Must See Projects! 2015 Green Home Tour

NWGHTThe 5th annual NW Green Home Tour, hosted by the Seattle Chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, is only a few weeks away!

Saturday & Sunday, April 25th & 26th, 11am to 5pm

With a wide array of projects featuring everything from solar power to rainwater recycling, tour guides and project team members on-site, and a plethora of information and resources, this is a fantastic opportunity to really get inspired first-hand! Plus, it’s FREE!

We have to admit we are a little blown away by the sheer number of great sites on the tour this year (oh how to choose!), but we never-the-less made our selection of must-sees! Note that sites are open Saturday or Sunday only.

Open Saturday…

View Haus 5

View Haus 5

View Haus 5 in Madison Valley
Built by award winning Cascade Built & designed by b9 Architects, View Haus 5 is Seattle’s first Passive House-constructed townhome project. With 5 unique floor plans these 5-Star Built Green homes are visionary and built to last.

While in the Central area you might also stop by the Madrona Passive House.

Urban Haven in Magnolia
This modest 1940’s home was extensively remodeled in 2011 to increase natural light, energy efficiency, garden views, and unique storage space, and is now fully integrated into the sustainable garden, featuring cisterns, permeable paving, a small green roof, a compost fence, urban livestock and a large kitchen garden.


21 Acres in Woodinville
Visit 21 Acres, a LEED Platinum certified facility with the unique distinction of being fully integrated with 21 Acres’ own bio-diverse Organic farm. Walk the farm, shop the market, see the commercial kitchen and experience the entire green-built campus.

While in Woodinville you might also want to stop by Clearwater Commons.

Open Sunday…

Emerald Star Net Zero House in Ballard
Dwell Development’s first attempt to certify a project at the rigorous Emerald Star Built Green level. In fact, it will be the first single-family spec house in the Northwest to attempt such a feat. It’s more like 10 Star Built Green!

While in Ballard you might also stop by the Plum House by Green Canopy Homes.

 City Cabins

City Cabins

City Cabins in North Seattle
Imagine living in a net-zero home with enough juice left over to charge the car! This is Martha Rose Construction’s latest 5-Star Built Green project, where you will find garden roofs and rain cisterns, stained concrete and stainless steel, and much more.

While in North Seattle you might also stop by the Greenwood LEED Platinum Prefab.

Retreat in the Trees in Sandpoint
SIPs construction, triple-pane windows, super-efficient ductless heat pump, LED lighting, compact, efficient appliances, low-flow water fixtures, and elegant use of a small space are just some of the features of this 400sf ADU.

While in NE Seattle you might also stop by the Lifestream Backyard Cottage.


What is a Passive House?

While building uber-efficient airtight homes sounds a little obsessive, it’s actually become the “right thing to do” and the next milestone for many designers/builders in Seattle and around the globe. Better known as Passivhaus in Europe, the Passive House building standard is one of the most rigorous in the world when it comes to energy efficiency, yet it’s catching on like wildfire because it makes so much sense.

While it’s not likely we’ll all be living in passive houses any time soon, understanding the basic concept will make you stop and wonder why we haven’t been building homes like this all along. Check out this 90 second video!

Picture this! A modern, comfortable house with no cold drafts from unknown places in the winter, no sweltering rooms in the summer, no temperature variations from room to room, no need to close the blinds to prevent all your body heat from being sucked out the windows, and virtually no heating or cooling bills. Well, that’s a Passive House folks! And, the coolest part is they can be built in any climate or geographical region, and stay at a comfortable temperature year round with minimal energy inputs.

The prescription for achieving this level of comfort in a house (or any building for that matter!), without using expensive “active” technologies like photovoltaics or solar hot water systems, is relatively straight-forward (watch the video).

