Zero-energy housing project is delayed
January 27, 2009
By Jim Feehan
The nation’s financial crisis is hitting close to home, or more precisely zHome.Construction of the zHome project, an Issaquah Highlands development of 10 townhomes designed to produce as much electricity as they consume, has been delayed as the builder looks for financing during a skittish time for lenders. The zHome project would be located one block east of the park & ride.
“The day the stock market dropped 800 points was the day of our groundbreaking,” said Brad Liljequist, project manager for the Zero Net Energy Project. “Our timing did not line up and suddenly those doors to banks and lenders closed immediately. If we don’t land financing, we’ll be pushed back.”
Liljequist said the shift in the credit market last fall was dramatic and swift.
“It was stunning,” he said. “Within a two-week period, we had a number of banks saying, ‘Yes, we’re on board and we’re interested,’ to banks saying, ‘No, we can’t do it.’”
David Fujimoto, city resource conservation office manager, said this is an atypical lending environment.
“The Bank of America is not doing any lending for home construction on the West Coast,” he said. “It’s a volatile time.”
The zHome, originally the Zero Net Energy Project, is designed to produce as much of its own energy as it uses over the course of a year. It is also intended to be carbon neutral, producing zero net carbon dioxide emissions in the same period.
The buildings will incorporate nontoxic materials, to ensure healthy indoor air, and will make use of solar power generation, ground water heat pumps and rain water collection. A little more than two years in the making, the zHome put Issaquah on the “green” building map internationally. When finished, it is expected to become a focal point for sustainable design and construction.
The project will be built by Howland Homes, in partnership with the city, Built Green, King County, Port Blakely Communities, Puget Sound Energy and the Washington State University Energy Program. Built Green is a program of the Master Builders Association of Seattle and King County, which employs a checklist and points system to rate projects according to how environmentally friendly they are. A two-star rating is the minimum, with successively more stringent requirements up the scale to five stars.
Liljequist said Howland Homes has continued to pitch banks about the project. He said a smaller, local bank has a “very firm interest” in backing two-thirds of the $5 million project, but he declined to name the bank.
Completion of the zHome townhouses was expected by October of this year, but that date looks doubtful, he said.
“We’re still looking for $2 million,” he said. “The building permits are more or less done. We have a shelf-ready project ready to go.”
Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392-6434, ext. 239, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.