Issaquah leaders honor zHome builder

July 26, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Akinobu Ohno (left), president of Ichijo USA, receives the framed Ichijo Day proclamation from Mayor Ava Frisinger on July 18, for the zHome project in the Issaquah Highlands. By Greg Farrar

The long-planned zHome project under construction in the Issaquah Highlands — residences designed to produce as much energy as occupants consume — is in line to open in mid-September.

City planners and longtime project backers attributed the milestone to builder Ichijo USA, a subsidiary of Japanese homebuilder Ichijo Co.

In a July 18 ceremony, Mayor Ava Frisinger and Issaquah leaders spotlighted the pan-Pacific partnership responsible for jolting zHome from concept to reality. The mayor proclaimed the day as Ichijo Day in Issaquah.

“During our early discussions about Ichijo, the more we learned about the community, the more excited we became,” she said during the ceremony. “Although we were located thousands of miles away, many of our goals and ambitions were the same.”

Ichijo USA President Akinobu Ohno offered a graceful bow and accepted the framed proclamation from Frisinger.

Construction on zHome is scheduled to conclude in late summer, and then crews plan to prepare the units for public open houses. The opening date is Sept. 14 during the Built Green Conference, a gathering for building industry professionals interested in eco-conscious practices.

Ichijo USA joined the project early last year in a joint venture between the company and developer Matt Howland.

Ichijo Co. builds energy-efficient residences across Japan — a bonus for Issaquah officials.

“They have been a critical part of zHome coming together. With the downturn, we had worked very hard to find alternative financing and hardly any new construction is getting financed these days,” zHome Project Manager Brad Liljequist said. “Ichijo as a partner, they were very critical to getting zHome moving forward.”

Officials gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking Sept. 29, 2008 — the same day the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 777 points.

Construction started after Ichijo USA joined the project last year.

“I think zHome is going to help them become more widely known,” Liljequist said. “I think it will help them a lot, actually. I think they were very specific about the first project they did in the United States.”

Ichijo USA also plans to build residences in the Issaquah Highlands on a parcel involved in the complicated Park Pointe transfer of development rights.

Though zHome is not expected to open to residents for months, the project is already the recipient of numerous accolades.

Gov. Chris Gregoire highlighted the project in a speech about sustainable industries at the Sustainable Cities Forum, a part of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

In April, Liljequist received a Green Globe Award, King County’s top eco honor, in Community Leadership in Green Building for zHome.

Liljequist also serves as project manager for the Maple Street Fire Station, or Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72. The construction project in the highlands offered important lessons for Station 72.

“Here in the next couple of months, I think we’re going to see much more visibility on zHome as we actually wrap up construction and open up,” he said. “That’s going to give them great visibility for their first project in the United States.”

Ichijo Co. is based in Hamamatsu City, about 150 miles southwest of Tokyo. The company ranks among the largest homebuilders in Japan.

Ichijo Co. is constructing temporary residences for people displaced after the March earthquake and tsunami.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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