Published on September 13th, 2011 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg2
Seattle Net-Zero Townhome Building a Tribute to Less-Sexy Tech
We green techies types love our solar arrays and wind turbines. Sure, that love comes partially from their ability to harvest energy without burning or emitting anything… but the aesthetic appeal of these technologies also plays into it. When taking a look at the building above, you’re probably drawn immediately to the solar panels… and the architect clearly used them as a design element as well as an energy source.
This gorgeous structure, a new, net-zero townhome building set to open in Issaquah, Washington, certainly relies on the photovoltaic panels for a part of the energy equation. But while the solar elements stand out, the zHome is really a tribute to less sexy (and, generally, more affordable) technology. The solar panels offset a third of the building’s energy use; the remaining 66% of the net-zero goal comes from:
- Super insulation: Specifically, nine inches of polystyrene foam that provides “nearly twice the insulative value (R-38 walls and R-60 ceilings, for you techies) of a wall built to the Washington State Energy Code.”
- Double-paned windows and very airtight walls: Very little heated or cooled air is going to escape from these homes, which, of course, means energy and money saved.
- A groundsource heat pump: This behind-the-scense technology will heat both air and water.
- A heat recovery ventilator: OK, this is kind of cool, but not in a visual way: the ventilation system pulls heat from escaping air to warm cooler incoming air.
Efficient lighting and energy monitoring systems are also a part of the package – again, not the stuff of photo spreads. The zHome also features comparable water savings, along with other elements you’d expect in a green development: recycled and sustainably-harvested building materials, low/no-VOC paints and finishes, and wildlife and water-friendly landscaping and exterior elements.
The beauty of all of this technology that doesn’t get the same level of green techie buzz: the builders were able to achieve the net-zero status while keeping the homes in the mid-price range for the market. Yes, $400,000 – $600,000 price tags may make us in the Midwest gasp or wince… but that’s pretty reasonable for the Seattle area.
Part of the goal here is scalability – so hitting this price range was critical. The zHome strikes me as a concept that could be replicated elsewhere… and still hit that mid-market sweet spot.
Take a look through the building’s very thorough website, and let us know what you think…