City, King County leaders flip switch on zHome in Issaquah Highlands

September 14, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

King County Executive Dow Constantine (center, at lectern) prepares to address the crowd at the opening of zHome in the Issaquah Highlands on Wednesday. Contributed

NEW — 4:45 p.m. Sept. 14, 2011

Issaquah and King County leaders gathered Wednesday morning to flip the switch on zHome, the first zero-energy, carbon neutral multifamily community in the United States.

Built to use zero net energy and 70 percent less water than a traditional home, the city, county and other partners collaborated to open the 10-townhouse complex in the Issaquah Highlands. The project is meant to serve as a model for incorporating “green” elements into mainstream homebuilding.

County Executive Dow Constantine joined Mayor Ava Frisinger to open the facility in a ceremony in the zHome courtyard.

“This pioneering project sets a new standard for how homes can — and should — be built in our region and country,” Frisinger said in a statement. “Our vision is that zHome’s innovative approach will catalyze the market for much greener building materials and technologies, as well as inspire the next generation of homebuilders through examples that are replicable and market rate.”

The project included aggressive benchmarks to set a different standard in “green” homebuilding. The zHome team said the project used almost 80 percent Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, low-toxicity materials and salmon-friendly practices at the site.

The photovoltaic panels on the rooftops capture sunlight in the summer and create energy for the units and the regional grid. In the winter, as the units pull power from the grid, the energy use evens out to zero.

The city spearheaded the project, alongside King County, Built Green — a nonprofit program focused on sustainable construction — highlands developer Port Blakely Communities, Puget Sound Energy and the Washington State University Energy Program. Ichijo USA, a subsidiary of a large Japanese homebuilder, and local builder Matt Howland built the units.

Units in zHome range from the low $400,000s to the $600,000s.

The complex opens for months of public tours as part of a long-term education effort. The outreach also included opening a Stewardship Center in a zHome unit for the next five years to offer educational programs and tours for the community, builders, designers and students.

“The Stewardship Center will also offer folks innovative and practical steps for replicating zHome’s approach in their own home building or remodeling projects,” zHome Project Manager Brad Liljequist said in a statement.

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