  • Super-insulated
  • No thermal bridges
  • Airtight envelope
  • Energy- or heat-recovery ventilation
  • High-performance windows and doors
  • Efficient systems
  • Passive solar and internal-heat gains

The result? “All heating needs in a typical Passive House can be met by a heater the size of a hair dryer. Heat from people, lights, appliances and the sun does the rest.” Mastering these principles and getting a project Passive House certified is not for the feint of heart though, which is why we’re lucky to have a growing number of architects, builders and consultants in Seattle with Passive House expertise. Their projects include:


Park Passive in Madison Park
Designed by NK Architects, built by Sloan Ritchie of Cascade Built, and with the assistance of Passive House Consultant Rob Harrison, this became the 1st certified Passive House in Seattle.
Now home to the Ritchie family!

Ballard Passive House

Ballard Passive House
Designed by VELOCIPEDE architects and built by Hammer & Hand in 2013.


Courtland Place Passive House in South Seattle
Designed & Built by Passive House Consultant/Builder Dan Whitmore in 2012,
this was the first project to be built to Passive House standards in Seattle.

Recent Passive House News
City’s first certified passive house is also a fun family home – Seattle Times, May 9th 2014
Passive House: The House of the Future – Huffington Post, May 7th 2014
Designing a passive house for Seattle that’s ‘resourceful, replicable and beautiful’ – MNN, April 23rd 2014

Must See Projects! 2014 Green Home Tour

The 2014 Northwest Green Home Tour is just a few weeks away, and instead of taking place both Sat and Sun, this year’s tour will be one day only – Saturday, April 26th, from 11 am to 5 pm. With 35 sites all around Seattle, plus a handful of fun Sustainability Stops, there’s a lot to see! So here’s our list of must-see homes!


Drinking Rainwater in Ballard
This 100 year old home in Ballard was remodeled for ‘low consumption’, and now has the first legal whole house rainwater catchment and filtration system in the city of Seattle. Thanks to a 2280 watt solar PV array, LED lighting, energy efficient appliances and habits, the homeowners have also reduced their annual electric bill to just $125, and now get paid for the electricity they produce. 7703 26th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117

If you’re interested in rainwater systems, don’t stop there! Head over to RainWise – NW Seattle, another site with an impressive 5 cisterns (diverting 50k+ gallons of rainwater a year) and beautiful/functional rain gardens. 2034 NW 60th St, Seattle 98107

Lifestream Backyard Cottage
This backyard cottage in Maple Leaf was built to demonstrate a new model in healthy home construction by integrating innovative wall systems, non-toxic materials, shielded electrical systems, fiberglass re-bar slab, & energy efficiency features, and will be particular interesting to those concerned with chemical &/or electromagnetic sensitivities. 9100 15th Ave NE, Seattle, 98115

There are a handful of backyard cottages (in all shapes & sizes) on the tour this year, so head on over to the North Seattle Backyard Cottage in Greenwood, the Falcon’s Nest is Ballard, and the Baker Cottage in Fremont.

Burke-Gilman HouseBurke-Gilman House
Strikingly modern yet sensibly smart, this modern home was designed for an active couple looking to stay put as their mobility decreases. It also includes passive solar orientation and cold roof design, a high performance building envelope and energy saving systems, as well as water saving fixtures and underground rainwater cisterns. 3334 NE Blakeley Street, Seattle, WA 98105

HOME reclaimed
How do you transform the beauty, resources and intrinsic value of a 1938 Tudor into a modern dwelling? While also achieving a 5 Star Built Green rating, a certified HERS index score of 55, ENERGY STAR qualification and Water-Sense certification? Well, you’ll just have to visit this amazing remodel project in Seward Park to find out. 4007 49th Ave, Seattle, WA 98118

While in the neighborhood, also stop by the Opperman-Lee Deep Green Remodel, an exquisite remodel of a severely neglected 1952 house by owner/designer/builder Vicky Opperman.

Historic House Deep Green Remodel
The challenges involved in remodeling, restoring and energy retrofitting this beautiful 1904 Capitol Hill home were immense, but were overcome with perseverance, humor, ingenuity and painstakingly detailed work. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the impressive result of a job well done. 716 17th Avenue E, Seattle, WA 98112

But don’t stop there! Browse all Northwest Green Home Tour Sites, use the interactive maps, and go get inspired! The Northwest Green Home Tour is free and open to the public, thanks to the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild and Built Green, as well as a host of amazing sponsors.

