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February 12, 2004

Among green homes, it's a supermodel

  • Ecofriendly features don't need to make houses 'ugly or strange looking', say the designers of the Built Green Idea Home in Issaquah.
    Journal Staff Reporter

    Built Green Idea Home
    Photos by Sam Bennett
    The Built Green Idea Home looks conventional from the outside, but contains a number of green materials and systems.

    Attracting buyers to the new Built Green Idea Home at Issaquah Highlands was easy. Convincing developers to build more may be harder.

    "We still have reluctance on the part of some builders, because they think the public is reluctant to buy the homes," said Bill Kreager of Mithun.

    Two buyers have agreed to pay the $560,000 asking price of the Idea Home, which may be a sign that the public is warming to ecofriendly design.

    The demonstration home, at 1789 24th Ave. N.E., will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, through April 4. The home is a collaboration between developer Port Blakely Communities, the city of Issaquah and the Master Builders Association of King & Snohomish Counties. Bennett Homes is the builder.

    The home was designed by Mithun to show that ecofriendly structures can fit into neighborhoods without being "ugly or strange looking," according to Robin Rogers of the Master Builders Association.

    MBA has established a Built Green rating system, which assigns points to each green item in a home's design, such as low VOC paints and water/energy conservation measures. The Issaquah Highlands home is the first Built Green demonstration home.

    Highlights of the home include:

    • A Takagi T-K2 tankless, high-efficiency water heater for hot water and space heating.

    • Hydro-Air hydronic fans, which warm air by drawing it over hot water-filled coils.

    • Whirlpool H-Axis front-loading washing machine, which uses one-third the normal amount of water.

    • HAI Low Voltage Control System, which allows room-by-room temperature control. Set points and scheduling are centrally controlled in the kitchen. A bathroom monitor adds ventilation when it detects humidity.

    • Passive solar features, including south-facing windows, thermal mass flooring (2-inch concrete slab under slate) that stores heat from sun and electric blinds that shield high-angle summer sun.

    • Mutual Materials' Eco-Stone permeable paving (in landscaping and driveway) allows rainwater infiltration, reducing stormwater runoff.

    • Raised-heel trusses, which are raised at the point the roof meets the wall, allowing full-depth insulation to the outer edge of exterior walls.

    • LifeBreath Heat Recovery Ventilator, which replaces stale indoor air with outside air about once every three hours.

    • About 75 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfill, and clearing for the home was done during the dry season to reduce erosion runoff.

    A two-inch concrete slab topped by slate traps heat from sunlight in the winter. Electric blinds reduce heat in the summer.

    Rated by MBA as a "Three Star Plus," the model home has nearly twice the number of Built Green points found in other Issaquah Highlands Built Green homes. Steve Jewett of COBA/Bennett Homes said the ecofriendly features added about 5 percent, or $20,000, to the building cost.

    He said the home integrates systems in the areas of thermal efficiency, passive solar design, mechanical ventilation and energy efficiency.

    Little energy goes to waste. For example, a heat recovery system captures and re-uses heat from exhaust air. The gas-fired water heater works on demand, rather that storing large amounts of hot water. And energy efficient appliances, along with compact florescent lights, reduce eclectic bills.

    Outside, wine barrels were converted to harvest rain water, and drought-tolerant native plantings require little or no irrigation.

    "It's about values and vision," said Brian Cloward of Mithun. In terms of exceeding the state's energy codes, he said the home "integrates a lot of pieces of the puzzle."

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