Construction starts Tuesday on long-delayed zHome project

April 5, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 9:05 a.m. April 5, 2010

Construction will start Tuesday on zHome — the long-planned, eco-friendly townhouse development launched with fanfare in late 2008 and then hindered by the recession.

The project will include 10 townhouses designed to produce as much electricity as the units consume. Developers said zHome should use 60 percent less water than conventional residences. Workers will use only low-toxicity materials to construct the development.

The buildings will rise near the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride and the construction site of another high-profile highlands project, YWCA Family Village at Issaquah. Officials expect zHome to be completed by next spring.

The city spearheaded the development of zHome. Howland Development Issaquah — a joint venture of Ichijo USA and Shoreline developer Howland Homes — will construct the units.

Ichijo USA — the American subsidiary of a Japanese homebuilder — will finance the project. The parent company, Ichijo Co., built about 8,000 homes with sales of $2.1 billion last year. The developer also builds energy-efficient residences in Japan.

“Starting construction on zHome is the next step in bringing zero energy housing to the Northwest,” project manager Brad Liljequist said in a news release. “When zHome opens next spring, we will be poised to influence the next wave of residential construction in the region and beyond.”

Mayor Ava Frisinger said the international character of the eco-friendly project helped direct attention to the issue of global climate change.

“We are thrilled to add a builder of international caliber in Ichijo USA to our zHome team,” she said in the release. “It’s fitting that zHome has evolved into a joint effort that spans the Pacific. By sharing our different skills, technologies and cultures, we can find tangible solutions for a worldwide problem: climate change.”

The mayor and other city and King County officials — as well as a bevy of development partners — met for the zHome groundbreaking ceremony 18 months ago. Dignitaries gathered at the building site Sept. 29, 2008 — the same day the Dow Jones industrial average sunk 777 points. The squeeze on credit markets in the subsequent months derailed financing for the project.

With work scheduled to start Tuesday, officials again touted the “green” credentials of the latest addition to the highlands. Learn more about zHome here.

The ambitious project will be built from a high percentage of salvaged, reclaimed and local materials, and be powered by rooftop solar panels.

Inside, recycled rainwater and efficient fixtures will slash water consumption. Outside, rain gardens and permeable pavement will reduce the impact of zHome on the environment.

Even 90 percent of construction debris will be diverted for reuse, recycling and waste prevention.

Officials promised the result would exceed the top certification requirements from Built Green, a nonprofit building program affiliated with the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and based in Bellevue.

After construction wraps next spring, zHome will open for public tours for three months before the developer sells nine of the homes. The other residence will be used as a demonstration unit for five years and someday offered as affordable housing.

The development partners plan to offer on-site classes during construction, and videotape the building process to be used for training throughout the construction industry.

The project “will serve as an inspirational demonstration project for sustainable building practices that go far beyond the average ‘green’ home, but are replicable and affordable,” Liljequist said.

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