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    We wanted our Beavercreek eco-house to be painted a color somewhere between the hues that nature chose for Dougles fir foliage and bark, a greenish, steely gray. Anyone who has been to a paint store recently knows that you can have any color that tickles your fancy. How to choose? Some of us are attracted to the more creative names – "high strung," "envy" or "raging sea" greens, for example – like picking a wine because you like its label looks. But our design advisor, Heather Wood, actually has a process for choosing colors.

    She led us through her selection system one sunny May day. She held large paint swatches up to the light on site, one after another with matching trim, and we gradually narrowed the choices until only matched pair remained. That's how she guided us to exterior colors by Rodda Paint called "Carlton Clay" and "Bravo Brown," both of which are way more attractive than their names.

    For the interior walls we settled on Sherwin-Williams colors "Blonde" and "Sawdust," again despite the names (and of course we needed two coats of the former, so we could have "Blonde on Blonde"). Then we began researching the environmental issues. Virtually all paint companies now sell "environmental friendly" paint. Sherwin-Williams has its "Green Sure" program.  Another good choice is Yolo Colorhouse ("We believe the world can be more colorful and less volatile.")

    Siding, paint job.jpgA work in progress in the spring sun, as the yellow primer is covered with low-VOC Rodda paint, a hue close to the color of Doug Fir. Depending on the light....  

     

    Portland-based Rodda Paint was the first to earn certification from Green Seal; its certified "Horizon" brand is increasingly popular among commercial painters and do-it-yourselfers. Eco-friendly paints emit fewer Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs; some have zero VOCs. These vapors come from the chemical solvents in paint and can cause "Sick Building Syndrome," asthma and allergies. In the best case, they stink for a while. The "green" paints are based on water rather than oil and use more renewable ingredients.

    We knew from the outset that Don Rhyne Painting Company would apply our house colors as it is a regional leader known for high-quality service. The business has been based in Damascas since 1982.

    The owner, John Krieg, grew up on the farm next to our building site. John, who has been painting for 39 years, reports that the interest in low-VOC, environmentally responsible paints is growing quickly, especially in the commercial sector where the Don Rhyne company does most of its business. The owners of new buildings and even remodels want LEED certification, John says, and nobody wants the fumes.

    Some of the paints are so odor-free, John claims, that his painters can work inside hospitals during the day without raising a suspicious nostril. Oil-based paints are on the decline as the new, sweeter-smelling acrylics take over the market. In John's professional opinion, the low-VOC paints, once also low-performing, now handily compete with the old oil-based concoctions in terms of "spreadability, coverage, color-retention and durability."

    Walter Olsen, Mark Degan and crew chief Cody Naylor rolled up to the house one bright morning and by sundown it was a different color – Carlton Clay to be exact. Sam Randolf and Don Smith eco-varnished the Forest Stewardship Council certified glulam beams that form the stairs. The trim and interior walls took a bit longer, and by the time the team was done with their broad-brush artistry, any hint of VOCs had vanished. And just as we envisioned, the now hint-of-green and steel gray house itself sort of vanishes against the Doug fir that frames it.
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