After taking last month off, this month’s installment of “Evergreen homes” — a monthly series of posts in which I break out the geographical bias and spotlight noteworthy green residential building projects from my home state of Washington — I'm back with a double-whammy of a post featuring deep green twin townhouses in the northern section of Seattle's Queen Anne Hill neighborhood. Dubbed City Cabins, the near net-zero energy duo are the creation of Seattle's "Queen of Green": builder and educator Martha Rose of Martha Rose Construction.


A seasoned, award-winning veteran of the Seattle green building scene whose work has been featured on Planet Green’s “Renovation Nation,” the City Cabins project is the latest in Rose’s push towards building zero-energy spec homes. In fact, Rose recently trademarked City Cabins and plans to extend the concept throughout Seattle including at Columbia Station, a transient-oriented micro-community within southeast Seattle's Rainer Vista development that I featured back in February. The four-unit City Cabins at Columbia Station project should be finished by the spring of 2013 when they'll join several existing Martha Rose townhomes already completed at Rainer Vista. Explains Rose in an email: “The concept of City Cabins is not to build huts in the city, but to define a new type of housing stock built by my company that focuses even more on energy efficiency and also getting back to basics in this new tougher economy.”


Designed by CB Anderson Architects, the original City Cabins on West 13th Ave. in Queen Anne were completed this winter and went quickly when they hit the market. The north unit, which came equipped with a 1.9 kW photovoltaic system installed atop the garage, sold for $615,000. The second townhouse, wired for, but not installed with, a 4.8kW photovoltaic system, sold for $600,000. The detached — and green-roofed — garages of both townhomes are connected to the main structures via a third-floor skybridge and are wired for EV charging stations. Both of the three-bedroom units measure a little over 2,000-square feet.

Modeled to achieve 60 percent improvement over the existing Washington state energy code and boasting 5-Star Built Green certification (672 points), the list of energy-saving features included in both of the City Cabin townhomes is exhaustive. Rose truly left no stone unturned. As she puts it: “Our ‘bling’ is our insulation, windows and solar application,” pointing out that because of the quadruple glazed windows and high levels of insulation (R-75 in the attics, R-31 in the walls, R-50 under the floors, and R-30 under the slabs), the homes’ Mitsubishi mini-split heat pumps will rarely need to be used. The units also include heat recovery ventilators, CFL and LED lighting throughout, extensive natural daylighting, and EnergyStar-rated appliances from Electrolux and LG. And since these are "cabins" after all, there's an EPA-approved wood burning stove from Quadrafire in each of the homes.
On the water conservation front, the City Cabins boast dual-flush toilets along with low-flow fixtures and showerheads. Each townhome has its own 300-gallon rainwater catchment tank for landscape irrigation purposes while an impressive 40 to 50 percent of the entire building site is pervious. And on that note, the landscape surrounding the townhomes is filled with native, drought-resistant, and edible plants along with juniper timbers.
In terms of materials, low-VOC paints, sealants, and adhesives were used throughout, the tiling, roofs, and siding are all made from recycled content, and a massive amount of wood used in the project was salvaged from the early 1950s-era duplex that previously stood on the build site including 3,000 to 4,000 board feet of lumber. The interior wood flooring was reclaimed from a warehouse in Oregon. The deconstruction-centric project’s overall recycling rate? A staggering 90 percent.
And then there’s the all-important Walk Score. City Cabins score a not-too-shabby 78 with a smattering of dining options and amenities in North Queen Anne itself and just a short stroll away at Fisherman’s Terminal in South Lake Union and across the bridge in Ballard (sadly, it’s quite a hilly hike to my favorite Lower Queen Anne dining destination: Dick’s Drive-In, but I’m sure the City Cabin dwellers are managing just fine).
Of course, the City Cabins just wouldn’t live up to their name without a bevy of rustic, Arts and Crafts movement-inspired interior details, natural materials, and fine craftsmanship including the work of blacksmith Silas Maddox of Forge & Nail (he’s Rose’s eldest son). Explains the City Cabins website: “The artful blending of Arts and Crafts elements together with high-tech building science are an extremely rare combination in spec-building. Yet, Rose believes that to truly differentiate her homes from the competition she needs to keep part of her old school foundation forged with innovation, building science and lean building principles to be profitable.” 
Last but not least, the design of City Cabins incorporates Rose's theme of "Homes for All Ages" as many features in the townhomes accommodate those with mobility issues. The staircases are extra-wide and wired for chair lifts while the master bathrooms feature a European-style, ADA-accessible shower (the towel bars also double as grab bars). Around back, the third-floor entrance to the building is nearly level with the street. And naturally, the third floor is where all the action happens: the kitchen, the living and dining areas, and the knock-out views of the Olympics and Salmon Bay. The second floor is home to the master suite along with a second bedroom with separate outside entry and a utility room. On the ground floor is space for a home office/guest suite/rec room, an additional full bathroom, and sizable storage space.
Truly lovely stuff from a builder who continues to push Seattle's green building envelope. For more, head on over to the City Cabins website where there's plenty of additional info about the project along with more photos and floor plans.
Is there a notable green residential building project in Washington that you'd liked to see featured in an upcoming installment of "Evergreen Homes?" Tell me about it in the comments section!
Past "Evergreen homes"
Zero-Energy House (Seattle)
• Alley House 2 (Seattle)
• Columbia Station (Seattle)
• Thomas Eco-House (Stanwood)
• Green Roof House (Seattle)
• Verdant Home (Tacoma)
 The Sentinel (Seattle)
• Zhome (Isaquaah)
• EnviroHouse (Tacoma)
• The Method Cabin (Glacier)
• The Boneyard House (Walla Walla) 
• Natural Balance House (Friday Harbor)
• Art Stable (Seattle)
• Hale-Edmonds Residence (Seattle) 
• Hill House (Winthrop)
• Footprint at the Bridge (Seattle)
• GreenFab prefab home (Seattle)
• Perilstein and Dorsey Residences (Bainbridge Island)
• The Ellis Residence (Bainbridge Island)
• The Pierre (San Juan Islands)
• Davis Residence (Bellingham)
Images: Martha Rose Construction

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Evergreen homes: City Cabins
Marrying superb energy performance with old school rustic charm and a highly walkable Seattle location, City Cabins from Martha Rose Construction are a fine pla