Seattle Green Builders – Selling in 2014!

When the Seattle real estate market began improving by leaps and bounds last year, we took a closer look at Seattle green builders who were “raising roofs to meet the demand” in a post entitled Seattle Green Builders – Now Selling!. Now almost a year later, those same builders are humming along, but we’ve got some new editions we thought you should know about. All the builders listed here are not only green, but have homes currently for sale or about to hit the market!

Build Urban
With 10 projects under their belts, and 3 more ‘on the boards‘, Build Urban caught our attention when they recently broke ground on their Canopy at Maple Leaf project. Not only did they preserve the towering cedars on the lot, and incorporate existing features (like the curved driveway), the homes themselves will be a mix of both traditional and modern architecture (less likely to stand out like sore thumbs!), and they’ll all be 5-Star Built Green.

West Seattle - 48th

West Seattle – 48th

R. Thoreson Homes
While they call themselves small, and focus on a limited number of projects each year, R. Thoreson Homes specializes in energy efficiency, and using existing infrastructure to minimize environmental and neighborhood impact. Their latest projects include West Seattle – 48th (4 new modern townhomes), and a more traditional Mt Baker Residence, which was just written up as a Built Green Featured Home.

LimeLite Development

LimeLite Development
Bright. Green. Living. is their motto and they seemingly live up to that by building and rehabbing green homes all over Seattle. Their latest projects now under construction include 4 Star Built Green townhomes in both the Central District and Beacon Hill, but they’ve got a slew of other interesting projects. If you like sleek, modern, clean & green, check these guys out – their project gallery will delight!

As always, give us a call if there’s a project or home you’d like to see!

Ballard Built Green

Main FloorWe just listed a fabulous townhome in the heart of Ballard! This beauty was built in 2007 by Noland Homes and has the distinctive contemporary architecture and quality finishes that became their signature style. It’s a street-side, south-facing unit with a fully fenced garden patio and alley access to the garage. Being west of 24th Ave NW makes this particular locale quieter then central Ballard, yet the home is steps from the new QFC, coffee shops, pubs and the Burke Gilman Trail. It actually has a Walkscore of 92 – a Walker’s Paradise, so this is definitely urban living at it’s best!

3BR | 2.5BA | 1270sf | 1-Car Garage | $450,000

Special features:Office

  • Certified 3-Star Built Green
  • Pre-wired for solar hot water & photovoltaics
  • Energy efficient appliances, lighting & heating
  • IceStone kitchen countertops (concrete & recycled glass)
  • Custom cabinets (in kitchen & baths)
  • Heat & Glo high-efficiency, free-standing fireplace
  • Brazilian Cherry hardwoods & custom tile
  • Entertaining deck w/ glass & metal railing

We held an open house this past weekend and the feedback was great! “This place was remodeled right? It looks brand new!”, “What a great kitchen, love the countertops & cabinets!”, and “This place has a really good feel to it!”.

We agree! Noland Homes built this place right, and the homeowner has taken excellent care of it. See our Ballard Built Green featured listing for more photos & all the details. We’re reviewing offers July 3rd @ 5pm, so contact Danielle @ 206.679.0185 for more info.

It’s Time for Resilient Design!

The entire Fall 2010 issue of YES! Magazine was dedicated to A Resilient Community, and they covered everything from Just the Facts :: Why Build Resilience? to a Crash Course in Resilience. Fast forward to 2013 and we now have the building and architecture industry showing considerable interest in resilience as an essential part of sustainable design.

In fact in 2012 Alex Wilson, founder of GreenBuilding Inc and executive editor of Environmental Building News, started the Resilient Design Institute, with the goal of advancing the many facets of resilience at personal, community, and regional scales.

Resilience is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption of some sort. At various levels —individuals, households, communities, and regions — through resilience we can maintain livable conditions in the event of natural disasters, loss of power, or other interruptions in normally available services.

