Nathan Good Architects

Nathan Good is a renowned and award-winning green architect located in Portland, Oregon.  He is recognized by NW Home Magazine as one of the Top 50 Architects in The Northwest, and Fine Homebuilding Magazine featured one of Nathan’s projects on the cover of the August/September 2011 issue.  Nathan specializes in a collaborative process in home design that engages his clients, consultants and other key stakeholders in the design process.

Winsome Construction is fortunate to have the opportunity to work collaboratively with Nathan. His kind and engaging demeanor, creative and innovative designs, extensive experience with a broad spectrum of projects and ability to engage stakeholders in the design process make him an exceptional choice for the design of any project, residential or commercial.  Winsome Construction is currently collaborating on a number of projects, and recently completed one of his spectacular designs in the Net Zero, LEED platinum project, Nathan Good Vineyard Estate.

Contact Nathan Good
800 NW 6th Avenue, Suite 304
Portland, Oregon 97209

Interview with Nathan Good

We sat down with Nathan to ask him some questions about his vast experience in green building and architectural design.

Winsome:  How did you get started as an architect?

Nathan:  My parents were in the process of designing a home when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and they brought home magazines and books on floor plans.  It was really interesting to listen to them talk about the pros and cons and I discovered that they didn’t agree.  I felt like I could help them.  I went crazy designing floor plans.  I found one floor plan by a Los Angeles Architect called the Hemisphere Home.  It was an octagon home on a steep slope designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright architect, John Lautner, who worked with Wright for most of his career.  I thought it was the coolest thing.  I was really charged up about that.  Of course, I was also always playing with blocks and legos and building forts and tree houses.  I started my formal study of architecture in High School drafting and continued my studies in college at California State Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Winsome:  What peaked your interest in green building?

Nathan:  There was not just one event that peaked my interest in green building.  It was really a combination of things starting with my summers on my uncle’s farm as a kid.  During most of my childhood I lived in small communities in the Midwest.  From 6th grade through high school and college I spent every summer working on my uncle’s farm in Oklahoma.  That is when I really learned the meaning of the saying, “You don’t eat your seed corn” on a deep level.  What I liked the most about the farm life was the skies, land, smells and living, working and experiencing the outdoors.  Things were constantly changing.  Nightlife on the farm allowed me time to be alone and think.  I learned frugality from this time on the farm.  I learned to fix things yourself and save everything.  Growing up on a farm was my foundation in green.  I would return home after these summers with my batteries charged and with a little money in my pocket to boot.

I also went to Denmark for one year in college.  In Denmark, they practice very sensible design.  Denmark is an island and they are very conscientious about their resources and waste.  They did not want to rely on others for their resources or export waste.

The final big event that I can point to that drove home the importance of green design for me was the energy crisis in 1974.  It was a wakeup call for most who experienced it.  Following that crisis there was a real movement towards energy independence for national security.  How we design is an integral part of that independence.

Winsome:  What would you say has been the most important breakthrough in green technologies and design in your career?

Nathan:   It would be easiest to separate types of technological innovations.  There are design process advances and innovations in supporting or building technologies.

For design processes, formulating a quantifiable definition of what constitutes green in the form of rating systems has been the breakthrough with the most far reaching impact.  It has provided criteria that we can reference and design and build toward.  It provides a framework for everyone on the project team and facilitates a more integrated design process, opening up to include client’s builders and consultants in the design.   In the process of designing and building a project, I find that it works best to temper the ego and ask others for advice.  It produces a superior result when I suspend having to be right and ask others to contribute genius to the project.  Early on I wanted to be a “Starchitect”, a term used to describe architects whose celebrity and critical acclaim have transformed them into idols of the architecture world and possibly even amongst the general population.  When I discovered “Integrated Design” or “Collaborative Design”, I knew that it was a better way to go.

For building technologies in the last 5-10 years the new insulated products have enabled tremendous advances in the efficiency of the structures that we can build.  The Closed Cell Spray Foam is very efficient and more environmentally designed.  There has also been a radical increase in the efficiency of Heat Pumps in the last 7 years.  In our climate in the Pacific Northwest, it may be more cost effective to use Heat Pump technologies to heat water than using solar.  Window technology has improved dramatically in the last 10 years, as well and the current day Heat Recovery Ventilators are super efficient and provide increased opportunities for maximizing healthy indoor air quality in buildings.  Total building envelope insulation and thermal restrictions of the whole building envelope have been a fantastic breakthrough in the last 5 years, as well.

Winsome:  If you were to say that you had a specialty, what would it be?

Nathan:  I guess it would be kind of like the blind pigmies that find an elephant and touch each part, it depends on your perspective of what I do on a project.  I think design of energy efficient luxury homes is my specialty.  If you were to ask my clients, they would say that negotiating win/win design agreements among couples is my greatest strength.  I guess I’m continuing to help people find the common ground today, just like I did with my parents when I was 8.

Winsome:  What are some of the challenges or obstacles to overcome in designing a green/resource efficient home?

Nathan:  Builders that do not have the mindset or the open mindedness to be willing to learn how to build energy efficient or ultra energy efficient green homes.  A lot of it has to do with risk avoidance.  Most of the resistance is from older builders who have experience building the same home using the same technologies for most of their years.  Some of them have been building using the same building technologies for 15-30 years.  In one experience that I had with a client who lived in the Midwest, my client’s had hired their builder because he had such a good reputation.  As it turned out, he was pretty resistant to the technologies that we had used in the design of their home.  With this project, and others where we have met this resistance, we have found that being patient and spending the time to educate and train pays off.  With one client’s project at Cannon Beach in Oregon there was a lot of resistance from the subcontractors.  For that project we hosted an all day training.  The builder lined up the local Homebuilders Association and the local lumber yard sponsored it.  We had 30 people come. The owner of the home stood up and talked about why she wanted to build this home using advanced green technologies, Green Depot gave a great presentation on the materials and I gave a presentation on the design process and the Earth Advantage rating system.  It was very well received.

Winsome:  How has the state of the economy and the real estate and construction market impacted green building?

Nathan:  There are fewer homes being built and that has a big impact.  What homes there are, the client’s are scrutinizing their budgets so much that it makes it challenging.  You can prioritize green technologies and amenities in a home, but indoor air quality is crucial.  We do not compromise on that.  Energy efficiency remains high in our projects, but it is hard for client’s to decide whether to spend more for the triple pane windows, for example.  Things that are falling off of projects are rainwater harvesting, more expensive green materials and landscaping.  We are seeing houses being designed smaller and are taking into account building systems that make the design more efficient, which is great as far as green design goes.  There is also more remodeling, which is really good from the green standpoint, as well.

Winsome:  What do you see in the future of green building?

Nathan:  I would like to see no distinction between a green home and a “regular” home.  Green needs to be the building standard.

Winsome:  If you were to offer someone who is interested in building a “green” home, commercial/industrial building or winery advice that would help them to get the most from their project, what would it be?

Nathan:  I would stress the importance of education and understanding of high quality, green building.  They should read, attend seminars and learn about the characteristics and qualities of green buildings to help them understand what is different and why.  Self education is huge.  Another one is to hire the architect and the builder as a team and think about the compatibility of the team together.  Set up the time upfront for team building so that everyone spends time together getting to know each other and their expectations for the building project.  Investments made in getting to know people really pays off throughout the project.

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