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At our initial design charrette, we consolidated around the site plan concept that exists today. Integrated design over time proved to be challenging due to the run fast/stop/run fast aspect of the project, changing builder partners, and scheduling challe

Building a Zero-Energy Community: Part 7

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 7: Finding a new builder partner.   In our last blog, we described the early days of zHome. The story rolls on with us facing our first hurdle—finding a new builder partner.   In Spring of 2008, we were informed by our initial builder partner that they needed to pull out of the project. After working so hard to push the project forward quickly, including design team selection, initial design charrettes, energy modeling and finishing schematic design, it was a rough blow.   
December 21, 2011
Aaron Adelstein is the Built Green Executive Director and has been an essential contributor to the project from the beginning. The Built Green program is now planning to make a new certification level based on zHome.

A Zero-Energy Community: Part 6

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 6: The Backstory... Having already gone into the nitty-gritty of green materials and stormwater management, and chronicled the making-of a zero-energy building, I thought I'd back up even further, and talk a bit about how zHome originally came to be.   The project officially started life in March of 2006, when I brought a small group of regional green building innovators together with a common vision to build a community which radically redefined the environmental footprint of production housing. We each played leadership roles in green building in our respective organizations, which included the City of Issaquah (represented by David Fujimoto and me, working as a consultant with GordonDerr to the City), Built Green (Aaron Adelstein), King County GreenTools (Patti Southard and Katie Spataro, who now works for the Cascadia Green Building Council), and Chuck Murray (then with Washington State University Energy Program, now with the WA State Department of Commerce).
December 7, 2011
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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 5

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 5: How do ground source heat pumps and solar panels work?   Two of our most central technologies in achieving zero net energy are our ground source heat pump system (for heating and hot water), and our solar panels (which generate electricity). The two account for about 60% of getting to zero net energy, so obviously they play a key role.  Ground source heat pumps are a well-known technology, but are generally not mainstream, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. The system combines three highly efficient processes which together result in a system which over three times more efficient than a typical forced air furnace. The slides give a good narrative to how the system works, but if you’d like more details, check out the ground source system sign from the zHome education signage—it is the second sign in sign package one. Solar energy, surprisingly, works quite well in the Northwest—solar panels here put out about 70% of the solar energy of a panel in Sacramento. Solar energy quietly is becoming more and more cost effective, with prices coming down and efficiency going up. Currently solar panels convert about 15-20% of the solar energy hitting them to energy—quite efficient when you consider that photosynthesis is only a half a percent efficient! Also, solar panels are quite durable—many panels from the 1970’s are still functioning well.  There is little to go wrong in them. Given how little maintenance they require (simple occasional  cleaning) there is a huge amount going for them.  
November 16, 2011
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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 4

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 4: A new approach to stormwater management. Water and salmon are iconic in the maritime Northwest. The Puget Sound basin has for decades been a hub of innovation in stormwater management, with a goal of protecting these icons. Recently, a movement has been afoot to change how stormwater is managed. In past years, stormwater for new development was typically collected in large vaults or ponds and then released at a set rate into local streams and lakes. While this strategy has had success in reducing impact to local water bodies, it requires large infrastructure, and also is not always effective in limiting runoff impacts. zHome embodies a new stormwater management strategy called "low impact development," which takes a more site-driven approach, where water is detained and returned to the ground right on site. Our stormwater benchmark requires that the same amount of rainfall be reintroduced to the ground as fell there in the site’s original forested state. We employed a number of strategies to achieve this.  zHome also has been "Salmon-Safe certified," the first residential project in Washington State to achieve this standard. Salmon-Safe’s mission is to "transform land management practices so Pacific salmon can thrive in West Coast watersheds." This independent certification ensures that zHome’s stormwater and landscape management systems are ecologically sound and safe to aquatic resources. Click through the slideshow to learn more about zHome's strategy, and click here to watch a video about the cachement system.
October 26, 2011
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Mr. CHIP Goes to Washington