Relative to climate change, resilience involves adaptation to the wide range of regional and localized impacts that are expected with a warming planet: more intense storms, greater precipitation, coastal and valley flooding, longer and more severe droughts in some areas, wildfires, melting permafrost, warmer temperatures, and power outages.

Resilient design is the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in response to the these vulnerabilities.

As much as we’d like to think that living sustainably is about green homes & gizmos, hybrid cars and solar panels, the reality is it’s also about continuing to thrive in the face of adversity and rapid change. But, how do we do that?

We learn from buildings and communities designed before the age of oil and electricity; from cities devastated by natural disasters; and from building programs like Passive House and Living Building, which drastically reduce resource use. Resilient design explores these ideas and more, and calls on each and every one of us to actively participate in preparing ourselves, our homes and our communities for a very uncertain future.

Interested in learning more? Alex Wilson will be in Seattle May 14th addressing resilient design in the context of a transition toward sustainability. He will cover a wide range of practical solutions, from boosting energy performance of homes to maintaining livable conditions during extended power outages, to redesigning communities to function without gasoline and encouraging local food production.

For your additional reading pleasure, more on Resilient Design…

Building Green Is No Longer Enough, It is Time To Build Resilient – TreeHugger

Will the Resilience Movement Help the World Cope With the Resource Crunch? – IMT Green & Clean Journal

Seattle Green Builder Spotlight: Cascade Built

Cascade Built has been constructing high performance custom homes in Seattle for some time now, and they have a particular knack for maximizing the potential of postage stamp-size infill lots in the Madison Valley area. While many green builders make their way from ‘light’ to ‘deep’ green slowly over time, founder Sloan Ritchie has jumped in with both feet, and is seemingly only content when he’s literally pushing the green building envelope.

This is particularly refreshing when you consider that a number of Cascade Built’s most successful projects have been spec-built. We’ve had the privilege of working with founder Sloan Ritchie to market and sell a few of the more recent projects, and they’ve been crowd-pleasers every time! Clean modern designs that are at the same time warm and inviting, fresh and sassy finishes with earthy undertones, uniquely appealing color combinations that are both bold and subtle, and a predilection for open, light-filled spaces that connect to the natural and urban environment alike.

AlleyHouseAlley House – 3BR | 2.5BA | 1,830sf | Off-Street Parking
As one of the first LEED Platinum certified single-family homes in Seattle, this stunning modern redefined urban infill development with it’s plethora of sustainable and energy efficient features and unique back alley location. Structural insulated panel (SIP) construction, cedar rain screen siding, concrete and recycled wood floors, custom Kirei doors, dual-flush toilets, pre-wiring for photovoltaics and solar hot water, drainwater heat recovery, Alley House Kitchenrain gardens, grasscrete parking, a green roof and so much more!

Every square inch of this 3-story home was maximized, yet it felt both open and inviting with its over-sized windows and glass doors connecting the main living space to a private bamboo courtyard. The home’s high performance design and construction also meant it was 50% more efficient than other similar code built homes, and roughly 70% more efficient than the average Seattle home.

Alley House 2
– 3BR | 2BA | 1,697sf | 1-Car Garage

ExteriorflyerDesigned by award-winning architect David Foster and certified LEED Platinum, Cascade Built’s second Alley House was prefabricated in modular components by Seattle-based, green prefab specialists Method Homes. Sloan chose a modular prefab build for this project because of the shorter building time-frame (approximately 2 months) and reduction in material waste (minimized to less than 5%). The prefab build also means the house was constructed in a closed environment where exposure to elements such as rain, do not exist. All the modules were craned into place in one day!

PrefabKitchenThis 3-story home featured hardi-panel rainscreen siding, bamboo floors, custom Squak Mountain countertops, Energy Star and Water Sense fixtures and appliances, an on-demand tankless hot water heater, ductless mini-split heat pumps, heat recovery ventilation, and a fully conditioned garage for future ADU conversion.

If you think living in an alley sounds unappealing, think again! Tree-top views of Madison Valley, over-sized east and south facing windows for ample natural daylight, two entertaining balconies, and a quick stroll to neighborhood amenities made this the perfect urban retreat.

