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August 10, 2016

Experiment on Capitol Hill: Old house, new apartments, net-zero energy design

Journal Construction Editor

Image from NK Architects [enlarge]
Developer nic|chick wants to combine an old house at 11th and East Republication with new apartments to create 20 net-zero housing units: 12 in the new building and eight in the old house.

The husband and wife team that founded NK Architects — Brandon Nicholson and Shanna Kovalchick — are doing an “experiment” on Capitol Hill: combining an old house with a new apartment building that they hope will be a net zero user of energy.

The project is at 11th Avenue East and East Republication Street. Nicholson said they bought the house and its 6,000-square-foot corner lot five years ago, and have been renting it out.

The plan is to move the house to the front of the lot, facing 11th Avenue, and build a four-story apartment building behind it, all designed to meet Passive House standards.

The combined buildings would have about 20 units: 12 in the new building and eight in the old house. An old garage would be demolished and 15 parking spaces created underground.

Residents will share a courtyard between the old and new structures. Private patios on the west side of the building will overlook the newly opened Broadway Hill Park. There also will be bike parking and a rooftop deck.

Nicholson said they don't want to merge the buildings.

“Our goal is to minimize connections, make the old look old, and the new look new,” he said.

With that in mind, the house will be kept white and still have a porch. Solar panels mostly above the new space will be used to help reach net zero energy, and they will also create a canopy between the two buildings. Nicholson said the translucent panels will filter light below.

Apartments will primarily be one-bedrooms, but there also will be studios and two- and three-bedroom units to accommodate young professionals as well as families.

The 18,700-square-foot project is being developed by nic|chick, Nicholson and Kovalchick's development company. They say their goal is to create sustainable, market-rate, multifamily housing in urban areas.

A design review meeting on the 11th and Republican project will be held at 6:30 p.m. tonight in the Stuart T. Rolfe Room at Seattle University, 824 12th Ave.

Nicholson said they hope to start construction next spring and take about a year to build.

Pace Engineers and Karen Kiest Landscape Architects are on the team. No general contractor has been selected.

Nicholson and Kovalchick develop a project every few years mostly as a research-and-development exercise. Nicholson called their projects “experiments” that clients don't want to do themselves.

NK has designed several projects that combine new construction with old buildings. The firm also has about a dozen Passive House projects in planning or construction around the country.

Nicholson said five years ago Seattle was a leader in energy efficient development, but high prices and strong demand here have curtailed developers' willingness to experiment with things like Passive House design. Now most are just focused on getting projects out of the ground.


Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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