A highlight of this year's Solar Decathlon was the CHIP house, designed, built, and transported to Washington DC by a team of over 100 SCI-Arc and Caltech students. The uniquely puffy "outsulated"  CHIP house—the Compact, Hyper-Insulated Prototype—is an effort to "address the contemporary issues or sustainability, energy efficiency, and affordable housing through a built work." If you missed it during the Decathlon, you have a few additional opportunities to check it out, most notably an exhibition opening this Friday at SCI-Arc's Library Gallery. "Mr. CHIP Goes to Washington," running through December 16, displays through photographs, video, and time-lapse footage the "frantic month in Washington D.C. that is the culmination of the team's two-year effort to conceptualize and develop its proposition for a new sustainability."
October 25, 2011
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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 3

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 3: A Q&A With David Vandervort Architects.   For our blog today I am going to interview David Vandervort and Mark Weirenga with David Vandervort Architects, the Seattle-based architectural firm that designed zHome. They have a long history of sustainably designed single-family homes and remodel projects along with extensive low-rise multifamily experience. Their projects include the sustainable demonstration project NEXTHouse and an award winning LEED Gold custom residence. I have really enjoyed working with David and Mark over the last several years and deeply appreciate the “homey modern” aesthetic they brought to zHome—modern design that you’d actually want to live in.
October 13, 2011
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IdeaGarden Eco-Farmhouse

After Will Rosenzweig and Carla Fracchia bought this 100-year-old farmhouse in Healdsburg, California, they hired Arkin Tilt Architects and Earthtone Construction to make an eco-friendly example out of it. The house had good bones but it was "thermally challenged in both summer and winter," says architect Anni Tilt. Thanks to the addition of a new wrap of rigid insulation on the exterior, new windows throughout, a ventilated roof, and a new wing with shade overhangs, the house is transformed. "It now provides an entirely different level of comfort and performance—a quantum leap forward—which has transformed the way we use it," the owners report. Click through the slideshow to see how the architects and contractors turned the old and leaky structure into a model of energy-efficiency. All photos courtesy of Edward Caldwell (copyright 2011).
October 13, 2011
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A Zero-Energy Community: Part 1

Project Manager Brad Liljequist chronicles the building of the zHome, a ten-unit townhome in Issaquah, Washington—the first multifamily zero-energy community in the United States. Part 1: Introduction to the project.   I am writing this as I sit in the zHome Stewardship Center, which will open later this Fall as a hub of education and market transformation for radically green housing in the Pacific Northwest. I’m surrounded by the sounds of typical construction wrap-up on a residential community—the clink of rebar being laid down for the concrete walkways, Motown being played on the radio by a cleanup crew, and a trackhoe moving larger trees into place. There’s also non-typical sounds—those of drills on the roof, where the solar panels are being installed, and ground source heat pumps starting up for the first time.
September 14, 2011
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Small Footprint in Fayetteville

Fayetteville, Arkansas, doesn't have a reputation for "going green." Rather, the town has historically garnered recognition for its local beacon, the University of Arkansas. Yet homeowners Myria and A.J. Allen are redefining conventional building practices, beginning with their energy-efficient and environmentally conscious home. Completed in the spring of 2011, the petite 1,368 square foot two-bedroom, two-bath structure sports a broad, wing-like roof, detached carport, clerestory windows and cathedral ceilings. But don’t be deceived by the modern shape; underneath the sharp-cornered dressing lies dozens of meticulous details chosen in the name of sustainability. “We wanted to do our small part to reverse the negative environmental trajectory we see around us,” says Myria. “Essentially we wanted to use our financial resources to create a comfortable home which is consistent with our values.” Working closely with Skiles Architect, Myria, a Professor in Environmental Communication at the university, and A.J., an employee for the city’s Parks and Recreation department were able to honor their earth-friendly lifestyle while maintaining an economical outlook. Meeting the highest possible Energy Star 5+ certification through the use of a geothermal heat pump, SIPs for roofing, and Ultrex windows with Low-E II glazing, among other eco-friendly choices, the couple’s lowest across-the-board electric bill has been $43, while the highest came in at a modest $69. Aside from the financial boon, the house also proves valuable in education. Myria says she’s taken advantage of her Fayetteville rarity and brought her students in to talk with them about creating ethically responsible yet beautiful living spaces. “Most folks really don’t think outside the box when it comes to building a home—this helps them to do so,” she says.
September 12, 2011
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