Designs for the times

Words like home, hearth, heart and family serve as motivation and inspiration for home designer and builder Ryan Zygar.

Recently recognized as one of the Vancouver Business Journal's Accomplished & Under 40, Zygar refers to himself as a visionary.

"I want to look around in 30 years and know that my life and my input in an industry I love was driven by the passion to create home," he said.

Zygar is the president and co-founder of Tamarack Homes. He started the company with Scott and Travis Aldinger in 2006. His goal is to create spaces where families feel comfortable and want to be together in. One way he accomplishes this is to break away from the standard tract house look-alikes, using modern architecture to provide unique features.

"My designs are inspired by what I see around me and what I want to change," Zygar said.

Anyone looking for an example of Zygar's creativity need only look as far as Ridgefield, to a home Zygar co-designed with Portland-based architecture firm Works Partnership Architecture (WPA). Known as "Prototype A," the 1,950 square-foot home literally turns the standard tract house upside down and inside out.

The two-car garage and two bedrooms are on the ground floor, with the main living spaces and master bedroom located above. But what is really unique is that the upper story is split in half, defining a courtyard in the middle. In the words of the architecture firm's blog, this design "embraces the out and makes it part of the in."

Michael Blondino, principal of Vancouver-based design firm Blondino Design, has worked with Zygar on about 10 design projects over the past few years. He called Prototype A's courtyard "fabulous," after sitting down for a pizza lunch in it.

Another unique Tamarack project is called the tandemDUO, with its glass and steel siding. Located off Pine Street in Portland, Zygar described it as a "five-story home on a two-story lot."

Blondino said he is currently working with Tamarack on a series of American Foursquare homes and a couple single-level baby-boomer designs.

Zygar said his company uses the latest energy-efficient technology in their homes. One example is airtight building techniques combined with ductless air conditioning technology (also known as mini-split HVAC). Zygar said his company utilizes this design because it increases the efficiency of standard air conditioning by about 300 percent. The Prototype A house also includes a built-in heat recovery ventilator (HRV) system, which heats the incoming cold air with out-going warm air. According to an article in Residential Architect Magazine that featured Zygar, these techniques keep Prototype A's utility bill around $100 per month – that's a big savings when compared to the national average of $264 per month, as reported by the White Fence Index.

Blondino said the quality of craftsmanship exhibited by Tamarack Homes' employees is much higher than standard spec design.

"Their quality is so fantastic that it really doesn't compare to others in the same price range," said Blondino, adding that a large part of Tamarack's success was the high level of communication during the entire design and build process.

Zygar said his firm uses a commercial online project management application called BaseCamp to mitigate the stress of the inevitable mistakes and misunderstandings that accompany a project. From the client to the architect, Zygar said the application allows everyone involved in a project to log in and share information – they can even post pictures, questions and comments.

Tamarack's website also includes project galleries and blogs that track the design and construction progress.

"Most builders don't do this," said Zygar. "I wanted to be different and provide a better experience for the client."

While Zygar is committed to quality architecture, he said creating houses that are affordable is key.

"I had always wondered, why can't you capture modern architecture at a fair price?" he said.

Zygar and WPA challenged themselves to build Prototype A in the same amount of time, with the same materials and at the same cost of a standard home. They were nearly successful – the project took about 10 days longer than the typical 60-day period and the cost was slightly over standard. However, Zygar said they learned enough in the process to help speed up similar projects in the future.

The house, which was part of this year's Parade of Homes, won the "Outstanding Architecture" award. Priced at slightly over $325,000, it sold much faster than the market average.

"Less than 90 days, easy," said Zygar.

The speed with which Prototype A sold underscores this accomplished builder's opinion that home buyers in Clark County are looking for just that – home.

"The architecture community hasn't touched "home" in 30 years," Zygar said, adding that he's most excited about the opportunity to be a part of creating the new modern bungalow.