Donna & Riley's Zero Energy Idea House

Donna & Riley's Zero Energy Idea House

Anne Reagan
Oct 29, 2009

Name: Zero Energy Idea House
Homeowners: Donna and Riley Shirey
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Size: 1630 square feet
Date completed: April, 2009

Meaningful design, sustainability, eco-conscious are all terms we'd like to use when describing our homes. But this is a house that can truly boast such expressions. The Zero Energy Idea House, perched over the shores of Lake Sammamish, is a real house built for a real family who have been dedicated to building sustainable homes for over 22 years.

"Zero energy" refers to the fact that this house meets its own energy needs. The electrical needs are met by rooftop solar panels and the hot water is also heated by the sun. The inside of the home features water conservation fixtures such as dual flush toilets and low-flow showerheads as well as Energy Star® appliances, high-efficiency hydronic heating, structural insulated panels and photovoltaic solar panels. Outside you'll find a wind turbine, a 3,000 gallon cistern (to collect rainwater and slowly release it into the ground), a vegetated roof to reduce stormwater runoff, drought tolerant plants and compost for erosion control.

Each decision: the paint, tile, siding, flooring and surface finishes were made with the utmost care to sustainability and low-environmental impact. But the real proof is in the product – and it's beautiful. The 1,630 square foot, two-bedroom home is contemporary and relaxed, innovative and realistic and the view is stunning. With an estimated annual energy cost of a mere $500 a year, resourcefulness and originality such as this should be a goal of every homeowner, architect and planner.

If you live in the area please try to visit during their open house:

Open House Flyer
Saturdays and Sundays 10am – 4pm
Last day of open house will be November 8, 2009.

Please visit their website for further details including a photo gallery documenting the planning and construction as well as a list of helpful resources.

AT Survey:

Our style: Clean lines. The exterior is very modern with hard surfaces and non-traditional residential types of finishes. There is a sort of flat eco-roof with a gable in the middle to remind us there is a home in there. Inside is a compilation of tight cabinet finishes with rough-hewn craftsman casing and a ships ladder rising up to the early American loft.

Inspiration: Our inspiration came from combining old, reclaimed commercial and industrial buildings. We wanted to reuse materials and refashion the spaces within the structure to create a sense of warmth - like the homes we grew up with.

Favorite Element: Favorite element is the structural insulated panels. Sexiest is the Helix wind.

Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge was the site and the Bellevue Building Department. Building departments say that they support alternative forms of energy and sustainable practices but they are not investing in inexpensive ways to understand them. It's disappointing: it costs us money to teach them about alternative construction then they have the power to approve or disapprove things that they do not fully understand.

What Friends Say: "Wow this is a cool house." It surprises every one - from the outside appearance to the inside finishes.

Biggest Embarrassment: Not getting the PV (photovoltaics) and Helix Wind online before the home tours started. With help from the Bellevue Building Department we may be able to get the PV on line for this weekend.

Proudest DIY: Donna and I hand-mixing the apron of the garage one Sunday in 80' degree weather. We worked like a well-oiled machine going through 65 bags of premix concrete.

Biggest Indulgence: Installing the photovotaics, solar thermal and water harvesting and topping it off with the Helix Wind. Using the very best drainage plane under siding. Also the Reidel Roofing and the fabulous roof elements for the eco roof.

Best advice: This advice applies to all of the systems (the eco roof, PV, solar thermal, wind turbine, and monitoring usage): keep it as simple as you can for installation and repair.

Architectural Design: Clinkston Brunner Architects

Green Features: click here for a list of sustainable materials and products.

For more information about this project as well as a list of the project team click here.

(Thanks, Donna & Riley!)

Image credits: Photos courtesy of Shirey Contracting and Joe Bianco of Northwest Property Imaging, Project photography coordination by Northwest Property Imaging

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