For this month's installment of “Evergreen homes” — a regular series of posts in which I spotlight great green homes from my home state of Washington — I'm pleased to bring to you zHome, a green building project that triumphed against the odds — these particularly trying odds being the fact that the project broke ground in 2008 on the same day that the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted sending America into an economic tailspin which presented the project itself with all sorts of financial drama — and has emerged as the country's first instance of zero-energy, market-rate multifamily housing. zHome is a survivor in the truest sense and it's wonderful to see, after a nearly two-year delay, the project finally announced its grand opening on Sept. 14.

Located on the foot of Lake Sammamish in the charming, fast-growing Eastside (east of Seattle and Lake Washington) suburb of Issaquah, zHome is composed of 10 attached townhouse units with teeny-tiny environmental impacts. The affordable, carbon neutral residences are net-zero energy (they produce just as much power as they consume), use 60 percent less water than comparable homes, and were constructed primarily with locally sourced, salvaged, and recycled-content building materials. The zHome residences are also healthy, boasting superior indoor air quality thanks to the use of low-and nontoxic paints and finishes and top-notch ventilation systems.

I’m perhaps most impressed with the project’s emphasis on minimal water usage, achieved not only with drought-resistant landscaping and high efficiency fixtures and appliances but through a rainwater recycling system that employs 10 rainwater cisterns ranging in size from 1,000 to 1,800 gallons to store water used for toilet-flushing and clothes-washing. Yes, the stereotype is true: the region does get a fair amount of drizzle so it’s great to see all that excess water put to good use.

Other standout features of zHome include rain gardens, energy monitoring systems, hydronic heating, ground source heat pumps, triple-pane windows, superinsulated walls, high-efficiency lighting, and on-site parking that discourages traditional automobiles in favor of Smart Cars and other micro-sized rides. Although, zHome’s walk score of 31 isn’t all too fabulous, the project is adjacent to a neighborhood park and ride location where several bus lines can be accessed.
Seeing zHome through the rough patches was the project’s main sponsor, the City of Issaquah, and builder/developers Matt Howland and the U.S. arm of mighty Japanese home builder, Ichijo. Project partners include Built Green, Port Blakely Communities, Puget Sound Energy, Washington State University Energy Program, and King County.
And like any top-notch green building project, zHome’s future residents aren’t the only ones to reap the benefits of low-impact living. Open to public tours and workshops starting on Sept. 17 and lasting through Oct. 30 and boasting a website full of informative green home goodness, the aim of the project is to inspire everyone, not just zHomers, to make positive changes at home whether they’re building new digs, renovating, or simply tackling a few long-hanging fruits.
As mentioned, the grand opening of zHome is just around the corner so if you’re in the area, stop on by to celebrate the achievement. zHome is located at Highland Drive NE and NE High St in the Issaquah Highlands. If you can’t make that, bookmark the zHome events and classes page to keep up to speed on the latest green goings-on. And even after the celebratory open house period ends, one of the 10 townhomes (they range from 800 to 1,750 square-feet, by the way) will not be sold and remain open to the public as a demo home/living laboratory used to educate the public on matters of green building and design.
Here's hoping I get the chance to stop on by zHome the next time I'm visiting my old stomping ground, the Evergreen State.

Recent "Evergreen homes":

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)
Lake Forest Park Contemporary home (Lake Forest Park)
Davis Residence (Bellingham)

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

Evergreen homes: zHome
After breaking ground in 2008 on the worst day possible and suffering subsequent financial setbacks, zHome in Issaquah, Wash. persevered and opens this month a