestyle drew me back for another year. During his college years at Berkeley, Price lived in a house a lot like the Gee. He wanted to bring the style back to Spokane, where he didn’t see anything like what he grew up with.

“That was the best way to live in college. You were less isolated, and more like a family than just living together,” he said.

I decided to test out this sort of social experiment after seeing an ad in the school paper and taking a tour. Of 10 other roommates, I knew no one, including the roommate I’d share a bathroom with. I had no idea what to expect. The idea of the Gee seemed like The Real World, and we all know those people are not polite (nor sane). But instead of roommates with anger management issues, the unique house attracted truly unique and pretty awesome people. In my time here I have lived with a roommate who grew up on a commune, an intern for the NBA, one of our school mascots, and a vice president of the Gonzaga Society of Women Engineers. And Price was right; we did become like family, as cheesy as that might sound.

Price says the Gee has lived up to his expectations. He joined us for a graduation party at the beginning of the summer and felt that the party was exactly what he envisioned for the Gee. He wanted it to be a place for friends and families to gather and enjoy all of the unique features the Gee has to offer.

But it’s not just family and friends who have noticed my house. Complete strangers have stopped me on my way out to either tell me how “tight” the house is or ask me what it is more times than I can count. I see cars slow down and stare dumbfounded at the place. People don’t know what to make of this huge orange, modern building next to a Mexican restaurant in the Logan Neighborhood.

That was Price’s intent.

“I call it nose-on-window marketing. I want people to look in and be fascinated by it. It really grabs your eye,” he said.

Cunningham doesn’t know if the LEED Platinum-and-green building will catch on in Spokane, due to the added price and time commitment it takes to make a building green, but Price hopes to construct more buildings like the Gee House at other colleges once he starts to turn a profit. As of now, it’s me and three roommates for the fall semester. One weird family in a green (or orange) house. 

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