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Buck Bailey, building designer


Growing up in Georgia, I was surrounded by the history and architecture of the colonial and antebellum South. I was about ten years old when my parents took our family on a trip to Savannah, which contains one of the nation’s largest and most architecturally significant historic districts. We toured the magnificent homes, churches, parks, and public buildings of Savannah. I was fascinated by the stories and lore of those time periods, and knew deep down that I wanted to create beautiful, enduring buildings.

I attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta, studying architecture, building construction, and business. I wanted to understand not just design, but how buildings are assembled, and the business of construction. I wanted to be able to fill a need for both creative and practical services. I visited and studied in Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, New York, Chicago, and London. I graduated with a BS in Building Construction in 1993.

After graduating from Georgia Tech, I started my design practice in the Atlanta area. I had several custom builder clients, and they, along with their referral clients, kept me busy. We designed and built high-end custom homes in most every style. I continued my studies of New Urbanism in North Florida at Seaside and other important developments, and was fortunate to expand my practice there. I designed in the Dutch Caribbean style at several renowned developments including Rosemary Beach. I was elected to several architectural review boards (ARB’s) and learned greatly from the experience. I continued to practice in Georgia, and expanded into designing historical preservation projects. As New Urbanism expanded into Georgia, I was again very fortunate to have design opportunities in traditional neighborhood design (TND) around metro Atlanta, including developments like Tributary at New Manchester. I was able to design more authentic new homes in the high Queen Anne Victorian and Classic Colonial Revival styles. I also expanded to practice at Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee, where I combined historical design with modern floor planning to achieve “rustic elegance”. I never advertised, and all my business has always been by referral. I hope that means I do a good job and offer useful and creative design solutions for my clients’ lifestyles, taste, and budget.

The recession caused virtually all construction to stop in the East. I took this time to reflect on my career, and became interested in high-performance energy and sustainability. I wanted to learn how I could apply new technologies and practices to my aesthetic design offerings. I attended the “Build Small, Live Large” conference in Portland, and this time fell in love with the future of design and building. It’s well known that the Pacific Northwest is a leading region in energy and sustainability design, and I decided to move to the Portland area to study in depth and become qualified to offer these services. I completed Earth Advantage’s Sustainable Homes Professional course (SHP), Natl. Assn. of Homebuilders Certified Green Professional course (NHB CGP), and LEED’s Green Associate accreditation (LEED GA). I enjoy working with builders who share the same ethos for creative and meaningful design, coupled with high-performance energy and sustainability. As a member of Portland Homebuilders Association and the High Perfomance Council steering committee, I find networking with other designers and builders to be very informative and fun.

I love all styles of architecture, and strive to produce excellent design in the style my client desires. If I have a “specialty” I would say it’s helping my clients corral their ideas and desires to form an inviting, unique, and livable plan. I call it “herding cats”. I love the challenge!

My views on Sustainability and High Performance Energy design

We hear the terms “high performance” and “sustainable” constantly these days. The more I’ve learned about these terms, the more “real” and exciting they’ve become. “High-performance” generally means super energy efficient, but also applies to homes that are designed and engineered to be air- and water-tight. Due to streamlined construction processes, advanced building materials, and the reduction of the cost of solar photovoltaics (PV), it’s now within reach of the average homeowner to build or retrofit to Net Zero Energy (NZE), meaning the house makes as much or more energy than it consumes. By nature, these homes are also much more comfortable, durable, and healthy than non-high-performance homes. “Sustainability” implies that when we carefully design for high-performance, we are trading the use of Earth’s non-replaceable resources with resources that are replaceable or renewable. For instance, solar power is a renewable resource, fossil fuels aren’t. As a lifestyle practice, “sustainability” implies less consumption, and therefore less carbon emitted into the atmosphere as a result of manufacturing and distributing consumables.

A high efficiency home only costs about 5-10% more to build than a code-level home, but pays back quickly in lowered utility and maintenance bills. Occupants’ medical bills are often dramatically less too as these homes use non-toxic materials, and all but eliminate air, water, dust, and organism infiltration. These homes appraise for more than code-level homes and studies most always show they sell faster when on the market. A cash-flow study usually surprises clients and demonstrates the affordability of advanced homes.

The main obstacle to advanced building is complacency. Some homebuyers put more thought into the purchase of their car or tv than their house. Some builders are reluctant to learn new technologies and practices because it’s inconvenient. Another obstacle to overcome is the myth that high performance energy homes are “too expensive”, or take too long to pay for themselves. Solar PV has dropped 60% in cost since 2009, and tax incentives, rebates, etc take the payback down to less than 10 years. A final obstacle is the preconceived notion that the terms “green” and “sustainable” only relate to the enviro-fringe society. On the contrary, most everyone loves to save money, live better, and contribute to helping the Earth at the same time. I am currently designing a number of projects that incorporate these advanced systems with liveable, inviting aesthetics. I look forward to chatting with you further!
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