New Seattle Passivhaus project, a collaboration between client, VELOCIPEDE architects and Hammer & Hand."The house really comes from a Buddhist ethic and a long-term economic perspective," said Jim, client of Hammer & Hand's new Ballard Passive House project.
I spoke with Jim the day before groundbreaking was to begin last week on his new home in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. When I asked him why he chose to build a Passive House, he began with his conviction that it's the right way to build, economical in the long term. He then moved to a larger, overarching theme: responsibility to the planet. Jim has three nieces, and he's concerned about the world we'll leave for them and future generations.
"You try to take responsibility for yourself and how you affect the world," Jim said, "making decisions that are nurturing, caring, compassionate. It's about minimizing your impact."
In planning his new house, Jim knew he wanted to build a super-efficient home. Having been involved in building a number of houses over the years, Jim was drawn to the details. Once he discovered the Passive House standard in his online and offline research, he even considered becoming a CPHC (Certified Passive House Consultant) himself.
He had recently read Amory Lovins' book, "Reinventing Fire," so was on the lookout for opportunities to transform our energy footprint with existing technologies. Passive House fit the bill.
"If you can show a better way of building houses without any real changes to lifestyle," Jim said, "it's better for all of us. That's what Passive House is about. And, it's a good bang for the buck with existing technologies."
When Jim searched online for "Passive House Seattle", he immediately encountered Seattle's first Passive House, Courtland Place, designed and built by Hammer & Hand's Seattle Project Supervisor Dan Whitmore when he ran Blackbird Builders. Jim delved into that project and then contacted Dan.
"It was great to have a client come forward and say, ‘I want a super-efficient home,'" Dan said. "I said, ‘excellent, we can do that for you!'"
The Ballard Passive House will be constructed with 2x8 walls and wrapped with a continuous layer of EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam. Newly available triple-glazed windows will bring high performance at a cost-competitive price point. The home will harness the Passive House model to reach near-net-zero energy consumption. And, in the future Jim will install a photovoltaic system to make the house net-energy positive.
We connected Jim with established, Seattle-based, green architect George Ostrow, principal of VELOCIPEDE architects inc., to design the home.
"I've known Dan for a long time, so the Passive House design and detailing was easy," said George. "I'd call up Dan and say, ‘what are we doing?' and it would take us 10 minutes to figure it out. It was a real pleasure."
George was also drawn to the home's urban location and the project's reproducibility.
"I've got a Passive House project in Carnation," said George, "but this one is on a typical Seattle lot, four blocks from a bus line."
Super-efficient. Close to transit. Urban infill embedded in an existing Ballard neighborhood. Sounds like a poster child for sustainable home life.
"When it comes down to it, what do we really leave when we build?" asked Jim. "Will it benefit people three or four or five generations down the road?"