ZHome is fully occupied, awaiting results

April 9, 2013

By Peter Clark

A fully sold zHome is preparing to prove its impact.

After a successful year of filling the units in the complex, members responsible for the project look forward to the first anniversary of the modern landmark.

The excitement is not only sentimental; it will also coincide with the completion of a post-occupancy evaluation on the promised environmentally sound performance.

While on a tour through the stewardship model of the completed zHome, Sustainability Department Project Manager Brad Liljequist spoke with enthusiasm. Conceived in 2006, the idea to have the city of Issaquah fund the designing and construction of a “net zero” energy home fell in line with the attitude city leaders wanted to instill in the local culture.

“Pretty early on, it became a high priority for Mayor Frisinger,” Liljequist said.

He described it as the most energy-efficient multiple-family project in the United States, which would serve as a benchmark for the lofty sustainable goals the city had. Through the recession and difficulty with builders, zHome stalled in various ways before construction was able to begin, but Liljequist remained dedicated to the vision, saying, “You’ve got to put your stake in the ground and start moving.”

Receiving the attention of Japan-based developer Ichijo in 2010, plans were finalized and zHome opened in fall 2011. It opened its doors to public tours and received national media attention to its goals for efficient, sustainable housing. More than 10,000 people made their way through the complex to see the strategies employed to reduce energy usage to a theoretical zero.

The city then began selling the nine available units, but met with some initial hurdles.

“The market was really tough here in late 2011, really grim,” Liljequist said. “It really didn’t get going until March of 2012.”

After that, he said sales increased in line with the upturn in the country’s housing market, which was impressive given that zHome units cost about 20 percent more per square foot than a typical home.

“We had them all sold by the end of 2012,” Liljequist said.

With 10 units built, one was set aside as the “stewardship” showcase, to exhibit how zHome attempts to maintain its energy-use balance.

The buyers have been mostly within the technology industry, he said, and have all expressed satisfaction with their experience.

With the post-occupancy evaluation set to be completed within the next few months, Liljequist said he looked forward to sharing it with the public. He pointed out numerous other ways in which the construction of zHome has affected the surrounding market.

He said Ichijo, and its commitment to sustainable construction, has become a major developer within Issaquah. He also said the performance of zHome would go a long way to exceeding the recently established city Energy and Carbon Plan. Calling for an 80 percent decrease in energy use and carbon emissions by 2050, Liljequist effusively declared that zHome currently bests that goal.

“It sets the tone,” he said.


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