Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to imagine a home on this site, high atop a cliff, overlooking the Pacific. But neither this home, known as the Zero Energy Idea House, nor its architect, are of the average variety.
“It’s self evident that this design is saying ‘I’m a different kind of house,’” says architect David Clinkston. “That was the intention—that you see the green roofs, PV panels, solar hot water panels, and windmill. These are all visible from the road. A ‘green wall’ at the main entrance (to reduce afternoon solar gain) is another clue that all is not “normal” with this house.” In addition, a galvanized steel grid in the front of the home provides privacy, and forms a trellis for vines.
Not every aspect of the home’s infrastructure is obvious, of course. The Structural Insulated Panel structure (SIPs) Sits atop concrete grade beams that thrust back into the steep slope, and the below grade wall at the back of the house was poured into ICFs.
The house is heated with a Warmboard radiant floor system, wood panels coated with reflective aluminum.
“That aluminum skin is thick,” he says. “All the heat goes exactly where you want it.”
The architect took the owner’s interest in “seeing the bones” of the home seriously, specifying a steel frame as the carriage for the SIPS.
“I’m quite comfortable using steel in residential projects,” notes Clinkston, “thanks to a background designing train stations and ferry terminals.”
Although the home’s complex site engineering was more costly than most projects, it’s not an ostentatious floorplan. At just 1,630 sq. ft, it’s small for its class. And fortunately, the architect notes, the soil stability on the steeply sloping ground was quite high.
“We only had to go down eight or ten feet with the piles,” he notes. “But this site was in a critical area, so we had to be very thorough. We had a landscape architect, wildlife biologist and an arborist, and came up with a mitigation plan. We even removed all of the non-native species.”
“By harvesting a lot of the water on the roof and other surfaces, and directing it to a 3,500 gallon cistern,” he explains, “we’re actually making the soils more stable.”
Clinkston says the project, which includes green roofs, would have included graywater systems, “but the city of Bellevue wasn’t ready for that yet.”
The green roofs were no accident, either. They were intended to mitigate the habitat lost by building on this pristine site.
Both the owner/builders and the architect went to extra lengths to source products and materials from within a 500 mile radius. And they have opened up the house to visitors, as a showcase. The owner, Donna Riley has given personal tours to about 3,500 people so far.
“This was an incredibly ambitious project,” Clinkston adds. “We tried to really do it right. The main story is the superior thermal envelope, of course, but project’s other goal was demonstrating the principles of low-impact development.”