Talk about pushing the green envelope when it comes to home building! Two different Seattle Builders currently have homes for sale and what is likely the first time in our market.This is an exciting bar to be raised (or lowered) for energy use in the speculative building community. Another project built to similar PHIUS standards is due to go be completed next month. Very different, innovative projects in three different Seattle neighbor hoods. One in North, one in Central and one in South Seattle

The Passive House model is long recognized as an international standard to those in the green building community. Passive Houses, or the Passive Haus has been on the radar for decades. The European version of the PH standard really took off in central Germany (with a climate very similar to Seattle) and continued on to other countries including much tougher climates such as Switzerland and Finland. Now the North American entity, PHIUS, is based in Illinois (More about the PH Modeland makes allowances for different climates. While it is a bit different at times from the PH, the standard tenets still apply.

One important caveat of the certification is the extensive use of modeling. Homes designers employ spreadsheets to model energy usage and ventilation, sun exposure etc… PH makes the claim these spreadsheets do an accurate job of predicting general living conditions within the structures. Of course they can’t predict people’s living habits, however within reason, one can estimate the measures it might take to put a few PV panels on the roof to achieve Net Zero status. What all this means to the home owner is the home performance has been carefully designed to limit energy usage and loss within the home while keeping the indoor air quality within healthy limits. PHs have a very small HVAC system and are carefully designed to use only 1500 watts (or the energy of a blow dryer) to heat or cool the home. In the Seattle area we are primarily only concerned with heating the home in the winter. Some report the heat from the electrical appliances can at times be enough to heat the living space.

These innovative homes are by necessity, on the small side with compact design and are often oriented on the building site to take full advantage of the winter sun. With the current trend towards smaller living spaces with flex rooms, universal design, the concept of the outdoor living and neighborhood gathering places, even with our maritime climate these homes can be very comfortable. What is really fun to note is the contrast and similarities of the three different designs and approaches each builder has put into practice. Many eyes will be on these projects and will be measuring the the performance and impressions of the lucky residents.

Way to lower the bar (and the energy bills) Seattle Building Community! It’s an exciting time to be a home buyer in Seattle.

Please contact me if you would like to know more about these innovative homes, which are likely to be the prototypes for future building codes. 

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This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.