A Net-Zero Home Shrugs Off Winter With Solar-Energy Comfort
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A Net-Zero Home Shrugs Off Winter With Solar-Energy Comfort

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By Lucy Wang
Nestled in a historic mining area in Washington, a modern, energy-efficient house blends modern architecture with reclaimed rustic materials.

After completing work on Ed and Joanne Ellis’ primary residence in Bainbridge Island—the first LEED Platinum residence in Washington—Coates Design Architects was called upon again by the couple to design their legacy vacation home, this time on a site an hour east of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains.

To recall the region's past as a historic mining town, a rustic palette of mostly natural materials were applied to the home, including stone, Cor-ten steel, and reclaimed barn wood with modern detailing.

To recall the region's past as a historic mining town, a rustic palette of mostly natural materials were applied to the home, including stone, Cor-ten steel, and reclaimed barn wood with modern detailing.

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As with the first commission, the clients envisioned the new single-family house—named Tumble Creek Cabin—with modern and sustainable design sensibilities. 

Yet, unlike the Bainbridge Island property, the extreme climate in Cle Elum proved a greater challenge when it came to creating a comfortable environment without the use of traditional heating and cooling systems. 

Completed for an approximate cost of $2,000,000, the modern, net-zero home features 3,835 square feet and is located in the heart of Suncadia’s master-planned community.

Completed for an approximate cost of $2,000,000, the modern, net-zero home features 3,835 square feet and is located in the heart of Suncadia’s master-planned community.

A dramatic cantilevered roof helps mitigate unwanted solar heat gain while inviting in warm winter light.

A dramatic cantilevered roof helps mitigate unwanted solar heat gain while inviting in warm winter light.

Using a combination of passive solar strategies and high-performance insulation, the architects crafted a home that consumes net-zero energy thanks to a 10-kWh photovoltaic solar panel and energy recovery systems.

The dramatic, double-height great room is defined by its massive walls of glass that look out to the landscape.

The dramatic, double-height great room is defined by its massive walls of glass that look out to the landscape.

Since Ed and Joanne saw the house as a legacy property for their extended family, the design caters to multigenerational use. In addition to the two primary bedroom suites and bunk room in the main house, Tumble Creek Cabin also includes a guest suite in a standalone building to the south. 

This annex houses a large recreation room as well as a guest suite.

This annex houses a large recreation room as well as a guest suite.

Care was taken to minimize energy loss, from the initial siting of the home to the interior layout. 

A view of the main home's sheltered entrance with the annex to the right. All buildings feature continuous exterior insulation.

A view of the main home's sheltered entrance with the annex to the right. All buildings feature continuous exterior insulation.

"An entry vestibule and mudroom conserves energy and creates an elegant entry into the main living space," note the architects of the self-contained entrance foyer in the main house. "This room serves double duty as a special place to welcome visitors and an air lock to keep the outdoor elements contained. Wintertime’s chilly drafts and summer’s excessive heat are kept at bay with this simple solution."

Here, the long gallery provides access to the two bedrooms and open-plan living space.

Here, the long gallery provides access to the two bedrooms and open-plan living space.

The net-zero home's main living area is anchored by a massive board-formed concrete chimney that, along with the sections of concrete flooring, serve as a thermal heat sink to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures year round.

The net-zero home's main living area is anchored by a massive board-formed concrete chimney that, along with the sections of concrete flooring, serve as a thermal heat sink to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures year round.

Radiant floor heating is used throughout the energy-efficient property, in addition to an Energy Recovery Ventilation System. The heating and ventilation system can be monitored and adjusted remotely.

Radiant floor heating is used throughout the energy-efficient property, in addition to an Energy Recovery Ventilation System. The heating and ventilation system can be monitored and adjusted remotely.

The open kitchen features a Caesarstone-topped center island and semi-custom Canyon Creek cabinetry.

The open kitchen features a Caesarstone-topped center island and semi-custom Canyon Creek cabinetry.

Full-height glazing embraces views of the outdoors and natural light. All windows and doors are energy efficient and aluminum-clad.

Full-height glazing embraces views of the outdoors and natural light. All windows and doors are energy efficient and aluminum-clad.

Tumble Creek Cabin Plan

Tumble Creek Cabin Plan

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Coates Design, Inc. 

Builder/ General Contractor: Brock Smith Custom Homes

Structural Engineer: Quantum Consulting Engineers

Civil Engineer: Encompass Engineering & Surveying

Landscape Design Company: Leuner Landscape Design, Inc.

Interior Design: All in the Details / Coates Design Architects