Park Passive
– 4BR | 3BA | 2,300sf | 1-Car Garage
Designed by NK Architects this ultra-modern home is now under construction in Madison Park and is targeting Passive House certification (the world’s leading standard in energy efficient construction). As a result of extreme attention to detail in air sealing, high levels of insulation, and high-performance windows, this home’s heating energy consumption will be reduced by nearly 90%.

This home will also feature a solar hot water system, site harvested woodwork, zero VOC finishes, heat recovery ventilation, pre-wiring for solar PV and more. True to Cascade Built style, the in-fill city lot this home occupies measures just about 2,000sf. This home is expected to be completed this spring, so stay tuned for our upcoming tour announcement!

Cascade Built also has a fantastic line-up of sustainably designed backyard dwellings – see Backyard Boxes to learn more!

A Seattle Gut-Rehab Targeting LEED Certification

Homeowner Collen Groll of O’Brien & Company has spent the last 5 years bringing this 1919 Seattle bungalow back to life, and it’s now for sale! Remodeled from the studs-out for superior energy efficiency, increased comfort, and flexible, open living spaces, and is now going to achieve LEED for Homes Silver Certification.


3 bedroom/2.5 baths, 3-stories, 2,390 sf home, 3,530 sf lot and 1-car garage. Secluded amongst trees, yet blocks from Lake Washington & Leschi town center.


This home was originally built in 1919, and is 2-stories with a basement. When purchased in 2007, the house was in poor repair, extremely leaky, and was not functionally well laid out. It was essentially a stripped shell with exposed floor joists and wall cavities. The second floor included a typical gable roof with a small window at either end, and because the south side of the house was already at the set-back line, there was no way to extend the roof line.

The floor plan was redesigned to include functional, adaptable spaces. In order to accommodate three bedrooms and extend the ceiling on the second floor, the roof peak was raised, which increased the pitch of the roof line. A crow’s nest (future yoga and meditation studio) was added, which allowed an additional view of Lake Washington and a special place for rejuvenation.


The priorities for this project were improved envelope and energy efficiency. Additionally, homeowner Colleen, wanted to incorporate salvaged products and healthy finishes where possible.

In order for this project to pursue LEED for Homes certification a complete gut rehab was necessary, as partial or even substantial remodels are not eligible. Additionally all systems and components (e.g. HVAC, water heater, windows) are required to be replaced and exterior walls must be open to allow for a Thermal Bypass Inspection.

Features – Exterior & Envelope

  • Metal Roof
  • Locally Milled Red Cedar Siding (from naturally downed trees)
  • Double 2×4 Wall Construction
  • Blower Door Tested
  • Envelope Airsealing using Closed Cell Foam & Caulk
  • Blown-in Cellulose Batts (R-28 Walls)
  • Super-insulating SeriousWindows (u-factor range .15-.17)
  • Garage Can Accommodate up to (4) 500-gallon Tanks for Rainwater Catchment
  • Cantilevered Deck to Protect Environmentally Sensitive Area
  • Permeable Driveway & Parking Area

Features – Interior

  • RecoupAerator 200DX Energy Recovery Ventilation System
  • HTP Elite Energy Star Modulating Boiler (up to 98% efficient)
  • Runtal Wall Radiators
  • Lennox Elite Direct-Vent Gas Fireplace w/ Electronic Pilot
  • Over 100 YR Old Salvaged Wood Floors (from Garfield High School)
  • Salvaged Solid Wood Cabinets & Doors (from Second Use)
  • Locally Made Paperstone Countertops
  • Energy Star Lighting & CFL Bulbs used Throughout 95% of House
  • Kohler Highline Toilet w/ Sloan FlushMate Pressure-Assist (only 1.0 GPF)
  • Low-Flow Showers & Faucets
  • Non-Toxic Paints (Benjamin Moore Natura) & Finishes


Jamie Fisher Architect

Kristian Nunnelee
NW Contour Building Co

LEED Homes Green Rater
Chris Edlin